Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How Trad Authors Are House Slaves, Indie Authors Are Gladiators [Opinion]

In 2011, successful author Michael Stackpole wrote a blog post called "House Slaves vs. Spartacus." He basically compared traditionally-published authors who denigrate self-publishing to "house slaves," and self-published authors to gladiators.

In case you're not familiar, a "house slave" is a term dating back to African-American slavery, where slaves that lived in the house with the master often felt more privileged and even looked down on the slaves in the fields - even though both were still slaves. This is how Stackpole explained his analogy:
They’re the writers who made the cut and are secure in a position with their publisher that has them above the midlist. Their publishers, either because of long-standing friendships and/or commercial savvy, push their work and reap the rewards. The house slaves have no reason to rock the boat—even though they started their journey on the Titanic and are now in a lifeboat. The point, as far as they can see, is that they’re not wet. While remaining dry is certainly admirable; it’s a far cry from riding in style on a luxury liner.
In another interview at GenCon 2011, Stackpole didn't back down, but further explanded his analogy:
Well, with house slaves I’m referring very specifically to those authors who have done well traditional publishing and basically are denigrating all self-publishers and taking the traditional publishers’ word for it that they don’t need to worry about digital publishing, they don’t need to worry about any of those things because the traditional publisher will take care of them. And I find it very funny because these are the same guys who very quickly will end up telling you that, "Hey, you know, my publisher screws me over all the time, they’re always late with payments, they never listen this, working with my editor is really really tough," but when it comes to, "Hey, dude, stop b!tching, do it yourself," "Oh, no no, I don’t need to, because sales are up enough, and I can’t do this, and I can’t do that," And it’s like, you know, fish or cut bait. Unfortunately for those individuals, for the house slaves who are invested in traditional publishing, the publishing business is changing so fast, just unbelievably fast, that they’re going to be screwed. The last blog post that I did talking about the fact that publishers are shortening the window between hardback and paperback publication. That means that if you cannot deliver faster–the days of taking a year to do a novel, or five or six years to do a novel, are gone. If you can’t deliver on a steady basis, you’re toast.
What do you think of the analogy? Do you think Stackpole has a point? Where do you think the industry is going?

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