I just got back from World Fantasy Con in San Diego, at which one of the highlights for me was not just getting to re-connect and talk with my pal Mike Stackpole, but also to talk to other writers about the stuff that Mike’s been ringing the gong on for some time now. That is, of course, the revolution in indie ebook publishing and what it means for writers.
Mike’s the guy who initially hipped me to what’s going on, after I had been out of the writing game for several years, mainly due to my rising level of disgust with the traditional publishing industry. If you haven’t read what Mike’s saying about the e-publishing revolution, you need to start following him over at his Stormwolf blog. Tons of great info and insights there, vitally important for all writers.
That being said — and this is more a comment about me than Mike — I hadn’t realized the complete degree to which Mike is correct about a certain mentality on the part of a great many writers. He’s catching some flack at the moment for his use of the term house slave to describe the mindset of writers who base not only their careers and finances on an unquestioning devotion to the traditional publishing industry, but also their own perception of themselves and their worth. Apparently, Mike’s house slave language has seriously gotten under some people’s skins — which is just fine, as far as I’m concerned. If they’re nettled by it, they probably should be, on a Truth hurts basis.
What I didn’t understand until I had the experience of talking to several different writers down at WFC is the literalness of the house slave designation. I had previously thought that Mike was using his typically colorful language as a metaphor for that kind of mentality. Guess what? It’s not a metaphor; it’s a precise and literal description of how some writers view the relationship between themselves and the traditional publishing industry. In just about as many words, I heard writers tell me that as far as they were concerned, not only were they dependent on the trad pub industry, but that without it they were nothing. They weren’t even writers — their self-definition came from the validation of the trad pub industry, not from anything they did themselves. If this isn’t the literal definition of a subservient house slave mentality, then what is?
And don’t think there aren’t people in the traditional publishing industry who are perfectly capable of exploiting this mentality on the part of beaten-down writers. Mike’s got his own WFC report up on his blog and I urge you to take a look at it.
I’m confident that Mike’s going to continue nettling those who should be nettled. Some will get the message — and some won’t. If you haven’t already, either from him or one of the other people talking about the indie e-publishing revolution, then you very likely will, at which point you get to decide which type of writer, house slave or independent, that you’re going to be.