A Defense of Traditional Publishing: Part One


There has been a plethora of new developments in the publishing industry causing the blogosphere, writers groups, and print media to light up with opinions, reflections, and advice. Some of it has been quite brilliant, other parts, not so much.

I would like to attempt to address the positive elements of traditional (or legacy) publishing as a defense of the latest round of assault.

The source of the overall criticism can be found in the e-book revolution and the invention of print-on-demand (POD) printing. Book Publishing used to be a difficult and expensive proposition but has become a valid do-it-yourself option. Consequently anyone can publish a book, so why be beholden to the major publishers?

Please realize that I understand both sides of the equation. After all I founded ACW Press in 1996 B.G. (“Before Google”) to help authors self-publish (the company was sold quite some time ago). I can effectively argue for the choice to self-publish as well as argue for the choice to pursue traditional publishing. Both have their place.

What has troubled me these past few months has been the vociferous rejection of the traditional publishing method as antiquated, inefficient, top heavy, corporate-driven, and uncaring about author’s financial well-being or their content. A vocal few have declared the “system” broken and walked away, either as a rebel, angry at the “man,” or as a risk-taker believing that going alone is the key to publishing success. Whether their rebellion has merit only time will decide.

Meanwhile over the next few weeks (one per week) I would like to recite the things traditional publishers are doing right. There is no agenda other than creating a conversation and a counter to some of what is being written about our industry.

Part One: Introduction

Part Two: Curation

Part Three: Editorial

Part Four: Design

Part Five: Infrastructure



17 Responses to A Defense of Traditional Publishing: Part One

  1. Richard Mabry April 12, 2011 at 5:33 am #

    Steve, I look forward to your posts. I thought maybe I was the only writer left who wasn’t ready to desert conventional publishing for the “new frontier” of e-publishing. Please tell me something that will make me feel better. Or at least won’t make me feel worse.
    PS–I notice from previous trips to the site that your anti-spam feature requires simple addition. If it ever moves to long division, my voice may not be as frequently heard.

  2. Marcy Kennedy April 12, 2011 at 5:47 am #

    Self-publishing is often seen as “the” answer for writers in Canada (especially writers who are Christian) because we have fewer large traditional publishers to turn to, and it’s a long way for US agents and editors to travel to attend a conference in Canada. The situation has reached the point where it’s almost an unquestioned given that self-publishing is the way to go.

    I’ve made the decision that traditional publishing with a US publisher is the route I want to take, despite the criticism of the way traditional publishers operate. I hope this series will help me give a clearer explanation to others of the benefits that still remain in the traditional route.

  3. Sandra Ardoin April 12, 2011 at 6:11 am #

    Call me an old-fashioned writer, but there’s something thrilling about the idea of holding a paper book in my hands with my name on the cover. I want to open it and find on the title page “Bethany House” or “Tyndale” or “Revell” or whatever traditional publisher deems my work worthy of publication.

    Thanks for the upcoming insight. I’m looking forward to reading some positive news on this subject.

  4. Pegg Thomas April 12, 2011 at 9:38 am #

    Thanks for running this series. I have zero interest in self publishing at this point in my life. I’m holding out hope of publishing traditionally.

  5. Michael K. Reynolds April 12, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    The industry doth protest too much, methinks.

    Actually, me doesn’t thinketh that at all, but I just felt like quoting Shakespeare. Count me as one who believes the role of the publishing industry may be more important than ever.

    I see the work of this talented group of professionals as akin to the USDA. Without keeping a high bar on the development of the written word, a proliferation of authors without adult supervision is going to result in some serious Mad Cow.

  6. Jill Kemerer April 12, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    I had to read this since I wrote a blog post with a similar title a few weeks ago! I’m very tired of the negativity, the need to portray traditional publishers as greedy, unnecessary middle-men. Publishing–traditional, e-pub or self-pub–is competetive. Period.

  7. Lance Albury April 12, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

    I’m hoping traditional publishing hangs in there. Looking forward to the upcoming posts.

  8. Ronie April 12, 2011 at 8:16 pm #

    So glad you’re doing this, Steve. I find being published hard enough–I don’t want to go it alone 100%. Oy! What a frightening thought. I have too much to do already.

  9. Sharon A. Lavy April 13, 2011 at 4:08 am #

    Thank you for taking the time to educate us to an agents point of view of the publishing world.

  10. Annie Jones April 13, 2011 at 5:30 am #

    Steve I have loved your reasoned perspective going way back to our days in the AOL Writers ‘club’ and am so glad you’re doing this. Information and education are the writer’s career lifeblood these days. But I also am beginning to think that the goal of traditional publishing will be realistic for fewer and fewer people. As someone now writing only series romance and not sure where else I could land in Christian fiction unless I go Amish, I am exploring self pubbing (in this case secular works because I think Christian fic readers are behind the curve) in self defense. Can’t wait to read more of your series.

  11. Judith Robl April 13, 2011 at 5:46 am #

    I can only add an Amen! to the comments above. The idea of having to do it all is absolutely terrifying. At my age, learning the curve to get into traditional (legacy) publishing was hard enough. Heaven forbid that I need to do it all myself. There are simply not enough hours in the day.

    There is a place for both legacy publishing and self-publishing in this world. But I’ve seen enough substandard self-published work to appreciate the value of a second and third set of dispassionate eyes on a manuscript.

  12. Sally Bradley April 13, 2011 at 7:44 am #

    Steve, I’m looking forward to your series. I regularly read some of the blogs on the other side of the coin, and it has been very interesting to see how things are going for them.

    I do think there’s a time and a place to go the e-book route, but I don’t think that’s for everyone. There are so many variables that go into that decision.

    I’m still hoping for the traditional route myself. I have one small white-paper item that I’m considering doing on Amazon, but that’s only because there’s no market for it.

  13. Rick Barry April 13, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    Looking forward to reading your take on this, Steve. Although I know some people who seem to prefer self-pub options simply because it’s newer and trendier, my impression is that at least some of those who vent against traditional publishing are perturbed simply because they can’t get their foot in the door. In other words, traditional publishing maintains a certain level of quality (generally speaking), and some of those who can’t clear that bar are looking for alternatives or shortcuts. (Disclaimer: that does NOT describe all self-pubbers, simply a percentage.)

  14. Kenneth Skinner April 13, 2011 at 6:14 pm #

    They both have a role to play in the world of books. Some interest don’t generate the interest of traditional publishers and rightly so as they are in it to make a profit. However this doesn’t mean that the book shouldn’t be made available to those who are interested in the subject offered.

  15. M.E. Anders April 17, 2011 at 11:24 am #

    I have heard so much hype about self-publishing in recent days, and I do not believe that it’s the cure-all for any author’s disillusionment with traditional publishing. I look forward to your series on this topic.

  16. Dina Santorelli April 18, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    I look forward to this series!

  17. Laurie Winslow Sargent April 20, 2011 at 10:20 pm #

    I love the curator analogy, Steve. There’s something thrilling about being selected by a respected traditional publisher, then having a team behind you to bring out the best in both author and manuscript. I am so grateful for the very fine editors and publicity teams I’ve worked with. I could never have dreamed up the fabulous covers they created for me, and they caught things in the editorial process I could easily have missed.

    Yet I think we as authors can have our cake and eat it too: to contract some books with traditional publishers, while also creating and selling some of our own products. Some books lend themselves well to practical E-book formats. Other books need “the works” from royalty publishers who are as invested in the books as we are, and who may have existing audiences we would not otherwise reach on our own.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get New Posts by Email

Get New Posts by Email

Each article is packed with helpful info and encouragement for writers. You can unsubscribe at any time with one click. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!