A year or so ago, I was a subscriber to Writer’s Digest, a magazine that has been around for a very long time and used to serve the purpose of helping wannabe writers become actual writers. When I was young, I used to tear through the pages of that magazine, reading the fiction process articles written by its editor back then, Lawrence Block. The tidbits and ideas that I received from that magazine used to be wonderful.
This was before the whole Internet revolution came and went. As we all know, the Internet made it so anyone could publish his or her book whenever he or she wanted (regardless of how ready it was), and the need for the mainstream publishers and reputable agents was no longer a necessity. If you understood the market that Writer’s Digest used to serve, you might notice that something has probably had to happen to the magazine as well. All of those people it was helping to train become professional writers are now out there making their own way, and they’ve done it without the need or desire to listen to intricate lessons of how they should learn to write and how to format manuscript pages. The need for a service that Writer’s Digest used to provide have become almost none.
Which means Writer’s Digest probably had to change as well. And unfortunately, what I’ve started to notice is that this magazine has begun to mass saturate my email with continuous “give us money and we’ll help you prepare your manuscript for publication”. Realizing that people no longer need the advice on how to get published, now I’m receiving never-ending offers to help me “prepare” a manuscript for publication. The last one was for a Writer’s Digest “service” that proofreads a manuscript and charges you by the page. The funny thing is: The editors who actually work on self-publishing works out there charge a whole lot less to do the full job than Writer’s Digest is offering to just a portion of the work required.
So, what this means is that another service has popped up that wants to separate the independents from their money under the guise of offering a necessary service. In the old days, this service used to be offered in the classified pages of WD, but now the magazine itself is in on the deal. And while I usually don’t jump on the criticism of WD, I am starting to notice that more and more “independent” services out there are trying to attract the self-publishers to do things that self-publishers have learned to do themselves. I’m talking about formatting services, book cover creators, full editing, line editing, feel of the story editing, punctuation editors, marketing promoters, “how to” books written by people who really haven’t figured anything out themselves other than how to charge people for “how to” books, and so many others. Now, some of those services I take advantage of, like book cover creators, because the people I work with are far better at doing it than I am. But what I’m also noticing is that a lot of bad book cover creators are also advertising their services. This goes back to a conversation I had with independent filmmaker Chris Penney (of DogByte Films), who in making independent films remarked that the people making money off of these films tend to be the organizations that provide services rather than the filmmakers themselves. I’m talking about the color correction people, the film editors, and all sorts of other fields that have sprung up to take advantage of the fact that there are a few visionaries out there trying to turn their ideas into something brilliant. My point is that this same mentality is now finally creeping into the independent book market, as there are people who realize that there’s gold in them thar hills and the gold is the people coming to mine for gold, not the gold itself.
And that’s the problem, in a nutshell. A lot of us are trying to make this business work, yet we’re constantly being inundated by people who are trying to make a quick buck off of us.