Oh, God! It’s the END of PUBLISHING!!!

Here’s a link to yet another idiot in love with the straight-line-projection, declaring that professional writers are doomed.

"Dooooomed! We're all DOOMED, I tell you!"

"Dooooomed! We're all DOOMED, I tell you!"

He makes the following assumptions:

  • That 100% of people, given a choice between stealing something and paying for it, will steal it.
  • That the shitbags who steal from torrent sites would have actually paid for the books had the torrents not been available.
  • That quality has no virtue, and that no writer will be good enough to warrant the support of readers enthusiastic enough about their work to PAY them, rather than stealing from them.
  • That publishers somehow PROTECT writers, and that left in the wild, no writers will be able to survive.

This article is generating some worried discussion on the How To Think Sideways Renegade Marketing board. (Members only, so no link).

Now read my counterargument.

Our objective HERE is to make sure good writers without publishers don’t get lost.

To do that, you:

  • Write a story worth reading
  • Price it at a price people with integrity will willingly pay
  • Recommend other writers whose work is like yours.
  • Get to know them, exchange site links, and promote each other’s work as well as your own.
  • Interact personally with your readers.
  • Thank them when they recommend you to other readers.
  • Let them know they matter to you.
  • Listen to what the people who LOVE your work have to say about it. (To hell with the ones who hate it—they’re not your market and you’ll kill your writing trying to satisfy them.)

Look. It’s always “the best of times, the worst of times.” If you figure out what really matters to you in life, decide on a plan of action to make it happen, and then act, for you it will be the best of times.

If you sit on your hands and bemoan the horrible state of publishing, you’ll live in the worst of times, and never get out.

Figure out who you want to be.

Figure out how you want to live.

Figure out what you want to write.

And then make it so with your effort, your determination, and your intelligence.

I could have let my career die any number of times when things were bad. Every series I ever wrote got cancelled prematurely. Having that happen ONCE has killed a lot of careers.

I found ways to remake myself, remake my writing, change genres, change from fiction to non-fiction. I have ALWAYS gotten paid. I have ALWAYS paid the bills (though sometimes it’s been scary).

And there’s always some dick-head saying from now one, no one will pay for whatever it is you do.

You know what?

There’s all sorts of free information on writing on the internet. Why are you paying to be here? (ED.: In my writing class.)

Because the information you pay for from recommended sources is better than the stuff that’s free.

Same with fiction. People will pay to read something good. The folks who just want “free” are willing to put up with a lot of crap. Let ’em have it.

The folks who steal wouldn’t have bought your work anyway.  They’re thieves.  They’re scum.  They LIKE what they are. Screw ’em.

Be good enough to get paid, and the people worth dealing with will pay you.  

And with that, you come full circle. This is why you’re here. To learn THAT.

And how do you know when you’re good enough to get paid?

When you put your work out there, and the first person pays you, then recommends you to one other reader.

This is not the end of publishing. This is the beginning of publishing the way it should be.

And some additional info.  Most people have abandoned newspapers.  But there are individuals making tens of thousands of dollars a month independently publishing single-topic newsletters.

Long-tail publishing will probably destroy the multi-million copy bestseller.  But word of mouth works, folks, and if people like your work, they’ll tell friends.  You can make a living by writing for your readers, LISTENING to them, and creating things that matter to both them and you.

Corporations that rely on manufacturing (like print book publishers) are going to have a hell of a time surviving.

In the wake of their passing, agile individuals have the opportunity to step up and make their own places.  I’ve been doing this since 2006 now.

You can’t be lazy and succeed.


But you can succeed.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and indie-publish my new ones.

110 comments… add one
  • Arklytte Mar 5, 2017 @ 22:08


    Thank you for that awesome article. There are always going to be Chicken Littles, for whom the sky is always falling. For the rest of us, it’s about figuring out which of our skills are marketable, and then, being worth the money! 🙂

    Free ebooks aren’t the end of the world. There’s a REASON Baen’s sales went through the roof after the Library went online.

    I’ve downloaded plenty of free books from there, and other sites, and if I liked the author enough to continue reading past the first couple chapters, I bought the book. That’s a business model that works! And people that embrace it will certainly reap the rewards.

    I get mightily offended when I buy a good looking book, with lots of good press, only to take it home and find that it’s total crap once I start reading it. I’ve had literal crates and boxes full of books like that over the years.

    Fortunately, places like Baen’s Library make it possible to separate the good from the adequate from the bad, and allow us to vote with our wallets.

    As for yourself, I’ve loved your work since I first read it in the Otherworld books, and I’ve avidly followed you since. And I pay for your work because it’s that good. 🙂

    • Holly Lisle Mar 6, 2017 @ 10:47

      Thank you. And I’m FINALLY setting up my site with sample chapters of my stuff so people CAN try before they buy, for just that reason. There are bad books, and great books that are just bad for some readers, and great books, and I want to make sure folks know what they’re getting from my stuff before they spend money on it.

  • Bill Dec 29, 2011 @ 10:57

    Neither pessimists nor pie-in-the-sky optimists will ever accomplish great things, as the pessimist (who calls himself an realist, but isn’t really) sees the gritty underside of life and believes it is what is real, and nothing we do can change that, and the optimist sees butterflies and posies and trips over the pot-holes in the road of life. Only the true realist will acknowledge the grit and recognize the potential for good — and do something about it. Holly, I think you are a true realist.

    • Holly Dec 29, 2011 @ 11:19

      Thank you, Bill. That’s an amazing compliment.

    • Pam Dec 29, 2011 @ 12:51

      The realist must also acknowledge the potential for bad-and do something about that as well. This situation has fully as much of one as the other. Both must be addressed to achieve a sustainable, and realistic, outcome.

      • Holly Dec 30, 2011 @ 10:58

        When you say “acknowledge the potential for bad, and do something about that,” what—in specifics—do you mean?

        I’m not debating your point yet. I simply have no clue what your point is.

  • david Nov 26, 2011 @ 5:58

    “We have two ears and one mouth, so we may listen twice as much as we speak.” — Epictetus

    “We have ten fingers and two eyes, that we may write five times as much as we read.” — Internet bloggers.

    So the number of writers has increased. A large proportion are merely rewording partisan propaganda or popular myth, but they are writing.

    A free and open system allows the dissemination of more crap, but does not hinder the dissemination of good research or quality fiction.

  • mitzim Sep 4, 2011 @ 18:57

    Personally, I’m glad the old mainstream way of publishing is coming to a close. I think many potentially good authors were either discouraged to continue writing or very much delayed in getting their work out. Yes, self-publishing will, no doubt, lead to a “flood” in the market of all kinds of published information, but as the reader, we get to choose what we like. The big trick for the author will be marketing and all the aspects that go into selling a book. Good writers who want to make money will definitely continue to do so; poor authors will continue as they did before–go nowhwere.

  • Clorine Sep 3, 2011 @ 20:27

    Hi Holly,
    I bought one of your e-books some time ago and then printed it off so I could read it whilst sitting at my dining table. I have since bought a couple more e-books, but tend to forget about them as they become hidden amongst other files and folders. Life is too full! I think most people love to have a book in their hands, especially if it’s one they’ll read over a few times, or lend to a friend (hoping to get it back). How impressive is it to have a library shelf full of books to show off to visitors. People say “Have you really read all those?”, impressed by it all. I write for film and like the midlist writers being dropped, the funding bodies here are only wanting to help the already successful, so here in Adelaide disgusting movies like Wolf Creek and Wolf creek 2, and Snowtown, all about serial killers, are getting made, whilst I write light drama and comedy and I’m getting ignored. Sad isn’t it? I hope things will change in the future for independent film makers, they usually have something to say, which is what I usually try to write. I love the internet and the world it opens up to me, but it’s a shame that bookshops are closing, we don’t get the chance to browse in them any more.

    • Holly Dec 29, 2011 @ 11:23

      Kevin Smith is one of the bright lights of indie filmmaking. He’s someone to study when deciding that you can make your own movies.

  • EliseInAZ Sep 3, 2011 @ 9:28

    I don’t see anyone commenting on the following:
    “Without advances from publishers, authors depend upon future sales; they sink themselves into debt on the chance of a future hit. But as mainstream publishers struggle to compete with digital competitors, they are moving increasingly towards maximising short-term profits, betting on the already-established, and away from nurturing talent. . . And as one literary editor recently put it: “The days of publishing an author, as opposed to publishing a book, seem to be over.”

    Publishers are focusing on the short term and are dropping midlist writers. Midlisters – neither bestsellers nor first-timers – were formerly the Research and Development department of publishers in the 20th century. It was within the midlist that future award-winners and bestsellers were hot-housed (Don Delillo, for example, was supported as a midlist author over the six underperforming books that preceded his Pulitzer-nominated, multi-award winning novel, Underworld.”

    This has nothing to do with digital publishing. As Holly (and others) have pointed out in other posts, the practice of nurturing midlist writers died out a long time ago. I know many midlisters who have not had contracts renewed for series books. In mystery writing, three book contracts were standard for a new writer. That meant a series had three books to find an audience. Then publishers started making a decision on whether to renew a series in the first weeks after book two was released, not waiting to see how book three performed at all. So contracts tended to drop to two books to match the publishers’ reality.

    I know several mystery writers who have been through multiple pen names (since having a series canceled under one name is considered the death of the writer) trying to establish a reader base and that minimum sales figure that would get them renewed. Of course, the change of names doesn’t help the readers who liked a prior series find the new series.

    And the going into debt to support their writing? What writers is this guy talking to? Most of the midlisters, the writers in development, I know work full time jobs or have spouses willing to support them or are retired and supporting their writing habit on social security. Those who have managed to make a living wage after this struggle have to write three books a year, usually in three different series, to maintain that income.

    So that’s my rant. Publishers today are not the beneficent organizations that the author of this article believes them to be.

  • HP van Duuren Sep 1, 2011 @ 13:31

    ‘You can’t be Lazy and succeed?’

    Yes, it sure does look that way, only some time ago on my – Travel Blog – I wrote a post about Laziness with an interesting video with some interesting insights from some historical figures that you might like to have a look at, you can find it at: http://hpshappytravel.blogspot.com/2011/07/how-you-can-make-travelpreneurship.html

    Feel free to let me know what you think.

    All the Best,
    To your Happy – Writing – Inspiration,

    • Holly Sep 4, 2011 @ 12:30

      😀 Laziness is doing nothing. Figuring out a better way to do something so you don’t have to work so hard to do it isn’t laziness. It’s simply being smart.

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