J BUSH

Why The Publishing Industry Can Suck My Dick

I decided a year ago that I no longer want to publish books through the traditional publishing industry — even though that was my singular dream since I was nine years old.

The publishing industry is dead. Between ebooks overtaking print sales and chain stores dictating what gets published, the business is finished. It’s inefficient, outdated, bloated, corrupt, and it has willfully buried its head in the sand all these years, to the devastation of writers’ careers and literature.

It deserves to die. The publishing industry is racist, sexist, and it heavily favors white male authors over others, especially in literary fiction, which produces the next generation of American literature. If women and non-whites can’t get published and can’t get reviewed and can’t get on prize lists, we will not be able to contribute. For that reason alone it deserves to die.

Meanwhile, the rise of internet technology has brought authors closer to our audiences and given us the chance to give ourselves careers. No longer can an elite group of racist, sexist anachronisms shut the door to the rest of us. Any of us can make literature. The gatekeepers that kept so many of us out are failing because prejudice always fails — how can a business that limits the chances of large groups of people possibly succeed? Greatness always surges through.

I’ve been working on a new novel project that I’m very excited about and that will involve interaction and participation with readers. I’m not ready to publicize the project yet. However, Seth Godin’s announcement that he’s leaving traditional publishing behind is huge, and since I’ve already decided to do the same I decided I should say so. With a huge bestselling author like Godin going, the world will follow. I have no sympathy for big publishing. They had their chance, and thousands of young novelists like me had their careers thwarted or redirected because of their incompetence. I am very happy to have the T.V. and screenwriting career I have today, which I wouldn’t have had were it not for the inadequacy of the publishing industry. But now the way I feel about it is — they don’t fucking get to publish my novels. I will publish them myself. Because I’m better at marketing myself than they are. I’d rather sell ebooks than print — because that’s what I would rather buy.

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I just spent an hour searching the internet for statistics about the racism and sexism in the publishing industry. Couldn’t find any — I know I’ve read some before, so if anyone can send some, please do. However, anyone working in this business knows about it already. Here are a few pieces I did come across:

Literature Gender Gap. Majority of readers are women but 30% or less of books published by literary houses are by women: http://su.pr/2Ag3sO

Some male critics review male writers by a 3:1 ratio. http://www.bookslut.com/blog/archives/2011_02.php#017213

http://www.slate.com/id/2265910/pagenum/all/#p2

http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2010/08/all-the-sad-young-literary-women/61821/

http://www.thefrisky.com/post/246-jodi-picoult-accuses-book-reviews-of-favoring-white-male-literary-darli/

http://amyking.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/why-weren%E2%80%99t-any-women-invited-to-publishers-weekly%E2%80%99s-weenie-roast/

http://www.complete-review.com/quarterly/vol3/issue4/sexist.htm

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And these statistics excerpted from an article by T. K. Kenyon (see link below): Percentage of book reviews for male authors vs. female authors for 2006 in major review publications: 56%:44% Percentage of book reviews for male authors vs. female authors for Jan-June 2007 in major review publications: 63%:37% Percentage of book reviews for male authors vs. female authors for at the New York Times Review of Books (very influential): 72%:28% Ratio of male book reviewers to female reviewers at the New York Times Review of Books: 2:1 Percentage of articles written by men to those written by women in the five “thought leader” magazines: 3:1 Percentage of male book buyers to female: 45%:55% Women constitute only 17 percent of opinion writers at The New York Times, 10 percent at The Washington Post, 28 percent at U.S. News & World Report, 23 percent at Newsweek and 13 percent at Time. Overall, only 24 percent of nationally syndicated columnists are women. From: http://www.bloggernews.net/112350

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  • Savannah Blaze Lee

    I can’t write a big enough THANK YOU. Another, writer friend sent me this link and it made my day, at least enough to let go the (stooopid) notion that I’m not worthy of BEING published. I’m from the far end of the spectrum – a crone, over-the-hill, started late in life, blah blah. Self-publishing and e-books have been a boon to my creative spirit, but I never quite understood that we should celebrate the death of paper-publishing, being a hard-core bibliophile. Thanks for saying what I needed to hear.

  • http://juliebush.net Julie Bush

    Aw, thank YOU so much Savannah. There are so many forces at work in publishing that determine whether or not you get published — that have absolutely nothing to do with the quality of your book. (And I have a fair amount of experience with it — I know first-hand.) And that’s the tragedy of it — thousands of great writers think it’s them, or their book, when they don’t get published, when often it’s everything but.
    But now we’ve got so many opportunities to take charge of our own careers. The best thing you can do is 1. Write. 2. get your writing in front of people. It’s really that simple. And I want you to do it. The death of the publishing industry doesn’t mean the death of books — it just means that we’ll have more options, more immediate access, and more people will be able to publish.
    Thanks so much for your lovely comment.
    X Julie

  • cjg

    Hey, Julie –

    Did you happen to catch this story about “Franzenfreude” on NPR? http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129529565.

    It covers many of the same issues as your blog post. Think of it as added ammunition in your bandoleer.

    Best,

    Clifford J. Green

  • http://juliebush.net Julie Bush

    Thank you for this Clifford! I had not heard/read it, but it does indeed speak to it. Especially the last point — that women are the primary readers of fiction.
    I hope you’re well.
    Julie

  • http://twitter.com/kevintumlinson J. Kevin Tumlinson

    I’m with ya. After years of bending over backwards for the publishing industry, presumably for no other reason than it would simply be easier to lick my own bung hole, I have decided the bastards can chew on a wad of pig scrotum. The succession of gatekeepers, from agents to publishing assistants to the janitor of the porno theater next door, makes it impossible to get into “the business” unless you are A) already blowing someone rich and powerful, or B) the guy who had to saw off his own arm after getting trapped in his boiler room.

    By the way, I fall under the “white male” category. Sorry. I tried being born as a black woman but the gene pool was too strong. However, I will say this: as far as disenfranchised groups go, you don’t get much more disenfranchised than the white-male-Christian-conservative-gun-owning-self-employed-writer-over-the-age-of-25. Seriously … there just aren’t any college funds for that.

    • http://juliebush.net Julie Bush

      Kevin, you make a very good point about who is really disenfranchised nowadays.
      I think the real point we’re both making is that publishing has become so highly corporate, there’s no point in serving their interests any more. I do think there’s a future in self-publishing however, where we will control our business. We’re not quite there yet, but the future isn’t hopeless for authors. You’re a great writer. Thanks for the entertaining comment.
      X Julie

  • http://InspirationalQuoteDaily.com sandy

    {I will publish them myself. Because I’m better at marketing myself than they are.}

    Yes, every *Mom* knows her *baby* best ;)

    I wish you all the best on your self-publishing journey~

    • http://juliebush.net Julie Bush

      Thanks Sandy. It’s sort of on the back-burner right now because I’m so busy
      with TV/film stuff.

  • Mark

    I would disagree on one point. I’m a “white” (Greek) male author and sold books over 1,000 books via self-publishing and I still can’t get into mainstream publishing.

    If you’re not a major name, you aren’t getting in.

    • http://juliebush.net Julie Bush

      Mark,
      Yes, I think you’re right. And it’s just proceeding more and more in that direction. You have to be a name of some kind (though there are various ways to be a name) to get a publishing contract, and once you have the contract, you have to do your own marketing (unless you’re already very big). Which is all why I think book publishing is inevitably moving toward indie publishing/self-publishing. Congratulations on your success! I’d love to read one of your books.
      Julie

  • http://twitter.com/jesscscott/status/130030382761508865 Jess C Scott

    Why The Publishing Industry Can Suck My Dick, by @julie_bush | http://t.co/3NDOqU6u

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