Someone To Say No

Every creative person needs someone in a position to tell them when what they’re doing isn’t working.

Even artists at the top of their game sometimes create substandard work. Some even go completely off the rails, get too big for their britches, snort too much coke. Even the giant bestseller of our era Stephen King needed an editor at various points in his history to say “Maybe you need to take another run at this.” To support my assertion I offer you The Tommyknockers.

That’s the problem I have with electronic self-publishing, or its equivalent in music, the download-only mp3 release. There’s nobody to say “No, not good enough.” There’s no incentive to hold back from releasing every last rough-draft that would be better discarded.

The internet’s overflowing with debate about self-publishing, particularly of the electronic variety. When self-publishing meant paying thousands of dollars to print up a handful of trade paperbacks, few enough people did it that there wasn’t much debate. That financial barrier to entry kept self-publishing a sort of odd little curiosity off in the corner of the publishing world. Now every other writer’s experimenting with putting old out-of-print novels up on Amazon’s store in Kindle format, or at least putting up a 99-cent short story or two. Even relatively well-known writers are doing it. I don’t have much of a problem with established writers self-publishing in this way, but I do think the complete removal of any “quality control” barriers may be problematic.

It’s already caused a huge problem in the music world. Even ten years ago, listeners could keep track of most of the new stuff coming out in their genres of choice. Now there are thousands of new releases per year in even the narrowest niche genres, and while the “big name” artists still sell more than the little guys, those big names also sell a quarter or less of what they used to. Dilution isn’t a good thing for the people who are serious about what they do. I suppose it can be a good thing for the consumer, if more choice is always a good thing (and I’d argue it isn’t)

Every artist needs someone in a position to tell them: “No.”

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