Who is the real digital villain: Amazon or Publishers?


“In big publishers when a writer starts to make money they call a meeting and work out what went wrong,” says a writer at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

On the face of it, it is a surprising exchange. The monopolistic Amazon is hailed as the authors’ champion, while publishers are narrow-minded, money-grabbing fiends who deserve everything that comes to them. The event, Being a Writer in the Digital Age at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, is descending into the publishing equivalent of a debate on who the most evil bad-ass between Voldemort and Sauron.

But maybe the authors have a point. The writers in question here are Catherine Czerkawska and Maggie Craig. Thanks to self-publishing through ebooks they have found new audiences and income. Before the Kindle however, they were at the mercy of publishing houses. Both are scathing about their experiences.

Czerkawska describes herself as a classic midlist author and recipient of many a “rave rejection” from publishers for work they described as “too accessible and not experimental enough”. They wanted “oven-ready” stories with no need of editing or investment.

Likewise, Craig said she was “in despair” before ebooks. Previously, her most successful book, Damn Rebel Bitches: The Women of the ’45, earned her only £5000. “In big publishers when a writer starts to make money they call a meeting and work out what went wrong,” she says.

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