Shatzkin, book business maven,1 is confused over the motivations of self-published authors who attack traditional publishers. Shatzkin is right in asserting that:

publisher-published authors definitely lose if Amazon gains strength in relation to them. But Amazon-published or KDP authors (and the publisher-bashing seems to come from both flavors) lose nothing if legacy publishing remains strong. They are, allegedly, fighting for the “good” of those authors who are signing “exploitive” publishing contracts, but their own interests are not served.

Or, in other words, why do self-publishing ideologues attack “legacy” publishing so hard when the relative business strength of said “legacy” publishers has no bearing on them?

Putting aside the obvious,2 the error Shatkzin makes is that he’s a savvy, pragmatic analyst who assumes people act in rational ways according to their own business interests. Except it’s blindingly clear to anyone who’s spared even a sideways glance at blog’s like Joe Konrath’s or The Passive Voice that the venerated gurus of selfpub and their multitude of followers don’t exactly subscribe to the Church of Latter Day Pragmatism so much as they’re adherents of the Revelation of Ideological Revenge. Publishing is a holy war, and success in selfpub a divine weapon against an industry that spurned or burned them (or both). It’s not business, in other words; it’s personal.

To be honest, Shatzkin is a smart guy so I’m sure he knows this and his “question” is more of the rhetorical sort. Still doesn’t stop the replies like this one from Nate Hoffelder, gushing about “socially aware indie authors”.

“Socially aware”? Please.

If the vitriol towards tradpub that comes out some corners of the selfpub scene (ref. this) is “social awareness” then so is the constant harping of That One Family Member who’s always pinching your muffin top and asking when you’re going to lose weight. (Or the one who’s asking when you’re going to get married, have kids, eat more, drink less, et ceteraet ceteraet cetera.)

Protip: “social awareness” is not mindless One True Path evangelism, despite what a lot of people nowadays seem to believe…

  1. I’ve just been hearing that word a lot recently and really, really wanted to use it… []
  2. Which is: the strength of legacy publishers does indeed have a huge impact on many of the biggest names in self-publishing, particularly when it comes to signing seven-figure distribution deals, generally either in “foreign”, i.e. non-US, territories or with regards to subsidiary rights. []