A must-read essay on publishing

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Recently, while reading about the growing trend toward self-publishing, I learned about Richard Nash’s What is the Business of Literature?(a free Kindle download).

Nash offers a tightly reasoned argument that really gets you thinking—about writing, technology, publishing, social media, and, indirectly, about your own role in the whole business.

I especially like his discussion of editing and how various editing roles might fare in the new publishing environment.

According to Nash, those whose role has been to “make writing better” will continue to find opportunities. Those whose role has been to decide what to publish may fare less well, as more and more people (self-publishers) decide that for themselves. Did I mention that the essay is also likely to be quite controversial?

Fascinating moments in publishing history

Great essays often reveal interesting and suprising facts, and that’s one of the things I love about this essay. Here’s a quick sampling of fun facts (I’ll leave out the specifics as an incentive to read it yourself):

  • The first author to make a living commercially instead of through patronage
  • The founder of an early paperback vending machine for commuters
  • Point in history when publishing really started to explode (it’s not when you might think)

If you, like me, have had “read a good history of publishing” on your to-do list for ages, you’ll find a fascinating survey of publishing here, as well as references to some classic books on the subject. Definitely worth a read.

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