Beware of the Snake Oil in Publishing

Posted on August 29, 2011

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via a post from John Hawks

Seth Godin: “Strangers and friends: understanding publishing”.

It’s very seductive for an author to believe that a fairy godmother will introduce her fabulous idea to legions of strangers. Seductive, yes, but rarely something that actually happens.

The point: Build your own platform.

That statement was from the website The Domino Project. It was a pretty good quote so I looked at the website. The website looked very promising, at first, talking about breaking the traditional hold of publishers on book publications. The problem is as I read throughout the website I couldn’t figure out what exactly was revolutionary about this process. From what I could tell it takes a handful of techniques, some quite old like putting advertising in publications (comic books have done this for decades), and mixes them together. There seems to be a bit of the old Mary Kay ‘sell to your friends to build up’ and publishing on a bunch of digital formats mixed in too. Yet, I still can’t tell exactly what this process is.

I ran into this thing before in one of my past jobs- I was hired to run a “cutting edge” website that was going to change the art world. Problem was it was combination of a bunch of different techs- skype, chat, webvideo, etc. that was totted as being cutting edge. It was five years before but not in 2010.  The wording was the same: cutting edge, fight the establishment, game changer, never seen, giving power to the artists, etc. etc.

From what I can tell the same thing this going on here- lots rhetoric but nothing that has not been done before, things that the competition are doing (lots of people publish on kindle), lots of fluff words, a us vs. the big bad establishment.

Now I don’t want to disparage this persons business and what they do. It could be a game changer for all I know. I do like the idea of taking on establishments. Yet, I see it as a real problem when there is no transparency about what this revolution is. With open access you know exactly where you stand and what it does, this you don’t.

As the saying goes where there is smoke there is fire. Lack of transparency looks a bit like snake oil to me.

Posted in: Publishing