Last week my name appeared on Page 2 of a controversial book. Well, technically it appeared on Page ii, beneath the copyright and disclaimer. The book was CTRL-ALT-REVOLT by the well-known Nick Cole, and I was the book formatter. Why was it controversial? You can read Nick’s blog and Michael Bunker’s blog on the subject if you haven’t already.
I’m not planning on talking in depth about the controversy here because what’s left to say that hasn’t already been said? We live in an era where people blindly pull for their team and you would either agree with me because you perceive that we wear the same color jersey or you would argue semantics and then insult me because you perceive that I wear a different color jersey. Let me set the record straight, this is the only jersey I own:
To summarize what happened with CTRL-ALT-REVOLT, Nick Cole had a contract with Harper Voyager, a mainstream publisher. He turned in his book, the editors rejected it because they were “deeply offended” by a plot point, Nick wouldn’t budge on the plot point and he was released from his contract. In the days before the Indie Publishing Revolution, that would have basically meant the book was dead, but Nick self-published the book and it has gone nuclear thanks to the publicity about his book being banned.
Now, before you start arguing semantics or calling me names, YES, I’m aware that the book wasn’t technically banned. It was rejected, and slapping the word banned across the cover has fanned the flames that has pushed CTRL-ALT-REVOLT to (currently) #133 on Amazon. That’s an incredible number for an indie book. Right now the book is sitting between Andy Weir and A.G. Riddle on the Amazon SciFi charts. What about the New York Times list, you might ask? You might ask Autumn Kalquist about that, but that’s a story for another blog.
What are we going to talk about today? Remember my blog last year about Literary Outlaws?
I find it amazing here is that Nick was able to take his unwanted novel, self publish it, and get it in the hands of thousands of people. That would have been impossible just a few years ago. Let’s not kid ourselves, Harper Voyager is in the publishing business for the money. Every publisher is in it for the money. Simon & Schuster, TOR, DC, Marvel, Freedom Forge, Amazon… it’s about the money. The editors are probably in it for the love of literature, at least to some degree, but it’s also about the money.
It’s not about the money for the writers. Maybe it seems that way with the big names, but I’m sure that Stephen King does it because he loves to do it. I know for a fact that Nick Cole does it because he loves the craft. Writers write because they love to tell stories. I’m grateful that there are people out there who are willing to pay money for my books, but I would keep writing even if no one bought my work. I do it because that’s what I was made to do.
Publishers are in it for the money, and they publish whatever they choose. And before the indie publishing revolution you would have been a fool to self publish your book. My mom self published a book, spent $10,000 to do so, and there are hundreds of copies of that book in her house in New Hampshire 35 years later. But now, when literally anyone can sign up for a KDP account, authors like Nick Cole are able to take their non-PC manuscripts and put them out there for anyone to read. THIS IS REVOLUTIONARY! Finally, we’ve cut out all (or at least most) of the middlemen and the author can put his work into the reader’s hands without some corporate gatekeeper that’s the book is too challenging or too offensive or whatever.
Nobody tells me what I can or can’t read. Nobody. And when you take the mainstream publisher’s need to sell X number of copies in order for them to give a damn about a book out of the equation, this is truly a remarkable time to be an author or a reader. Science Fiction is supposed to be about ideas. A great novel can open a person’s eyes and help them to look at an idea from a different point of view. I want books that challenge me, books that make me think, and I’m done with cookie-cutter literature that’s trying to be the next Harry Potter or the next Hunger Games. An author needs the freedom to tell the stories they want to tell, and that can’t happen when a publisher is looking over your shoulder worrying about who you’re going to offend or how many units they can move in the first week.
In closing, Nick Cole is a literary outlaw. And all I have to say to Harper Voyager is this: