I shouldn’t have to say this before but it obviously needs saying.
Everybody speaks as if only one thing—the thing they want to be true—can be true at a time.
Large publishers can be giant evil amoral multinationals. And they can be ankle-biting fucking lapdogs compared to Amazon at the same time.
Self-publishing can sometimes be a great, empowering thing for authors. And it can sometimes be a huge, crippling mistake that dead-ends their career. Both at the same time.
Big publishers can be vital in building the careers of writers who never would have had a chance otherwise. And big publishers can be exploitative and ruthless. Both at the same time.
Publishers can be incredibly useful to an author. And they can be cheating evil bastards who ruin authors. Both at the same time.
Agents can be an institution vital to the survival of many existing authors. And they can be an institution that habitually fucks authors over. Both at the same time.
Amazon can be a company that has done incredible things in terms of access, reach, and distribution for authors, readers, and publishing. And they can be a greedy, self-centred, amoral, ruthless, bullying, and dangerous multinational with so much power that it redefines the very concept of moral hazard.
Both at the same time.
Almost every time you are asked to pick a side, where seemingly the fate of the world resides on which out of two opposing utterly unlikeable bastards you choose, it turns out you can choose both or neither.
You say self-publishing can be a huge, crippling mistake, but you don’t explain how? Even if you put out garbage, or make a fool of yourself, you can always write under a pen name. From what I can see, the only time a writing career ends is when the writer gives up. Is there some other way I’m not aware of? (I agree with everything else, by the way.)
Everything you’re saying is true but you’re forgetting one important variable in the equation: the authors themselves. Putting your own stuff out there too early and have it fail utterly and completely can be a crippling blow to the self-confidence and motivation of a writer. To have a career in writing you need to preserve and protect your emotional drive to pursue it. For some that is very easy—comes natural to them. For others, it is a bit more challenging.
Ah, that makes sense. Thank you!