At an event hosted by The Book People the other week, the author Anthony Horowitz gave a rather witty speech about the relationship between writers and their publishers. It was entertaining, and I agreed with much of it. Apart from the bit that really annoyed me.
Like him, I’m an author. But I’m also a publisher.
Yet his speech provoked a good deal of recognition, not schizophrenia. I agree with him that a publisher’s job is to deliver ‘story, character, style, originality, design, typography, literacy, good grammar, education, enlightenment’, that publishers aren’t (often) Luddites. That the challenge they face is a world which talks of ‘content’, not ‘books’ and which is undergoing the most fundamental change since the invention of the printing press. I also agree that authors and publishers often need fact checkers. Anthony Horowitz clearly does.
His argument all started to go a bit peculiar when he got to a part of the topic I know very well. He’s said it before, on the BBC when I and two other writers launched Unbound, our crowd-funding publishing company. And now he said it again: ‘I could,’ he said, ‘go it alone and self publish with Unbound, as Terry Jones did last year.’
Go it alone? Self-publish? A spot of research wouldn’t go amiss. Just a visit to our site would be a start.
Or he could have asked Terry Jones or Kate Mosse or, if he dared, the terrifying polymath Jonathan Meades what being published by Unbound actually involves? If he had, he would have learned that his notion of ‘things publishers do’ – i.e. making exactingly edited and imaginatively promoted books – are being performed here by people who have worked in ‘proper publishing’ for many decades.
Of course we don’t mind Anthony having a bit of a dig at us – he has every right to decided for himself if we can produce well crafted books, provided he’s read them. What is sad that is that he should feel the need to have a dig at our (and his fellow) authors. Does he really think that they need to self-publish?