When I read the Michael Kozlowski’s article this morning about segregating small press and self-published books, my emotional reaction was “What a horrible idea!”
Several hours later, my non-emotional reaction is still “What a horrible idea!” The difference is that I’ve had time to think about why it’s a bad idea. Leaving aside the “is it right?” or “is it fair?” questions, I can’t think of any practical way it could be achieved.
Kozlowski proposes online retailers create a separate section for small press and indie published titles. Okay, leaving aside the (not inconsiderable) technical challenges of that, how would the determination be made? “Small press?” What’s that exactly? Anything that’s not one of the Big 5? Publishers like Deadite Press and Samhain Publishing would be pretty upset, and rightfully so. Number of books in print? That’s arbitrary, and again, no indication of quality. There are some new presses doing great work but with few books currently in print.
So determining the characteristics of small press is problematic. Well, self-published is pretty obvious, right? We can go with that!
Okay, how would you define a New York Times bestselling author like Brandon Sanderson, who has self-published several books. Or Amanda Hocking? Several of her books are still self-published. Or, my favorite conundrum: Hugh Howey. So stores would put the paper version of Wool in one section and the ebook version in the other? Yeah, that makes sense.
I put Kozlowski’s post in the reactionary column, which was exactly what I was cautioning against yesterday. Do I think there needs to be something in place to keep questionable content out of the hands of children? Probably. Will setting up separate sections in stores accomplish it? No. Well, not unless you want to wave a red flag in front of Internet-savvy kids. A separate section would pretty much yell “Look over here!” to them.