I had never heard of this Ewan Morrison person before blogging that story quoting him the other day, but all of a sudden it seems like he’s coming out of the woodwork everywhere. I saw a mention on the E-Book Community Mailing List of a column by him on The Guardian. It says it’s third in a series, but I’m not sure what the other two are because there aren’t any links to them there.

In this column, Morrison basically pooh-poohs the idea of social networking to sell self-published books, pointing out that if you’re spending 80% of your time socially-networking, and 80% of that social-network time not even talking about your book, as various social-network gurus recommend, you have hardly any time left for writing—and all the social networking in the world may not help most self-publishing authors because 10% of self-published authors account for 75% of their revenue and 50% of self-published books earn less than $500 per year. (Only he’s a lot more long-winded about it than that.)

Nate Hoffelder over at The Digital Reader has a great rebuttal to this, and he makes a number of good points. Just because some people are bad at socially marketing their works doesn’t mean everyone is. Perhaps the 10% who make 75% of the money just happen to be the ones who are best at it. There are plenty of other ways to market than just tweeting and Facebooking, too.

And when you get right down to it, it’s hard to imagine why the real or imagined failure of social networking as a marketing medium should mean people will stop buying e-books. As I said in response to the last time I mentioned him, as long as people are going to want to read, they’re going to want to obtain reading matter somehow. And while they can get it for free, people do realize that their time and effort are worth money, and will gladly spend an amount of money they deem preferable to that time and effort to obtain it.

Apparently another column in that series is Morrison’s column decrying the failure of ACTA, which he calls a “cultural disaster” that will undoubtedly lead to ruin and damnation for the entire content industry. Mike Masnick at Techdirt, where I found it, calls this the “most clueless column ever,” and his defenestration is so lengthy, detailed, and excellent on all counts that there’s nothing I can really add to it. Among the various points Masnick makes is that Morrison paints the DMCA (particularly, its safe harbor provision) as a defeat for the content industry, when in fact it was the content industry who fought the hardest to see it passed.

When you get right down to it, I think Morrison wants the old way of doing things to stick around badly enough that he will gladly seize on every bit of evidence that supports his cause and happily ignore or twist anything that doesn’t to suit his purposes. He wants the new era of publishing to fail, so he will happily predict that failure at every opportunity in the hopes that by doing so he can make it come true.

Of course, to a certain extent this could be a case of pot and kettle, as I’ll admit I’m probably just as guilty of cherry-picking in the other direction sometimes. Still, I think it’s a lot more fun to be an optimist than a pessimist!


  1. I really regret that I haven’t saved the article, but I read a great answer to Morrisons complaint about social media marketing and self-publishing.
    Anyway, the main point of critique was, that there was no source to be found for this 80-20 rule Morrison “quotes”. Looks like he did what writers do best: Making things up.

  2. Speaking as a self-published e-book author (and therefore a self-promoter) I thought Morrison’s points were extremely thoughtful and for the most part accurate. Why do you think publishing houses have been in existence for so long … because they could do all the ‘stuff’ (including promotion) that an author simply didn’t have time to do and also write more books.

  3. Morrison has a long history of hatred for ePublishing and for self publishing. He was one of the interviewees in a BBC program about it several months back and covered by an article here. He has a pompous and patronising attitude to being a writer, and toward any kind of self publishing or eBooks.

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