Nick Cole published this post detailing how his publisher rejected his latest book on grounds of being ‘offensive’. That is to say, the publisher decided that a single short chapter that outlined the antagonists’ motives was so offensive, the chapter needed to be rewritten or the book would not be published.
Cole elected to publish through Amazon instead.
This is the only appropriate response if faced by publishers who demand rewrites to fit ideological agendas. The rise of self-publishing has effectively demolished the role of publishers as industry gatekeepers. Indie authors can now compete effectively with mainstream published authors, especially in ebooks. Today, gatekeepers are irrelevant.
I sympathise with Cole’s position; I write the kind of stories that will never be published in Singapore. My latest submission to Castalia House has heavy religious and political overtones, which is almost guaranteed to cross into Singapore’s infamous Out of Bounds markers. My current project is a space opera that follows a decades-long interstellar war, and because it’s not about Singaporeans immersed in Singaporean culture, Singaporean publishers won’t be interested. And even if I could find a local publisher brave enough to buck societal and industrial expectations, I have not found a local publisher willing to ride the ebook wave and tap into Amazon’s global supply chain through Print on Demand.
For a writer like me, it simply makes no sense to go to a local publisher. Similarly, it makes no sense for authors to submit their works to publishers who see themselves as gatekeepers who decide what is goodthink and what is thoughtcrime.
The era of gatekeepers is over. Publishers are no longer gatekeepers; they have to be curators. Today, publishers should seek to identify the very best stories on the market, polish them to a sparkle, and promote them on every marketing channel they can find. Publishers have to go to bat for their authors, utilising every distribution channel they can get to sell their stories, and be ready to stand by their authors in times of controversy.
In other words, publishers must understand that they exist because of authors, not the other way around. And, as current events continue to demonstrate, publishers that fail to comprehend this are bound for the ash heap of history.