Writers’ Views on Literary Theft

The dustup about whether A J Finn committed literary theft when he wrote his thriller Woman in the Window is nothing new.  Writers have been accused of stealing from other writers since the beginning of time.
T S Eliot once said that good writers borrow from other writers, but great writers steal from other writers.
Hemingway observed that it’s OK to steal from other writers as long as you make it better.
According to Alexandre Dumas, writers conquer and annex other writers’ territory.

Favorite Bookstore

What was your favorite bookstore when they had bookstores?  Mine was Brentano’s. There was a big one in New York on Fifth Avenue, where my father used to go and buy me books when I was a kid.  In LA there was a good one in Century City, which I patronized.  I liked the bags they used for the books they sold at Brentano’s.  Sadly, bookstores are a dying species with only one major chain left–Barnes & Noble.

I have no problem buying books from Amazon on the Internet, though.  It’s very easy, and you don’t have to spend money on gasoline.  I can’t complain, except they don’t use bags anymore to pack books.  They use pasteboard.

Is Self-publishing out of the Cellar Yet?

Self-publishing has always carried a stigma to it.  After all, it’s not much different than vanity publishing, which still has a stigma attached to it.  The idea is, the self-published book couldn’t find a publisher to print it in New York, so the writer turned to self-publishing.  In other words, the book wasn’t good enough to find a publisher.  Therefore, the self-published book is inferior to a book published by a regular publisher.

Self-publishing a book is also a difficult way to make a profit.  The writer doesn’t receive the advance that publishers pay writers.  What the self-published writer does get is royalties from the sales of his books.  These royalties are usually much higher than the royalties earned by an author contracted by a major publisher.  However, though his royalties are usually higher, the self-published writer’s sales are almost inevitably lower.

If you’re starting out as a self-published writer, it’s hard to establish any kind of fan base. Readers of your books tend to be few and far between.  Nobody has ever heard of you. Somehow you have to make a name for yourself–and that isn’t easy, especially when you don’t have a major New York publisher backing you.  A New York publishing house’s logo on your book’s cover acts as an imprimatur to its quality, thus enticing readers to buy the book.

If a writer already has a fan base, self-publishing would seem like a viable option.  Your royalties would be higher, and you already have an established fan base.  Not only that, you would own all rights to your self-published books.  Why more brand-name authors aren’t opting for self-publishing remains a mystery.

If more brand-name authors do, in fact, choose to self-publish, it will work wonders toward lifting self-publishing out of the cellar.  That being said, self-publishing has more of a cachet today than it did, say, twenty years ago, thanks to the advances in technology, namely the computer and the Internet.  Whether it be true or not, the fact is, the general consensus today holds that self-published writers aren’t as good as writers contracted to traditional publishers, specifically New York publishers.