Write like a rock star?

I posted a link to this post a while back, but I think it’s worth more detailed discussion.
The blogger, a musician and writer, points out how the economics of the music-industry have changed. Technology makes it possible to self-produce an album that sounds as good as anything recorded by professional sound people; record labels actually encourage this, as proof you’ve got an album’s worth of talen; and indie musicians are increasingly realizing that if they can put together their own album and build their own fan base, why exactly do they need a label?
In contrast, the writing industry still looks on getting published by an actual publisher as the mark of a pro. Even though the technology is there for self-publication (particularly easy now with e-books) and the Internet opens up options for self-promotion, self-publishing (despite some spectacular success) still screams “wannabe,” partly because publishing doesn’t have the reputation for screwing its authors that the record industry does.
The blogger’s questions: Do publishing houses really add anything you can’t do yourself? Is self-publishing more of a viable option? Will it reach the point where it becomes a necessity?
Rereading the post recently, I don’t think the two fields are as close as she does. I think it’s a lot easier to build a fan base, particularly a paying fan base, for a musician (not easy, just easier) because they’ve got the advantage of public performances. Even if you start out playing in bars and passing the hat, it draws fans without detracting from using the same material in an album later. If writers, on the other hand, release free material for download on our website, I’m not sure anyone will come back and buy it later (but I haven’t tried, so if you have, feel free to correct me). And performing makes a stronger impression than reading a story online—particularly if you’re new and nobody has any particular reason to read your online work. I’ve downloaded Barbara Hambly’s work from her website, but I’d be less likely to do it for someone new.
Then again, there’s options like Kickstarter for generating funds for a publishing venture (as author Natania Barron did for her debut novel, Pilgrim of the Sky).
And as she notes, not everyone wants to become their own publisher, or is suited to it. As the Kung Fu Monkey blog pointed out once, even if streaming video technology makes it possible for TV writer to dispense with the networks and create their own Internet channel, some writers just want to write, not be writer/director/producer/TV executives. The technology involved in self-publishing with ebooks is a lot simpler, of course, but it’s still a factor to consider (KFM has an interesting discussion on digital comics here, by the way).
And while it’s often ignored, 20 percent of Americans still don’t have Internet access, which is not a problem with broadcast TV or hard-copy books, but raises problems for digital content, something that “let’s do everything digitally” enthusiasts tend to ignore (like this report, though it’s otherwise very interesting). For that matter, the indie-musician blog post asserts that ebook readers are now cheap—I don’t find an $80 Kindle cheap at all, and for much of my life I’d have considered it too pricey to be practical.
Of course, my taste inclines to books on paper, so I’m biased. Does that bias make me overly pessimistic or excessively skeptical? What do you think?

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Filed under Comics, Reading, Writing

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