By Scott Bury
Guild of Dreams is a fitting name for this group for several reasons — not least because the original meaning of a guild was a group of tradespeople with similar or related skills. Two purposes of a guild have particular application to this group: brotherhood and standards of craft.
Writing is a solitary craft, by necessity. But we need interaction, not only as a source for our stories, but occasionally we need the company — at least virtual — of other writers; someone to share the common experiences of writing; people to bounce ideas off of; people to give advice about story, grammar, promotion and finding an audience.
That’s important, essential, indispensable. But the purpose of a guild, the function of the guilds of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, can be an even more important side to the Guild of Dreamers, the guild of dreamers and writers of fantasy, is the provision of a standard of craftsmanship.
The publishing function
For centuries, book publishing has been dominated by publishing companies. Especially through the 20th century, the book publishing industry has been increasingly controlled by a steadily decreasing number of increasingly larger conglomerates.
Like the dinosaurs, publishing conglomerates achieved their greatest size — and achieved their maximum power to control what gets published — just as the environment changed. With the stellar growth of Amazon, the explosion of e-books and independent writers, publishing conglomerates are on an icy slope to irrelevance.
Their response? To try to enforce the obsolete paradigm where they control everything.To publish fewer books in greater quantity. To reduce diversity and stay with proven formulas.
We see how well that’s worked.
Independent writers are increasing in number, in market share, in credibility. The shills of the publishing conglomerates, the book reviewers published in the periodicals owned by the same publishing conglomerates, sneer and sniff at “self-published authors.” They point out egregious grammatical, punctuation and formatting errors, poor quality, hackneyed stories.
Okay, they’re right. Many self-published, independently authors produce a lot of crap. But most of the output of the publishing conglomerates is well-dressed, nicely formatted crap.
The stories are just not original.
Proof? Everything’s a spin-off, a rip-off, sorry, an “homage.” Or a book by an established author.
What do publishers do?
When I worked for a publishing conglomerate, many years ago (actually, it wasn’t that big in this era of a global book publishing industry controlled by six multinationals), I became very unpopular with senior management. I kept asking what the group publishers, directors, assistant vice presidents and other executives did to justify the money they took from individual magazines.
What do publishers do for authors? When I was a book editor, I copy-edited manuscripts to make sure they made sense and had no grammatical errors. There were concept editors, to approve book concepts. There were outside reviewers to give feedback on the basic concept behind a book, and to try to predict what would sell or not (they were not good at that part).
There were designers, to decide the visual appeal of a book and its cover. There were manufacturing experts who took care of printing.
And there were “publishers,” who, along with a large marketing department, were in charge of putting the book in front of an audience.
And there were bookkeepers and accountants and traffic people and lots of others to look after money.
The e-book publishing service does most of that. They assume that you deliver a quality manuscript. From there, Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes, Kobo etc. take care of formatting, the electronic analog of manufacturing, distribution and accounting.
They do nothing, though, to ensure that quality books reach their audience. That’s where a guild comes in.
We, independent authors, can replace the functions of a publisher. If we cooperate, we can provide those essential services, the functions that the publishing shills sniff is what separates their product from the unwashed mass of self-published content: concept review, editing, proofreading, layout, design.
As authors, we know how to write. Many have other skills, too: design, proofreading, marketing.
Here’s my challenge this month: let’s form groups, formal or informal, and start to share the skills we have.
We, the Guild, can be a true guild, upholding a higher standard while providing the brotherhood and emotional support to each other.
And we can bring the power of the written word to the people, too.
What do you think?
Scott Bury is editor of the epic fantasy The Bones of the Earth and the paranormal urban fantasy, Dark Clouds. Visit his blog, Written Words.