Monday, March 3, 2014

Writer's Digest magazine is stuck in the 20th century

Writer's Digest says it "has chronicled the culture of the modern writer and continue[s] this great tradition through relevant first-person essays, interviews with bestselling authors and profiles with emerging talent. Writer’s Digest also features practical technique articles, and tips and exercises on fiction, nonfiction, poetry and the business-side of writing and publishing."

The chart shown below was published last week on the WD Facebook page. It garnered more than 400 likes, apparently from innocent and ignorant wannabe authors.

Knowledgeable folks pointed out that the chart was inaccurate and out-of-date.
Here's some of what WD got wrong:
  1. The terms "subsidy publishing" and "vanity publishing" are seldom used now. There is really no difference between the two processes, which are now commonly called "self-publishing." However, independent self-publishing, where an author forms a small publishing company, is something else.
  2. Many books are not printed and bound. The chart completely ignores ebooks. That's pathetic and irresponsible.
  3. With many subsidy publishers, the author paid 100% of the publishing cost and the publisher paid nothing.
  4. There may not be any profits to receive.
  5. With print on demand ("POD") and ebooks, there is no warehouse.
  6. Print on demand is used by authors and publishers of all types. POD is a method of printing and distribution, not a method of publishing.
  7. With all four processes shown (not just POD), the author uses her own money (or maybe borrowed money).
  8. Authors of all types want to see their work in print (or e-published).
  9. "You own the book" would apply to all publishing paths shown.
  10. There seems to be almost no difference between the bottom boxes in the second and fourth columns.
The chart was very poorly researched, written and edited -- three major sins for  magazine about writing. If the magazine publishes inaccurate information on paper or online, it may -- and should -- lose readers.

Writer's Digest has been published since 1920. I've read a great many issues since 1969. I subscribed for several years but no longer subscribe, nor do I buy every issue at Barnes & Noble. Until a few years ago I made a point of visiting B&N once a month to buy the mag and a book or two as a token gesture to help keep B&N alive.

WD has become less and less relevant to me in recent years as I learned more about book publishing and needed to be taught less (and because more info is online).

I also felt that the mag lost credibility by doing a deal with dreadful pay-to-publish behemoth Author Solutions in early 2011 to establish self-publishing service Abbott Press.

I don't like the idea of a magazine that carries advertising for competing self-publishing companies to have a financial stake in the success of one of those companies.

  • If you were a salesperson for 7UP soda and wanted your products to be sold by Walmart, would you expect to be treated fairly if Walmart owned Coke or Pepsi?
  • If you were the boss of Infinity Publishing or Outskirts Press and you advertise in Writer's Digest, would you expect to be treated fairly -- in ad placement and editorial coverage -- if WD would profit from the success of your biggest competitor?
I'm sure that WD wants the world to believe that the new arrangement will have no effect on its relationships with the competitors of Abbott Press. But, in any type of business, there is bound to be trouble when a supplier or customer i also a competitor.

Also, in an era when print publications are starving -- and since WD is operated by human beings -- it may be  difficult for WD to resist the opportunity to maximize its income by discriminating against Abbott's competitors.

If you are considering working with a self-publishing company, 
How to not Get Screwed by a Self-Publishing Company will help.


  1. Thanks very much for publishing this post. WD has clearly fallen asleep. I feel sorry for any writer who pays attention to the senile old mag.

  2. This is a very small-minded, myopic post. How is WD stuck in the 20th? You obviously don't read the magazine enough to know that WD features ALL aspects of publishing. Maybe YOU'RE just stuck in your own narrow little world.

    1. Anony -- apparently you are so ashamed of your lame-brained comment that you are unwilling to attach your name to it. I, on the other hand, stand by my posting.

      Maybe you are just a narrow-minded WD sycophant who pounces on any criticism without analyzing the content of the criticism.

      WD is out of date and out of touch. That's dangerous. It is cheating its readers who rely on it for valid information and informed opinions.