Post-Press Literature: Self-Published Authors in the Literary Field

Print Friendly

1. Little Green Men

Mark Watney is stuck on Mars. But he's writing - to pass the time, to record his attempts at growing potatoes in barren Martian soil and at re-establishing communication with Earth. Like many Crusoes before him, he's also writing with full awareness that no one else may ever see his journals, that they may remain a private endeavor only. "I don't even know who'll read this," he worries. "I guess someone will find it eventually. Maybe a hundred years from now."1 As with most survival narratives, then, this is also the story of the survival of a story, the attempt not just to stay alive, but preserve one's narrative, make it findable, communicable, readable.

But forget Crusoe for the moment: Watney's concerns of obscurity also speak to the anxiety of every writer yet to earn his fame. The unpublished author endeavors knowing full well that the product of his labor may never be read by anyone other than himself, and that an isolation as bleak as the inhospitable landscape of Mars awaits his efforts. He hopes, like many of those authors of yesteryear, that a diligent reader will discover his writing "eventually," perhaps "a hundred years from now," hidden deep in a library as obscure as the Martian soil, in a stranger's bookcase or some graduate student's research project. But the meantime battle against obscurity, the knowledge that one's work as a writer may never find its audience, is what haunts all authors at some stage of their career and what connects Watney's worries on Mars to those of many people back here on earth.

For what it's worth, The Martian (2011) - Andy Weir's novel of interplanetary potato farming - is one of the most significant books of the last few years. It's a strangely compelling novel, full of charming intelligence, simple but flawless pacing, and ingenious problem solving - something like Nicholson Baker in space. But the most significant thing about The Martian is not its story or Weir's talent as an author. Its importance lies in the fact that it is an example of what I call post-press literature, a form of writing whose publication, dissemination, and securing of symbolic and market capital enable a new analysis of current "struggles" in the literary field as well as a fresh understanding of the value of writing and reading in the twenty-first century. Post-press literature is created outside of the established circles of book production, and it's not only artistically significant, but also expressive of new possibilities for economic and artistic agency that arise at the intersections of the literary field and digital culture. In brief, the most significant thing about The Martian is that it was originally self-published on the internet.

Although now part of Random House's list, The Martian was first a serial on its author's website and then a self-published e-book on the digital platform Amazon. After accruing significant success and word-of-mouth publicity on its own terms, the novel was republished by Random House and has since achieved an even more impressive level of fame - a movie adaptation, starring Matt Damon, was released in 2015. When read with this context in mind, it's clear that this novel is not just a record of interplanetary survivalism that appeals to the post-Gravity (2013) audience's flirtation with sensible science fiction; nor is it just an account of a writer battling with the nerves first-time authors face and of the doubled, trebled nervousness of a marginal type of author moving ever closer to the literary spotlight - the self-publisher. Along with other works of its kind, The Martian allows us to study the new positions and position-takings available to authors in a field growing increasingly independent of traditional processes of publication; it also allows us to figure the production of literary works as socially significant acts in new and striking ways (for example, as records of the individual's successful contestation and subversion of corporations - but we'll get to all this below). The Martian provides something of a snapshot of the typical post-press work. While there might be other ways of operating in a post-press field, the post-press work in its current configuration tends to have three key aspects: it is self-published, distributed digitally, and, as we will explore below, strongly associated with particular genres of fiction.

It must be an embarrassment to the editorial and marketing departments of the big four publishers that a not-insignificant proportion of recent literary blockbusters, of which The Martian is now an example, began as self-published works on Amazon or elsewhere. In these instances, publishers have been forced to tacitly admit that they no longer necessarily introduce the "next big thing," so much as hunt it down after the fact and rope it in before its success worries them even further. In something of a heroic fable for the postindustrial society, the simple laboring of one individual on a dowdy, plain-HTML website2 was enough to outdo the marketing power of a multinational publishing conglomerate with all of its symbolic and real capital, industry connections, and media power. And before The Martian there was Hugh Howey's Wool series (2011 - 2013), E.L James's Fifty Shades of Grey (2011) (originally self-published online as Twilight fanfiction), and Amanda Hocking's My Blood Approves (2010).3 This success of the self-publisher is hardly a new phenomenon either. Grisham started out as a self-publisher, as did Australian thriller-writer Matthew Reilly. In fact, the more we rewind through history, the more we are reminded just how ubiquitous self-published works are. From Blake to Austen, self-published authors pervade even the most standard account of literary history.

Despite the historical precedents and widespread distribution of self-published writing, it's not hard to find expressions of doubt about the legitimacy and cultural impact of the self-published form. Indeed, the self-published market sends regular pulses of anxiety through the established channels of the literary field - and not just because it makes inroads into its profits. Here's one such example from the domain of traditional publishing: "Not only can we now publish our own journalism, however substandard, we can self-publish our own literary works as well (I use the word "literary" loosely). [...] Do we really need to wade through the tidal wave of amateurish work of authors who have never been professionally selected for publication?"4 This current pejorative idea of the self-publisher seems curiously confined to the literary sphere, however, as there's not a similar skepticism about the distribution of self-published artworks in, for instance, the music and video-game fields. Few would claim that the digital self-publishing platforms Soundcloud or Bandcamp have anything but a positive effect on the art form, and many of the most popular and revered video games of recent years, from Minecraft (2011) to Super Meat Boy (2011), were originally developed and released by individuals or small independent teams.5

In these fields, it's simply accepted that many of the most talented artists work independently of commercial publishers, and their products aren't seen as destructive of artistic value. What this comparison highlights is the unique hegemony that mainstream literary presses have held in recent decades over both the symbolic and the economic capital of the literary object. The corporatization of the publishing industry no doubt goes some way to explaining the difficulty in accepting alternative modes of publication.6 When, as Kovač reports, 60-80% of turnover in the EU and USA book markets at the end of the 1990s was controlled by just 5-10 publishing houses, we can see that relatively few parties control the production of symbolic capital in the field.7 On top of this, the big publishing conglomerates' recent strategy for achieving growth in a relatively "static" market by purchasing smaller publishers makes the options for even nominally independent publishing increasingly limited.8

To some extent, anxieties about the legitimacy of self-published literary works demonstrate just how much the symbolic capital of the contemporary literary object is validated by publishing industries' standardized processes and enmeshed in a standardized view of the proper "path to publication." Good books aren't just good books; they are also books that have been published properly, and the proper method of publication is to submit one's book to a reputable commercial publisher. That it seems strange, embarrassing, disreputable, or narcissistic for authors to release their own work (even if they have gone through processes of editing and design that mimic the legitimating processes of traditional publishing houses) shows just how uncomfortably firm the association is between traditional trade publishers and literary value - that thing that supposedly transcends all economic considerations, if we are to believe Hachette, which recently claimed that books are not like 'any other consumer good'.9 We could even be paranoid and suggest that some of the smear directed at self-publishing comes from the traditional publishers, often via their authors, and constitutes "position-taking" (or defenses of a role - see Bourdieu) in the form of slander.10 But it's probably more accurate to suggest that it's not just publishers who are "embarrassed" by this situation: many others with a stake in the literary field, from casual book-clubbers to academics, who depend upon the symbolic value of the literary object, are destabilized and forced into a struggle by the rise of self-publishing in the digital literary market.11 As Katherine Bode suggests, many readers unknowingly depend upon "the traditional publishing market, the reputation of specific publishers, and the forms of commodity production and reward the book market supports, to provide a signal of quality that precedes any literary critical or academic assessment."12 Studying the self-published market doesn't mean abandoning these institutions of valuation and idolizing post-press writers as somehow outside systems of commerciality.  It simply means recognizing that literary value is "always already implicated in commercial systems" and that "understanding different forms of implication in such systems" is a productive and necessary component of reading the future of the field.13 If anything, as I'll suggest below, recent self-published authors are far from anti-commercial rebels. Instead, they encourage other writers to embrace the economic responsibilities and potentials of authorship to a greater degree.

The worries that post-press works introduce into the contemporary literary field are no doubt inseparable from the form's dependence on digital culture, and, in particular, the role Amazon has played in promoting self-published writing. It's hard to understate the influence that technology and digital culture have had on the rise of post-press literature; we might even say that it's the literature of a culture less concerned with analogue sources of cultural validation (such as print and the associated preferences for material objects) and less bound to traditional pricing structures and constraints. Post-press literature establishes itself via digital channels to avoid the forms of labor in which mainstream presses have a clear advantage (printing, transportation, warehousing, retailing, etc.). The improvement of e-reader technology and the existence of online marketplaces allow for the commercial penetration and visibility of self-published works in a manner that has previously been unavailable, owing to the difficulties an unaffiliated individual faced trying to make inroads in print culture.

This essay is an attempt to consider the relationship between the economics of this post-press publishing market and the enjoyment produced within it by looking at the form of and reader reactions to works like Weir's The Martian. In particular, I consider how the cost and length of self-published e-books, in a manner perhaps unique to the post-press field, influence reader enjoyment and shape some of the most popular novels being read today. To borrow the words of Lee Erickson, I want to consider ways that contemporary reading and writing are "materially and economically embedded in the reality of the publishing marketplace" rather than aesthetically autonomous.14 As Rachel Malik suggests, there should be no boundary between a text and the industry and practices of its publication,15 and post-press novels allow us to speculate on the ways different modes of publication influence different reading experiences. The most important aspect of post-press literature, at least as manifested in current digital self-publishing, is not that it exists as some new writerly underground, but that it allows us to rethink how we approach the concept of literary value and the institutions, processes, and forms that support it.


2. Fast Writers and Smart Shoppers

It's not my intention here to defend the quality of post-press novels or to argue whether the changes they introduce to the book market and authorial labor are entirely positive.16 It would be a silly and tedious exercise to line up post-press works and their criticisms side-by-side to see what sticks. Many are very good, just as many are very bad; some are successful, most aren't, and in this respect they aren't significantly different from commercially published works, which follow a similar short-head, long-tail sales distribution. What I do wish to offer in this section is an outline of what seem to be some of the dominant features of post-press novels, as well as what implications these features have for our study of literature in the twenty-first century.

First: a market overview. At present, post-press literature is predominantly self-published and predominantly digital. And one thing that can be said for certain is that there is a very strong connection between current digital self-publishing and particular genres of fiction. It can be difficult to compile trends of digital self-published bestsellers, but there are a few sources to which one can turn. GalleyCat, for instance, compiles an aggregated weekly bestseller list for self-published titles.17 Perusing these, one sees obvious trendsor, really, one obvious trend: domination by erotica/romance titles. For the dates 11 June-24 December, 2014, for example, every week's bestseller is an erotica/romance title.18 In fact, for the entirety of 2014, only four books that don't wholly fit within the genre topped the list: Abducted (2012) by T.R. Ragan, Frost (2012) by Kate Avery Ellison, and Don't Let Me Go (2012) and When I Found You (2013) by Catherine Ryan Hyde. The connection between self-publishing and erotica/romance is perhaps to be expected, owing to the intimate nature of the material: the crossover success of the initially self-published Fifty Shades of Grey marked a rare moment in which mainstream consumers felt emboldened enough by market and peer approval to buy an erotic novel from a traditional book retailer (at least outside the culturally acceptable Mills and Boon / Harlequin brand). But it's a big step from buying the rather innocuously titled Fifty Shades to working up the courage to ask for Chosen by the Vampire Kings: BBW Romance (2014)19 or Alpha Billionaire (2014) at your local bookstore. The predominance of romance/erotica reveals one key initial reason for the growing interest in self-published erotica/romance works: anonymity, both in the sense that one can purchase these books from the privacy of one's own home, and in the sense that current e-readers, being coverless blank slates, communicate little to the outside world. If, in the future, e-readers were to display outward-facing covers and title information just as ordinary books do, then the situation in this market might change with regards to the domination of erotica, a genre in which privacy is always a priority.

Other sources collating bestsellers aren't so dominated by the romance genre and allow different kinds of analysis. While GalleyCat sources part of its lists from Amazon, Amazon itself displays more varied results, based in part on ranking algorithms that display sales relative to other titles in the same genre category (the bestseller list is not an aggregate number of sales, but a measure of the speed of sales, or current popularity).20 Amazon bestseller lists update hourly, which makes them difficult to track and record, but based on the data available to me as I write this sentence (at 11:54am, Eastern Standard Time, on the 31st December, 2014), Gone (parts one, two, and three) (2014) by Deborah Bladon (Romance), Maude (2014) by Donna Mabry (Memoir / Historical fiction), and Departure (2014) by A.G. Riddle (Sci-Fi / Thriller) are the self-published works that feature in the top twenty paid books on the Amazon Kindle bestseller list.21 Four out of the twenty books are self-published (20%), but we can see there is a little more variation in genre here.22

Things get interesting when we filter the list and look at the percentage of self-published works that occupy a particular genre bracket. In the top twenty bestsellers from the Kindle store's Science Fiction & Fantasy category (at 12:15pm EST on 31st December 2014), there are seven self-published works (not counting those published on one of Amazon's imprints, and including those, like Weir and Kloos, that were originally self-published), slightly more than in the non-specific category.23 If we filter the results even further to focus on Science Fiction alone, we find that seventeen of the top forty bestsellers are self-published titles. That approaches half. But what am I getting at here? This is the first point: if we filter the bestsellers by Contemporary Literary Fiction, we find that only one in the top twenty is an out-and-out self-published work: Catherine Ryan Hyde's Don't Let Me Go. 24 Based on this cursory research at least, it seems as though one is quite a bit more likely to find self-published works in genres such as romance, science fiction, and horror than in contemporary literary fiction. Check the bestseller lists for yourself as you read this; the titles will doubtless have changed, but the percentage of self-published to traditionally published works will be similar.

There are many possible reasons why literary fiction has fewer examples of successful self-published works, but perhaps the simplest answer is that readers of the genre are served sufficiently by traditional publishers, while readers of science fiction, fantasy, and romance are less satisfied with mainstream offerings and find it easier to obtain books online through independent authors. But there's more nuance to the situation, which can also be attributed to a problem of diversity in the trade presses. As John B. Thompson has suggested, the economic pressures of the current publishing market have created an environment in which the big presses are generally operating on a "winner takes more" model of publishing, where a "a relatively small number of authors and books tend to become the focus of attention in the field and to dominate the [traditional] retail space."25 This situation is relevant to the science-fiction field in particular. As Sarah Brouillette suggests, the intermittent mainstreaming of science fiction during the last thirty years or so, thanks to the success of a handful of blockbusters, has tended to bring with it a narrower and more volatile market instead of a broad and sustainable one.26 Yes, the number of science-fiction bestsellers has increased, but this has been at the expense of the varied and often progressive culture in which the genre had its beginnings. The refusal of mainstream booksellers to stock Samuel Delany's Flight from Nevèrÿon (1985) because of its explicit homosexual content revealed the conservative interests impacting the genre as it moved into the mainstream.27 What resulted, according to Brouillette, was "an essential rift between the stories [sci-fi authors] wanted to tell within their own subcultural community, and the stories that corporate culture deemed marketable."28

To an extent, science fiction's success in the mainstream has always been accompanied by uneasiness, due to the genre's origins in pulp magazines and other counterculture outputs.29 This is especially true in relation to the subgenre of cyberpunk. As Brouillette suggests, one can note a tension in the mainstream success of a book like Neuromancer (1984), whose popularity is incongruent with the "underclass, subcultural challenge to corporate might that it evokes."30 The point is that cyberpunk has often defined itself by a willingness to operate outside mainstream networks; it is in narrative and readership a genre that promotes some degree of independent operation. It's natural, then, to see readers in the genre taking up self-published titles, especially when sci-fi fans have a long history in self-publishing anyway, as evidenced by the rise of sci-fi zines in 1930s America and elsewhere. Mainstream literary fiction, we can assume, has different assumptions and associations, and its readers are more reluctant to explore alternative modes of publication, at least since the post-1960s corporatization of the publishing industry.31

Let's put aside the issue of market spread for now, however, and look at the objects themselves. Two aspects in particular, length and price, give us a more concrete way of engaging the significance of the post-press field. Many post-press novels are full-length works in the range of 200-300 pages. But plenty of these are also first released in shorter, serialized chunks. For example, Weir's The Martian, a sizeable 387 pages, was originally released chapter by chapter on the author's website and serialized on Amazon before being collected in one volume.32 Hugh Howey's Wool was also released in smaller segments, before being collected in a single 528-page volume published by Random House. You can still get the 58-page first part for free on Amazon.33 What we see in the post-press field is thus a lean towards serialized forms of fiction, with the traditional formal qualities of the novel only arriving after all serialized portions have been presented. The preferred form of fiction publication on the digital market - both for readers and writers - is the serialized or multi-volume novel, and this partly explains what commentators are expressing when they bemoan the sheer number of texts available on the Amazon marketplace. David Vinjamuri, for example, cites a Bowker study suggesting over 235,000 books were self-published in 2012 and concludes that the "problem with Indie books is that there are so many of them."34 It would be interesting to see whether the Bowker study accounts for serialization when collating numbers; if what might have once been released as a single book is now released as seventeen mini-books, the impression that the market is overcrowded might be misjudged.35

To some extent, this preference for serialization and multi-volume fiction marks a return to an older organization of the literary market, where publishers released shorter works at regular intervals in order to appeal to a public less willing to spend money on books. Economic pressures felt by British publishers in the early nineteenth century, for example, resulted in new and varied forms for publishing fiction, including the three-volume format, the magazine serial, and fiction issued in monthly parts. Readers of the era were generally unwilling to purchase standalone novels when subscriptions to circulating libraries provided better value. Such readers were often also unconvinced of the value of rereading and so had little reason to purchase novels for themselves.36 The serialization of novels and their release in cheap monthly parts was a tactic to encourage readers who wouldn't ordinarily purchase novels to do so; it also enabled publishers to reach new demographics, including adolescent readers and schoolboys with very limited (i.e. pocket-money) incomes.37 As Bode shows, over half of the novels published from the 1860s to the 1880s in the Australian market were serialized in a similar manner.38 The homogeneity of single-volume form is thus a relatively recent phenomenon for the publication of fiction; multi-volume and serialized works were the norm for previous generations. The modern dichotomy of standalone novel or short story represents a particularly unvaried and routinized situation for the publication of creative prose.

Serialization was not without its risks, both economic and artistic, for writers in the nineteenth century, however. Unless one was already an established name, one's works faced a hard sell (which perhaps explains why, between 1830 and 1859, more than half of the novels serialized in Australia were written by just one man, John Lang), and the "serious" literary culture tended to suppose that serialization corrupted the novel form in appealing to the lower interests of the masses.39 Serialization became a mode of publication embroiled in class conflict, but it also marked an unwanted intrusion of market considerations into novelistic form. As Harriet Martineau protested at the time:

I could not conscientiously adopt any method so unprincipled in an artistic sense as piecemeal publication. Whatever merits it may have, a work of fiction cannot possibly be good in an artistic sense which can be cut up into portions of an arbitrary length. The success of the portions requires that each should have some sort of effective close; and to provide a certain number of these at regular intervals, is like breaking up the broad lights and shadows of a great picture, and spoiling it as a composition.40

We'll discuss the impact of serialized form on the post-press field later, but for now let it suffice to say that much of the uneasiness surrounding publishing experiments in nineteenth-century England maps neatly onto the current scene. Even the uncomfortable-for-some return of the economic status of literature (see Hachette's comments above) was a feature of nineteenth-century literary culture. For example, the editor's preface to The Ghost-Hunter and His Family (1833), a pulpy novel of the time, proclaims that "although sufficiently startling to literary pride [...] novels, so far as their sale is concerned, must be viewed in the same light as other luxuries of commerce."41 For Leitch Ritchie, the series editor, this meant that books needed to be priced at a point at which the general population could afford to purchase them. My suggestion is that this should assuage the anxieties apparent in the Hachette statement and in that of Martineau above: literature isn't going to be destroyed by treating the novel in the same manner as any other commodity. The spread of literary culture has always been furthered by treating novels as the commodities they are, subjecting them to the whims and peculiarities of the market in order to improve their uptake by the public.

As it did in nineteenth-century England, the current trend towards serialization puts contemporary writers in greater proximity to their audiences than has previously been the case in the postwar publishing environment. The general labor of novel writing is stereotyped as a long, solitary one - see both Paul Auster's and Don DeLillo's fascination with the obsessive labor of "men in small rooms," which expresses a fantasy that isolation is the engine of literary production and the serious artist remains shut off from market concerns.42 But when authors are able to publish an installment of a novel each month as they write it, then it's possible for them to gain relatively immediate feedback, data that can be used to buoy their spirits to complete the work (and the opposite, of course) or even to shape it to meet the enthusiasms of the market. And, once again, this returns the interaction between author and public to a much older configuration of the literary field. Dickens experienced a similar benefit from serial publication, which enabled his novels to reach "a larger public, but also a public more delicately responsive, who made their views known during the progress of a novel."43 According to Butt and Tillotson, Dickens's situation itself harked back to an even older relationship between writer and reader, as "through serial publication an author could recover something of the intimate relationship between story-teller and audience which existed in the ages of the sagas and of Chaucer."44 The process of serial publication seems both speedier and more social, reintegrating the dynamic communication between speaker and listeners into the novel rather than defining the form as the output of a solitary individual in a room of her own.

An aspect intricately connected to the length and format of post-press works is price, which has an unusually large influence on how and why books are consumed in the post-press field. The Martian was originally given away for free on Weir's website, and when it was first released as a self-published collection on Amazon, Weir gave it the hefty price tag of $0.99.45 What we see in these and other situations is again unique to post-press publication, or at least a return to an earlier model: authors with significant economic control over their product in a manner that allows them to finesse price as a strategy for achieving sales and income. The absence of print and shipping costs, as well as not having to effectively pay the wages of publishing employees, gives authors the ability to choose how much their book is worth and to use price as a way to lure audiences. In something of a gamble, authors can choose to release their book for a token amount while sacrificing potential profit, as Weir did, in the hopes of snaring a large portion of readers who see the purchase as a no-risk equation.46

The interesting thing is that price has begun to influence a reader's sense of enjoyment, so that economic considerations have become foregrounded in whatever complex fields of play determine whether one has a favorable experience when reading a book. When looking through reviews of The Martian posted on Goodreads (a communal book-reviewing platform, now owned by Amazon) while the novel was self-published and available for $0.99, one is struck by just how regularly the price seems to have been at least a partly determining aspect of a reader's satisfaction. Goodreads user George, for instance, states that he bought the book "one night for 99 cents when I was bored," and "wasn't expecting much . . . considering it was self-published and only a buck;" he then notes that "[w]hat I got however was a full length professional novel. Amazing that this wasn't picked up by a professional publisher."47 Accompanying this judgment that the novel is "professional" is the feeling that George has not had to pay the cost generally attached to a work of such a standard. He feels as though he has snared a bargain, and the surprise caused by the low price increases his enjoyment of, and favorable reaction to, the book. What economists and marketers call transaction utility, a perception of fairness that goes beyond any objective financial gain, produces in George not only satisfaction at having snared a bargain, but also increased excitement.48 George experiences both acquisition utility, the gain that comes from the purchasing of a useful product, and a gain experienced as a successful maneuver in the world of trade. The enjoyment of reading, in this case, is intertwined with his experience as a shopper. In a similar vein, Goodreads user Amanda states that The Martian is "another inexpensive eBook, but this was one awesome!"49 User Melissa states that it was "by far the best 99 cents I've ever spent."50 All of these examples suggest the intermingling of economic awareness and literary enjoyment in the field of self-publishing; they show that price can be a key factor in the experience of its products. Appealing to individuals' ideas about trade and economic fairness, these cheap books offer the excitement of successful marketplace navigation alongside the enjoyment of narrative and other traditional pleasures of reading.

Price is a generally overlooked aspect of the value of books, but in the post-press market we see the development of a more literal idea of literary "value" (i.e. value for money) entering into the consideration of a book's quality, with readers including economic considerations in their determination of a book's pleasurableness. This idea of value for money has always been intermingled with literary value to an extent: literary works, perceived as valuable in a metaphysical sense, maintain some degree of what Bourdieu calls symbolic capital, and experiencing them is thus worth spending money on.51 But with post-press works this becomes much more literal. In this market, the self-published author not only possesses greater economic options, e.g. the ability to set prices, promote special deals, etc.; readers also feel able to consider their own economic position with greater agency, and this factors into their reading experience and their enjoyment of the aesthetic qualities of a book. Such feelings seem consistent with what Schindler and others describe in marketing lingo as the "smart shopper" phenomenon, in which consumers who attribute an economic saving to efficiency and skill on their own part (what is described as an internal rather than external locus of causality) are likely to have increased positive feelings after their purchase.52 Indeed, what seems to be active in the above reviews is a combination of smart shopper feelings and transactional utility: readers feel they have obtained an expensive product for an inexpensive price and attribute their enjoyment of the object partly to their pride at being a discerning buyer­ - "the best 99 cents I've ever spent." Because of her smart shopping, the reader almost feels like a co-author of the enjoyment she experiences when reading.

But the author-controlled pricing of these works has other consequences for the form of the novel, and this returns us to serialization. A low price is not just a marker of economic nonchalance or an attempt to lure more "smart shoppers;" it's a necessity if an author wants to be competitive in the post-press field, especially if, as Emmett Stinson suggests, to some extent the success of self-publishers can be attributed to the pricing constraints of traditional publishers.53 As Thompson explains, traditional publishers were immensely troubled by Amazon's determination to establish the price of e-books as $9.99.54 We can infer that they must be mortified to see so many popular self-published novels selling for less than a dollar. The success of bargain-priced self-published novels puts immense pressure on traditional publishers to have their books remain competitive, a struggle that has become public in the protracted Amazon-Hachette dispute.

This pricing competitiveness does not affect the print domain alone. If self-published authors with no pre-established reputation don't want to sell their books for less than $4, then they will inevitably lose sales to those who will. In this market, more than others, price becomes a determining factor in a reader's potential purchase. And because of this pricing competitiveness, authors are forced to adopt particular working and publication strategies that impact the form and narrative contours of their works. If authors are selling their books at a dollar a pop, then in order to make a good profit they need to write a lot of books, or, conversely, split one book into several smaller ones. Serialization, in this respect, is not only a way of drawing closer to a readership, but also a strategy for maximizing returns (if not also a comment on the difficulty of making a decent living as a writer in the contemporary world).

An example: successful romance author H.M. Ward was recently involved in Amazon's new Kindle Unlimited initiative, a subscription-based service not unlike the book equivalent of Spotify. Subscribers pay a set amount (currently $9.99 per month) to gain unlimited access to some 700,000 titles. Authors can opt in, deciding whether their works will be part of the pool. Ward states that after agreeing to participate in the program her income from her self-published works dropped a dramatic 75%.55 As Streitfeld's New York Times account of the situation describes, to avoid the losses that Ward experienced authors are able to exploit the fact that Amazon does not pay them according to the length of their works.56 In this system, a fifty-page novel earns as much in royalty payments as a thousand-page epic does. Here's the rub: anyone who wants to publish an Infinite Jest (1996) rival on Amazon is better served by splitting it into twenty serialized mini-novels than by plonking the whole thing down in one impressive but economically unviable tome. The long novel is an unprofitable form for post-press authors trying to make a living off their craft, and its general scarcity in the current self-publishing marketplace attests to this.

Does this mark the death of the long novel, at least in the post-press field? As a fan of the genre, I hope not, but it looks certain that future post-press works will tend, for economic and narrative reasons (short story-arcs that end on cliff-hangers keep the reader invested in the purchase of the next title), towards the short and frequent novel. Greater authorial control of the writer's economic situation is already leading to observable shifts in the form of contemporary storytelling, and it will probably continue to do so into the foreseeable future, with consequences that analyses of the form need to consider.57 Perhaps this reveals that the contemporary idea we have of novels is mediated by the current publishing market to a greater extent than we often consider. What appears like a "big" novel today, for example, would probably have appeared in the nineteenth century as a serial or three-volume work and would appear in the post-press market as ten or more small novels. The towering, intimidating form of the big novel thus needs to be viewed partly as an expression of the configuration of the literary market in the twentieth century.


3. The Re(a)d Planet

Drawing some conclusions from the above, we could say that the rise of the digital self-published novel introduces a complex set of economic, psychological, and marketing considerations into the mainstream of the contemporary literary field. Bourdieu often describes the literary field as governed by a reverse or inverse economy, in which "those who enter it have an interest in disinterestedness," because they see it as defined against bourgeois considerations of value.58 The increased readiness of post-press writers to embrace the commercial sphere - an embrace evidenced, for example, by the existence of, a group run by Hugh Howey and others with the aim of promoting data on author earnings in order that writers be able to "make informed decisions" about the benefits of traditional and post-press publication routes - means that we seem to be witnessing a more widespread contestation of this inverted economy than has existed in recent decades or, at least, a more vocal defense of writing as a business activity.59 Authors like Howey believe that the positioning of creative writing as a special domain, detached from business considerations, allows for writers' exploitation by pressuring them to be disinterested in their economic situation.60 As Thompson suggests, many writers indeed "know very little about the world of publishing and the structures of the field upon which their careers as writers depend."61 But the post-press world, at least as Howey envisages it, changes this state of affairs by encouraging writers to defend the worth of their labor on the market. These adjusted roles - or this uninverted economy - can currently be seen in the form of post-press novels in several ways: the serialized format, expressing consciousness of strategies to increase income, and, at one remove, a protest against the low wages earned by authors in general; the length of novels, expressing awareness of the volume of competing material and the consequences of low pricing (with so many other competitors for their attention, you don't want to occupy readers for too long or they'll get bored); and the price, which affects a reader's enjoyment (readers should feel they are experiencing positive transactional utility, which stands to increase their enjoyment of the narrative both during and after reading). While at present much of this "uninversion" remains confined to particular genres of fiction, the increasing success of post-press authors should cause even the most "disinterested" artists to consider that they might very well make a better living publishing their own works rather than relying on the often meager advances and royalties of traditional publishers. It's not unreasonable to expect to see post-press methods of publication becoming attractive in other genres, including forms of "serious" literary fiction that are less willing to let the market guide the shape of their works.

This precession of parts of the literary field brought about by the rise of self-publishing is not an unproblematic one, however, and if it were as simple as connecting directly with the market, authors would be foolish not to do so. In reality, the post-press field is still very anxious about its own legitimation, and many of its authors are insecure enough about their position that they are willing, like Weir, to sign up with mainstream presses eventually. Many post-pressers are thus working only transitionally within this domain, while holding out for traditional validation. This indicates that the anxieties and insecurities readers and writers experience when facing self-publishing, which we'll look at in a moment, are a result of the destabilizing of roles and powers in the literary field and of an increased sense of "struggle" in the maintenance of established positions - a struggle that produces a diffuse uncertainty in the distribution of the field's symbolic capital.

As I mentioned in my opening, it is peculiar but true that the literary establishment in recent decades has tended to deny symbolic capital to independent and DIY cultures, despite many of our most cherished authors having once been self-publishers. What we tend to value about independent artists in other fields has, for some reason, become muddied in the case of literature. Part of this muddiness, no doubt, exists because contemporary self-publishing is caught up in and overshadowed by a stoush between corporations - big publishers on one hand, Amazon on the other - rather than a writers' rebellion against the mainstream publishing houses. Those writers publishing on Amazon are thus seen not as independent rebels, but merely as workers who support the "wrong" side, a giant corporation that is an enemy of traditional literary culture. In previous generations, underground publishing typically flourished because of political and social unrest.62 But it's difficult to view current self-publishing as aligned with an underground when it is so dependent on the technology and the business model of Amazon. In this regard, the worry caused by self-publishing echoes the anxiety that the rise of paperback-pulp publishing caused "serious" literary culture in the 1960s, when a flood of cheap and often scandalous texts saturated the market.63 As Ben Mercer puts it, "the arrival of the paperback unleashed a set of utopian and dystopian fantasies, images of revolution and crisis, which the new book format promised to realize."64 Much the same could be said of the post-press form.

But some anxieties and fears that circulate around post-press authors can't simply be put down to readers' antipathy for the corporate monopolization of the literary field and seem more pointed than the dismissals of 1960s pulp authors as commercial hacks. The anxiety attached to the rise of post-press novels has less to do with content, as was the case with the lowbrow paperback "intrusion," than with the personality of the self-published author, who is often assumed to be a narcissistic, unprofessional, impatient queue-jumper. Many of the attacks on self-publishers are ad hominem, criticisms of a personality type rather than an art object. Jonathan Franzen, for example, refers to self-publishers as "yakkers and tweeters and braggers".65 Sue Grafton advises authors not to self-publish, as it is "as good as admitting you're too lazy to do the hard work."66 Grafton then appeals to the autonomous nature of art: "Self-publishing is a short cut and I don't believe in short cuts when it comes to the arts."67 Jodi Picoult similarly tells new authors "DO NOT SELF PUBLISH" (emphasis her own), without offering any further explanation; for her, the reason is self-evident.68 Richard Russo suggests that any work not professionally edited "literally chills my blood."69 These comments are typical, and most criticisms of self-publishing attempt to boil the issue down to problems of quality control and the necessity of professional process in creating a successful literary object. Indeed, one of the strongest defenses of traditional publishing is that it vets texts and thus assures quality. Self-published works are often seen as little more than unpublishable works, those that have been or would be rejected by traditional publishers and thus bear the stains of professional failure and commercial rejection (the logic: one wouldn't accept an unqualified electrician to rewire one's home, so why would one accept an author rejected by the professional industry?). In many cases this is an accurate account of their genesis. As the now-successful self-publisher Marko Kloos describes:

I finished the manuscript for Terms of Enlistment in 2009 and immediately sent it to an editor who had previously requested the completed work. As far as I know, it's still sitting somewhere in his office, in a box marked PRIORITY MAIL. [...] I also submitted queries to just about every literary agency in the book, and I sent submissions to most of the major SF/F publishing houses in the country. I got two or three requests for partials, and that was pretty much it. [...] The breaking point came a few months ago. I noticed a call for military SF submissions from an agent on Twitter. I remember getting out of bed again to go downstairs to the computer to look up her submission guidelines and send her a query. It was short, professional, and exactly following the guidelines.

The next morning, I had a form rejection in my Inbox. She had rejected the query without even asking for a partial--without having read a single sentence of the novel.

I said a very naughty word at the screen. Then I realized that I really didn't have very many more places to send the manuscript, and that it would remain a trunk novel if I didn't get it out in front of readers myself. So I activated a Kindle Direct Publishing account, formatted the novel for the Kindle, bought some stock art and made a cover, and uploaded everything to the Kindle Store. I think it was live and available for purchase eight hours after I had received that last rejection.70

For Kloos, traditional publishing is still the desirable pathway for the production and dissemination of the literary object; self-publishing comes as a last resort. But self-publishing also exists as an important outlet for institutional frustration. To some extent, what is driving authors like Kloos towards self-publishing is not only rejection, but also frustration at the depersonalizing process of submission to traditional publishing houses, a frustration reminiscent of the general antipathy for bureaucracy that Ben Kafka has analyzed in different contexts.71 Thompson describes a similar feeling amongst many already-published authors too, that "[f]or every happy story [...] there are countless stories of frustration, disappointment and despair, as writers find themselves tossed about in the world of publishing as if they were a small boat on a stormy sea with no idea of where they are heading."72 Self-publishing appeals, as we can see in Kloos' anecdote, because it offers the writer the agency to subvert the depersonalizing machinery of corporate industry and bureaucracy: after meeting with a depersonalized rejection, Kloos immediately displays his ability to act productively by publishing the book mere hours after its refusal by the mainstream. Self-publishing appeals to Kloos on a personal level, then, because it can ameliorate the potential depersonalizing pain of rejection from publishing institutions. It is seen as a method for the individual to assert his agency against corporations by subverting their processes.

This returns us, finally, to the story of Mark Watney in Weir's The Martian. Early on in the novel, Watney explains the circumstances that contrived to leave him stranded on the planet and frames them in such a way that this novel is unmistakably about industries of cultural production. Watney was part of a mission named Ares 3, sent to explore and expand the "horizons of humanity" while contributing to the symbolic capital of the species. The first iteration of the Ares missions "did their thing and came back heroes. They got the parades and fame and love of the world."73 Ares 2 achieved a similar level of mission-based success, but they only "got a firm handshake and a hot cup of coffee when they got home."74 Already before the launch of Ares 3, the mission that turns Watney into an interplanetary Crusoe, there is a distinct awareness of the mission as a cultural production with diminishing returns in the sphere of public entertainment. In space travel, as in literature, there is an economy of success that awards its symbolic capital in a manner detached from objective endeavor. Indeed, in many ways the struggles of the space industry parallel those of the literary one: a dwindling level of public interest and funding.

Those are the first two missions. This is Watney's:

Ares 3. Well, that was my mission. Okay, not mine per se. Commander Lewis was in charge. I was just one of her crew. Actually, I was the very lowest ranked member of the crew. I would only be "in command" of the mission if I were the only remaining person.

            What do you know? I'm in command.75

In an already degraded cultural production - the third iteration of a spectacle with diminishing public interest - Watney is in a position of subordination, the lowest-ranked member of a low-ranked adventure. During a ferocious Martian storm, a communications dish is torn from its foundations and smashes into him, its antenna tearing a hole in his suit and sending him tumbling far away from the rest of his crew and their evacuation plans. With no luck finding him, their only option is to assume he's dead and leave him on Mars.

Initially, it seems that Watney's status has truly plummeted. He's stranded on a planet outside the circuit of communication - he was derailed by the destruction of that circuit. He's not part of a crew anymore, not even as its lowliest member. He's hopeless, assumed­ dead and left for dead. But this isolation is also an opportunity. For in another sense he's now the sole inhabitant of a planet, the ruler of Mars, king of infinite space. And his independence means he has to take up the roles previously played by the rest of the crew and work in fields beyond his established one. He is a free agent, exercising his talents in a manner that not only entertains the audience back on earth, who are eventually able to tune in to his survival story, but readers of his diary entries too - readers of the book itself. He's able to turn his expedition, which was expected to stir only the most minor interest, into one of the most exciting adventures of the space age, a production that has the world watching on the edge of its seat. Working outside mission protocol, in roles for which he is far from qualified, Watney turns a minor cultural production into a riveting Martian opera.

We should read post-press texts not just as stories, but also as texts that represent in their form, narrative, and reception a new range of possibilities, struggles, and excitements for the contemporary writer. We also shouldn't forget that this is a field defined more than anything else by increased risk, a risk shouldered entirely by the individual. The Martian closes with Watney fashioning his own launchpad, modifying an existing module, and blasting himself into space blindly, in the hope that the orbiting spacecraft occupied by his former crew will intercept him. It's hard not to view this scene - the use of the word launch, the hopeful transaction between individual and public - as speaking to the situation of Weir himself as an author: launching his own book, using the materials available to him to send himself into public space, and waiting for welcoming hands to stop him from plummeting back into isolation.


Nick Levey teaches in the English department at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. His first book, Maximalism in Contemporary American Literature, will be published by Routledge in 2016.



  1. Andy Weir, The Martian (New York: Random House, 2014), Kindle edition, 1. []
  2. This is Weir's author website before traditional publication. Since being published by Random House, he's been given a new one. []
  3. As Publishers Weekly reports, fifteen books with "self-publishing origins" were on Amazon's Kindle top 100 bestsellers list for 2012. "The Bestselling Self-Published Kindle Books of 2012," Publishers Weekly, November 2, 2012. []
  4. Andrew Keen, The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy (London: Nicholas Brealey, 2007), 55-56. []
  5. Matching the fate of successful self-published novels, Minecraft has recently been acquired by Microsoft. []
  6. For a somewhat anecdotal account of this change, see Ted Solotaroff, "The Publishing Culture and the Literary Culture," The Library Quarterly 54, no. 1, (1984): 72-80. See also Andre Schiffren, The Business of Books: How International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read (London: Verso, 2000). Kovač discusses alternatives to the view that modern publishing is homogenized but admits the evidence drawn from book sales is ambiguous, able to be interpreted as indicating either a diverse or a homogenized industry. Miha Kovač, Never Mind the Web: Here Comes the Book (Oxford: Chandos Publishing, 2008), 121-34. Cultural changes within the industry would seem to be suggested by the anecdotal accounts of Schiffren and co., however, since alterations in operating ethos need not be directly reflected in sales data. []
  7. Kovač, Never Mind the Web, 119. []
  8. John B. Thompson, Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century(Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010), 109-110. All of Thompson's Chapter 3 deals with different aspects of corporate consolidation in the publishing industry. []
  9. In their recent battle with Amazon, Hachette released a statement claiming that "Amazon indicates that it considers books to be like any other consumer good. They are not." David Streitfield, "Hachette and Amazon Dig in for a Long Fight Over Contract Terms," The New York Times, May 28, 2014. If there was ever any evidence that symbolic capital mystifies commodity form, and thus the labor that produces books, this is it. []
  10. "Position-takings" is a term used by Bourdieu to describe "the manifestations of the social agents involved in the field - literary or artistic works, of course, but also political acts or pronouncements, manifestos or polemics, etc." Agents use position-takings to "defend or improve" their position in a cultural field. Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1993), 30. []
  11. Bourdieu claims that the literary field is defined not by a "coherence-seeking intention or an objective consensus," but by a "permanent conflict" between interested parties. The "generative, unifying principle of this 'system' is the struggle." Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1993), 34. []
  12. Katherine Bode, Reading by Numbers: Recalibrating the Literary Field (London: Anthem Press, 2012), 101. []
  13. Ibid., 102. []
  14. Lee Erickson, The Economy of Literary Form: English Literature and the Industrialization of Publishing 1800-1850 (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1996), 8. []
  15. Rachel Malik, "Horizons of the Publishable: Publishing in/as Literary Studies," ELH 75, no. 3 (2008): 713. []
  16. Emmett Stinson, for instance, argues that the rise of self-publishing creates a situation where authors will be unhappily burdened with an "enormous increase" in forms of immaterial labor previously undertaken by publishers: "Authors will need to be not only writers but also editors, marketers, designers, print-coordinators, sales representatives, bloggers and social-media consultants. Those who aren't capable of such tasks will likely find themselves unable to compete in the marketplace - or, worse, may simply be required to pay out of their own pocket". Emmett Stinson, "Vanity Fair: Why Publishers Need to take Self-Publishing Seriously," Overland 204 (2011): 69. Stinson seems to ignore that many traditional publishers already expect authors to operate as their own marketing departments, encouraged to blog and develop social-media presences to support their works. []
  17. GalleyCat explains their methodology in the following manner: "we compile weekly lists of the top eBooks in three major marketplaces for self-published digital books: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords." Dianna Dilworth, "Gone Part Two Leads the Self-Published Bestsellers List," GalleyCat, December 24, 2014. []
  18. GalleyCat releases these lists weekly. You can browse them by following this search link. []
  19. Which is number eight on GalleyCat's December 24, 2014, bestseller list. []
  20. See the following for a useful explanation of how these algorithms work: Rob Nightingale, "8 Things Most People Don't Know About Amazon's Bestsellers Rank (Sales Rank)," Makeuseof, April 28, 2014. []
  21. "Amazon Kindle Store Bestsellers," Amazon, accessed December 31, 2014. []
  22. My methodology is, of course, potentially skewed by only searching by Kindle books. As self-published books are far less common in the print realm, however, it would be unfair to base the survey on print-based titles. Traditionally published and self-published books are both released digitally, and this seems the fairest platform for my research. []
  23. Departure by A.G. Riddle, The Martian by Andy Weir, The Atlantis Gene (2013) by A.G. Riddle, Terms of Enlistment (2013) by Marko Kloos, Epic: Fourteen Books of Fantasy (2014) by various authors, Slade Book #6 (2014) by Teresa Gabelman, Sand Omnibus (2014) by Hugh Howey, Idle Bear (2014) by Ruby Shae (two of these, Slade and Idle Bear, are more or less Romance / Erotica, however). It's interesting to see these titles holding rank next to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (1954) and Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle (1963). "Amazon Bestsellers in Science Fiction and Fantasy," Amazon, accessed December 31, 2014. []
  24. "Amazon Kindle Store Bestsellers: Contemporary Literary Fiction," Amazon, accessed December 31, 2014. []
  25. Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 391. Erickson's work suggests, however, that nineteenth-century publishing was little different, with publishers only choosing to serialize works of established authors, like Dickens and Thackeray, who were guaranteed to bring a profit, and booksellers only willing to stock the same. Erickson, Economy of Literary Form, 156-59. []
  26. Sarah Brouillette, "Corporate Publishing and Canonization: Neuromancer and Science-Fiction Publishing in the 1970s and Early 1980s," Book History 5 (2002): 194. []
  27. Ibid., 191-92. []
  28. Ibid., 196. []
  29. For a discussion of science fiction's links with zine culture, see Amy Spencer, DIY: The Rise of Lo-Fi Culture (London: Marion Boyars, 2008), 79-83. []
  30. Brouillette, "Corporate Publishing," 188. []
  31. There are, however, at least two works of recent self-published literary fiction that have been accepted by "serious" readers: Evan Dara's The Lost Scrapbook (1995) and Sergio de la Pava's A Naked Singularity (2008). []
  32. The Martian has since been taken down from Weir's website, but his other writings are still available here. []
  33. Hugh Howey, "Wool - Part One," Amazon. []
  34. David Vinjamuri, "Why Public Libraries Matter: And How They Can Do More," Forbes, January 16, 2013. []
  35. The number of self-published works also points towards the importance of genre as a filtering tool. []
  36. Erickson, Economy of Literary Form, 146. []
  37. Ibid., 160. []
  38. Bode, Reading by Numbers, 35. []
  39. Ibid., 34. []
  40. Quoted in Erickson, Economy of Literary Form, 163. []
  41. Leitch Ritchie, preface to The Ghost-Hunter and His Family, by The O'Hara Family (London: Smith, Elder, and Co., 1833), x. []
  42. This is a common motif in Don DeLillo's Libra (New York: Viking, 1988), as well as the second part of Paul Auster's The Invention of Solitude (London: Faber and Faber, 1982). []
  43. John Butt and Kathleen Tillotson, Dickens at Work (London: Methuen, 1982), 16. []
  44. Ibid. []
  45. Alexandra Alter, "A Survival Guide to Mars," The Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2014. []
  46. Amazon authors in the US are given a 70% royalty rate if they price their books between $2.99 and $9.99 and this price is at least 20% lower than the lowest physical list price. Authors are given a 35% royalty for other pricing options (with a few restrictions based on the size of the book, related to Amazon's mandated delivery costs). See the following for more on Amazon's royalty terms: "Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing," Amazon. []
  47. George, Review of The Martian, Goodreads, January 22, 2013 []
  48. See Peter R. Darke and Darren W. Dahl, "Fairness and Discounts: The Subjective Value of a Bargain," Journal of Consumer Psychology 13, no. 3 (2003): 329. []
  49. Amanda, Review of The Martian, Goodreads, January 09, 2013. []
  50. Melissa, Review of The Martian, Goodreads, February 04, 2013. []
  51. As Erickson suggests, however, in the early nineteenth-century readers found less reason to purchase books for themselves as they were unconvinced of the need for rereading. Erickson, Economy of Literary Form, 146. []
  52. Robert M. Schindler, "Consequences of Perceiving Oneself as Responsible for Obtaining a Discount: Evidence for Smart-Shopper Feelings," Journal of Consumer Psychology 7, no. 4 (1998): 386-87. []
  53. Stinson, "Vanity Fair," 65. []
  54. Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 361-68. []
  55. David Streitfeld, "Amazon Offers All-You-Can-Eat Books. Authors Turn Up Noses," The New York Times, December 27, 2014. []
  56. Ibid. []
  57. Amazon's recent 'Pages Read' payment system, in which authors involved in the Kindle Unlimited program are paid based on the number of pages read rather than on sales, will surely bring more dramatic mutations in literary form. "Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing," Amazon. []
  58. Pierre Bourdieu, The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1996), 216. []
  59. "About - Author Earnings," Author Earnings. For a discussion of Howey's aims in collating and publishing this data, see Alison Flood, "Hugh Howey Calls for Author Earnings Revolution," The Guardian, February 15, 2014. []
  60. The recent history of literary criticism has also furthered this "disinterested" view of artistic production, with theories promoting an autonomous textualism "making the labor of book production vanish into a puff of smoke." Henry Veggian, "Anachronisms of Authority: Authorship, Exchange Value, and David Foster Wallace's The Pale King," boundary 2 39, no. 3 (2012): 116. Reading a post-press world thus involves moving well beyond the fetishization of the autonomous text in literary criticism. []
  61. Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 375. []
  62. See, for instance, Robert Darnton, The Literary Underground of the Old Regime (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982). []
  63. See Paula Rabinowitz's American Pulp for a description of the anxieties produced by the "paperback revolution" in twentieth-century America. Rabinowitz even describes paperbacks as "dynamic media, akin to our digital world of interactive electronics." Paula Rabinowitz, American Pulp: How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), 41. []
  64. Ben Mercer, "The Paperback Revolution: Mass-Circulation Books and the Cultural Origins of 1968 in Western Europe," Journal of the History of Ideas, 72, no. 4 (2011): 616. []
  65. Liz Bury, "Amazon Model Favours Yakkers and Braggers, Says Franzen," The Guardian, September 14, 2003. []
  66. Leslea Tash, "Louisville Author Spotlight Welcomes Sue Grafton," LouisvilleKY: The Pulse of the City, August 7, 2012. Also see The Guardian's coverage of the reaction to Grafton's comments: Alison Flood, "Self-Published Authors React with Anger to 'Laziness' Charge," The Guardian, August 29, 2012. []
  67. Tash, "Louisville Author." []
  68. Noah Charney, "Jodi Picoult on Writing, Publishing, and What She's Reading," The Daily Beast, April 3, 2012. []
  69. Laura Hazard Owen, "Richard Russo: Amazon puts great young writers in 'particular peril'," Gigaom, May 23, 2012. []
  70. Bloomsbury, "Interview with Marko Kloos," Writers & Artists: The Insider Guide to the Media. []
  71. Ben Kafka, The Demon of Writing: Powers and Failures of Paperwork (New York: Zone Books, 2012). []
  72. Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 376. []
  73. Weir, The Martian, 1. []
  74. Ibid., 2. []
  75. Weir, The Martian, 3. []