Legacy publishing is not a thing. Sorry, maybe it’s this thing. But in the context of the publishing industry, supplanting the word ‘house’ or ‘printed’ for ‘legacy’ is used as a tool only to insult mainstream publishing and assist the few who are benefiting from this false dichotomy (thanks, university degree) of publishing houses vs author.
This meaningless phrase is used as meaningless phrases are: to cover holes in our understanding of things. In this case it is being used to describe a gap in our understanding of digital publishing. In our rush to seem up-to-date and not go the way of the music industry, we create such labels and then throw them around in order to draw a line between ourselves and them. Those others. Those morons with old ideas. Those… Saruman-like dictators of culture.
Ok, there are legacy models of publishing, but to remove this very important word from the equation assumes mainstream publishing houses only use these models and are therefore the embodiment of antiquated idiocy itself. What’s wrong with the term ‘publishing house’? Doesn’t this cover it? Or is it too neutral to fully impart the perceived exploitative nature of what a business does to culture?
So, while publishing houses labour under the tomes of their forebears like an army of decrepit Atlas’ (that’s an old cultural reference), authors who opt for the vanity press route dance around singing of the thousands of copies they have sold and how their tight embrace of Amazon reviews and Twitter is redefining the industry.
How does vanity press get such a good wrap? By assuming the label of ‘self-published author’, or the (even more) self-congratulatory ‘indie’.
Amazon (as it exists in its KDP form) is a vanity press. So is Apple. These are no longer just retailers, they are retailers who share a cut of any work to get any author on the market. Yes, the term vanity press is pejorative, but it is also the harsh light of truth under which all the authors who are self-publishing should consider their work.
The implication is clear. ‘Legacy’ denotes age, tradition (both of which have become insults in our culture) and an inability to adapt. It implies feeble-mindedness and irrelevance. ‘Self-published’ suggests vibrancy; youth; freedom; anti-establishment; cutting-edge; mould-breaking – the Ryan Goslings of our industry.
The language we use to describe ourselves, and our industry and culture, frames our experience. Maybe there is no such thing as completely neutral language, but these current phrases (with their connoted values as subtle as a Rocky sequel) assume one way is inherently better than another – meaning authors will approach the culture with the idea that there is one way, a right way. The KDP way.