When, in the course of publishing events, it becomes necessary for writers to end the hopes that lure them to the five New York conglomerates that dominate trade publishing, and to assume among the powers of writers and publishers, the separate and equal station to which the First Amendment entitles them, a decent respect to the opinions of humanity requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all writers are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights, that among these are the rights to write and publish as they please. That to fulfill these rights, publishers are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the writers they serve.
Whenever publishing becomes destructive to these ends, it is the writers’ right to alter how they publish, and to institute new organizations, businesses, and ways of working, laying their foundation on such principles and organizing their powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their success.
Despite their passion and commitment for finding and publishing good books, the five New York conglomerates that dominate trade publishing are prisoners of outdated traditions and the profit expectations of corporate overloads, most of them abroad.
New writers trust that being published by one of the conglomerates assures success, but more than 80% of traditionally published books fail. The truth is that being published by a conglomerate is far more likely to lead to failure than success, making it harder to sell the author’s next book.
The conglomerates’ growing expectations for books and authors’ platforms and promotion plans make it harder for writers to find the literary agent they need to be published by conglomerates. More than 90% of new writers have to sell their books to independent presses themselves or publish independently to test-market their work and their ability to promote it.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that publishing traditions long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that writers are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abandoning the traditions to which they are accustomed.
But when a long train of abuses, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them by not publishing them or doing justice to their work, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such traditions, and to provide new ways of publishing for their future success.
Such has been the patient sufferance of writers; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter former systems of publishing. The history of the conglomerates is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object profit and the establishment of control over writers and their books. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
Publishers want their books to succeed, but because they are publishing too many books, the conglomerates:
- Cannot provide all of the editorial, design, distribution, marketing resources, or the efforts in selling subsidiary rights necessary for all of the books they publish
- Devote most of their resources to the few books for which they have the greatest financial or emotional commitment
Do not give their books enough time to build a readership
- Do not give authors enough access to information about their books
- Withhold authors’ income longer than necessary
- May sell overstock or put a book out of print without giving authors a chance to buy copies
- Do nothing for most books after their brief launch window
- May merge with another conglomerate which affects their authors’ books, income, and perhaps their editors
We and organizations representing us have petitioned for redress. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common interest to disavow the lack of support for our books. We must, therefore, hold them as frenemies: indifferent or hostile in commerce for most books, but friends and allies in our love of writing, books and publishing.
Therefore, as writers of the United States of America, we do solemnly publish and declare, that writers are, and of right ought to be free and independent; and that as free and independent writers, they have full power to write, publish, and promote their work as they see fit, and to do all other acts and things which independent writers may of right do.
And for the support of this declaration, with the help of technology and a firm reliance on the protection of the First Amendment, we mutually pledge to support each other in pursuing our literary and publishing goals.
Now is the best time to be a writer or publisher. Writers and publishers will continue to contact each other in the attempt to create lasting relationships that grow more creative and profitable as writers’ careers develop.
We know that authors usually have to publish at least five books to build an audience. Developing our career enables us to build our visibility and communities of people to help us, and to learn how to promote and test-market our work. When we become successful enough, agents and publishers will find us. Then we will have to evaluate whether a publisher will add enough to our efforts to justify giving up our independence.
Until then, we will leave it up to our readers to determine how good and successful our work is. As Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: “The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.”
[This was written in the hope that writers will amend, sign, and forward it.]