Some of my favorite novelists from 20-30 years ago have recently disappointed me. Their newer books have been bloated and confusing. It turns out this is a common problem in book publishing, known as “too big to edit.” Once authors get rich and famous, they don’t want to do the miserable work of revision.
One of my favorite DC commentators is famous for writing quickly. But his work is thus riddled with typos and grammatical errors. The past couple of years, as he’s been working for an online magazine, it’s been improved—presumably a copyeditor has fixed them. But now that he’s on Substack, frequent errors have returned. Why? Substack gives him the tools to become too big to edit.
At the same time that he’s lost his copyeditor, he’s now asking me to pay for his product. I get it: I want to support his creative mind. And presumably the online magazine’s advertising-based model struggled to pay him what he deserved. Still, I feel like I’m paying more for a lesser product. I want to tell him to hire a copyeditor.
Yet if he’s going to pay a copyeditor, on top of paying Substack to be his platform, on top of recruiting potential guest authors to step in and add more content (a goal he mentioned)… in effect he’s founding a new online magazine. He’s headed directly for all the same headaches of founding and running an online publication that Substack is supposed to let him escape.
Substack’s promise is an illusion. If you’re going to produce quality content, you’re just… well, that’s my topic for tomorrow.