Margaret Atwood On Publishing

Margaret Atwood delivered this funny, insightful keynote at the O’Reilly TOC conference that just wrapped up a few weeks ago. Normally I post links to videos like this, but Atwood’s delivery (and her humour) make this worth watching in its entirety.

Atwood offers no answers to the problems of publishing. But she does paint a clear picture of the tensions that many authors face in today’s publishing industry (traditionally published or otherwise). My favourite part is this bit (at 8:32) about a dead moose and a dead author:

… helpful industry hint: never eliminate your primary source. This is an example from biology. It is a dead moose. Every dead moose maintains the food chain for at least thirty other life-forms. I’ve drawn here only a few of them.

This is a dead author.

The author is a primary source. Everything else in the world of publishing depends on authors. They don’t have to be dead, but dead ones are particularly lucrative.

It gets better. Go watch it.

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Category: Publishing
  • SgL

    Looking at some of the comments in the other Amanda Hocking thread, I found this rather witty and relevant. There is a great question at minute 27 that allows her to give her opinion on self-publishing.

  • Eli James

    Hi SgL, I’ve deleted your earlier comment – I’m assuming it’s minute 27?

    And yes, Margaret Atwood is brilliant, and funny, and fair. :)

  • Becka

    “The quality of literary output has always been questionable”

    This. Just this.

    And the rest of what she says about self-publishing is true as well.

  • Eli James

    And what makes it valid is that she’s literary, herself. And I laughed when I heard her say ‘Penny Dreadfuls’ – it’s exactly what you brought up in the other comment thread, no?

  • Becka

    Yeah, I did. :-D

    The thing is she’s secure enough in her talent not to worry about anyone else’s.

  • SgL

    @Eli – thanks for getting rid of that. It is minute 27 I meant to allude to :)

    I love how she shares her personal examples — I’m very entertained by her examples showing her first published works :)

  • Sarah
  • Matt

    It’s hard not to fall head over heels for Atwood after seeing that.

  • Eli James