Berkeley is where the Free Speech Movement started in 1964. The talk had special meaning to me because my parents (who met at a UC Berkeley dorm dance) were students there at the time, I was born there, and my mom has shared stories of how I attended many of the demonstrations, first in utero and later in a stroller.
One of the most famous speeches at that time, now referred to as "Bodies Upon the Gears," was given by Mario Savio, an early leader of the Free Speech Movement. I embedded it below. Start at the 58 second mark.
I listened to this speech for the first time yesterday morning as I prepared my presentation. I was immediately struck by how Savio's feelings of injustice (he was upset at the University administration for limiting free speech on campus) map so closely to how authors feel. I always thought authors should have the right to publish, but until I watched the video and read up on the origins of the Free Speech Movement, I never fully grokked the connection between book publishing and free speech.
A Tweet or a blog post is free speech, but a book - especially the long form variety - is about the weightiest form of deep-thinking, deep-expressing communication possible.
Big Publishers are in the business of selling books, not publishing authors. They acquire books they think they can sell, as is their right as a business. They say no to most authors, thereby preventing those authors from expressing themselves through the communications vehicle that is their book.
Until recently, if a publisher refused to publish your book, it severely limited your ability to reach readers. Sure, you could self-publish in print, as the great Dan Poynter has been advocating for over 30 years. However, without distribution access to brick and mortar bookstores - something the big publishers controlled - it was difficult for self published authors to reach readers.
The indie ebook revolution has changed all this. Now, the printing press is free and available to all. Indies enjoy the same (or better) distribution opportunities as traditional publishers. Indies can out-compete the big boys.
The Big Publisher gatekeeper-as-curator is being replaced by readers, as it should be.
My challenge to you, the author, is to throw yourself upon the gears of big publishing. Take a stand and say no to others telling you no. If your book is finished, you have the freedom to get it out there now on your own terms as an ebook. Express yourself.
Embedded below are the PowerPoint slides from my presentation. As you'll see, the presentation is an updated derivative of my Indie Author Uprising presentation from a couple months back, minus the Egyptian revolution and plus a Barbie doll surprise.
Upon the Gears of Big Publishing - ASJA May 15, Berkeley, CA