Anthony Horowitz has an interesting article in the Guardian today.
It's a fairly compelling argument about why publishers are still necessary in this brave new world where literally anybody can publish their own book and make it as easily available as the latest James Patterson (online, at least).
There seems to be a lot of successful self-pubbed authors out there gleefully predicting the death of old-style publishers, agents and even bookshops. As someone newly experimenting with online publishing and hoping to make a success out of it, I can't bring myself to join in.
Sure, there's absolutely room for improvement in the way authors are rewarded. For a start, they should be getting a bigger slice of the pie, particularly on e-books, where the production and distribution costs are virtually zero. But I believe publishers still have an important role to play, and I believe they'll successfully adapt to the new landscape sooner or later.
Because unless you're a genius, it's unlikely your book couldn't be improved by letting a knowledgeable person read it over and offer their comments. I know that Halfway to Hell was improved a lot by my agent's guidance. That's what good publishers and good agents have to offer: careful editing and helpful critiqueing. Readers are always going to be looking for books that have been through some kind of quality control, and that's why there will still be a publishing industry when the dust settles.