Last year, Gigaom published a flattering story in which they used me as an example of why book publishers are no longer as important as they used to be. Authors can build their own brands now, and reach out to their own audiences.

But in fact, my career is an example of precisely the opposite: My publisher invested tons of time and money into me for a very long time: They paid for tours that hemorrhaged money. They paid for advertising. They fought to get me distributed in mass market channels even though my books were “literary.” And most importantly, they provided editorial support and guidance that made the books themselves far better than they would be if I published them by myself.

Not only that, but without Penguin there is no vlogbrothers, because Hank and I needed the initial activation energy of the first 500-1000 nerdfighters to make Brotherhood 2.0 work. Almost all of those nerdfighters were fans of my books who came to the project through Penguin’s marketing efforts.

So there is no Looking for Alaska or The Fault in Our Stars without the people who work at Penguin, and the narrative that Amazon wants you to believe—that publishers make books more expensive than they need to be and keep authors from making money—is a lie.

A world where everyone self publishes will mean fewer authors making a living and fewer books that reach their full potential as art. Period.


John Green’s tumblr: Radiohead wouldn’t exist without early major-label funding. The future won’t bring new Radioheads. All I want to say here, truly, is: let’s get used to it. 

Don’t believe anyone who tries to convince you that DIY everything is the future. Related.

Tags: publishing