Friday, March 18, 2011

The Revolution Is Being Downloaded

Mark Coker: The Author Uprising Against Big Publishing

Okay, a couple of observations about that article. First, I think equating the changes in publishing, fast and furious though they may be, with the revolution in Egypt is real eye-rolling material.

Other than that, though, the article definitely pegs some of the problems with Big Publishing for both writers and readers, like shrinking advances and promotional budgets, narrowing selection (with choices made by marketing people trying to predict the future and often failing), etc. I think the rise of electronic self-publishing is a strong push-back against that, and lord knows I'm excited about the prospects of having readers actually make the decisions on what's "commercial" enough and what's not.

All that said...unlike some people I know, I'm not predicting or hoping for the demise of print publishing, or even of the so-called "Big 6." I'm not anxious to see the stranglehold of MacMillan, Harper Collins, et. al, replaced by the stranglehold of Apple, Amazon and B & N. I don't want to see the "Big 6" turn into the "Big 3." I think if that happens, those lovely 70% author's cuts for e-books are going to fall by the wayside.

What I'm hoping is that the rise of alternative markets expands rather than contracts our reading choices and that the competition leads the Big 6 into abandoning some of their occasionally ridiculous and counterproductive ways of doing business that hang on for no other reason than "because that's how it's done."

So far, given some of the statements I've read from publishing insiders who do little but carp about the problems with self-pubbing (and there are quite a few), I'm not seeing that happening. But, we live in hope.

10 comments:

Maureen O'Danu said...

Thanks for this, Dusty. I'm seriously considering e-publishing because I already have a (modest) fan base from blogging and I work best in short form, and am weighing my options. This helps inform my decision.

JD Rhoades said...

Well, right now, I'm gettin' while the gettin's good.

Maureen O'Danu said...

And doing very well at it, I hope.

One other point. Mark Coker is the owner of Smashwords, so he has a vested interest in ensuring people see e-publishing w/o the big six as the Next Big Thing. Following the money is definitely useful in this case.

Judy5cents said...

E-publishing has been around for years, but it really needed a decent, affordable e-reader to make it work. I have a Kindle and I'm shocked and amazed at how easy it is to download books. I would have no problem going through our savings, one $2.99 book at at time.

And this is the revolution. Readers can spend less money and have more books, and more writers get more money out of the deal. We all win.

Maureen O'Danu said...

Judy -- that's why I've decided to give publishing at Smashwords a try. It'll take me a couple of weeks to get a small body of already completed and nearly completed works formatted and ready to put on the site, and then I hope to be able to get some of my short fiction and non-fiction to the e-reader audience. I'm really excited about trying, but also a little skeptical. I plan to blog about the process, though ><

Mark Terry said...

Coker's hardly an unbiased source here and it would probably benefit him if traditional publishing crashed and burned. Nonetheless, one of your comments is one that I wonder about all the time--will the 70% royalty last. It's lovely, without a doubt, but my sense--and yes, I've e-self-published myself, as well as traditionally published--is that it began with Amazon to convince more authors to give it a shot. And as long as the number of titles and authors increases that try it out, I would guess the 70% royalty will continue, but if things level out at all, I'm not convinced it will. At the moment, though, yes, it's quite lovely.

JD Rhoades said...

And doing very well at it, I hope

Thanks. A little better every day.

John McFetridge said...

I think Judy is right, the most important change is among the book buyers. Self-published (e or otherwise) really has been around a long time but there was always a stigma attached to it - we may respect inde music and indie movies but the indie label was death for books.

JD Rhoades said...

e may respect inde music and indie movies but the indie label was death for books.

Ah, but online, it's harder to tell which are the indies and which aren't...if you do it right.

Steve Malley said...

I agree: moving from the Big 6 to the Big 3 could be seriously dangerous for authors. Not necessarily, but likely.

Years ago the comics industry went from half a dozen distributors down to one (ONE!) in a very short time, but Diamond stayed seriously respectful of indies and didn't adjust royalty structures or anything like that. But that's just one case stacked against the MANY examples of things going the other way...

One thing's for sure: this industry is changing- and fast. It remains to be seen whether the old players can adapt, but it's certainly one hell of a ride!