‘Tools of Change’

From NPR, an article called, At Last, They See: E-Books ‘Democratize’ Publishing. (Hat tip: Ann Althouse)

Not known as a hotbed of experimentation, the world of publishing has been slow to embrace the transition from print to e-books. This past week in New York, however, the Tools of Change digital publishing conference attracted entrepreneurs and innovators who are more excited by, rather than afraid of, the future.

It was the kind of crowd where some were more inclined to say “Steal my book!” than to argue over what that e-book should cost. These are people who see digital publishing not as a threat, but as an opportunity.

Joe Wikert of O’Reilly Media, which hosted the conference, says digital publishing is in its infancy but the potential is endless.

“If you come up with something new and exciting, you can change the playing field overnight,” Wikert says.

Read the whole thing at the above link.

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The More Things Change—Literary Futures

A guest post written by Emma Pullman:

The world of publishing is changing. The digital age is forcing publishers ‒ and readers ‒ to alter their horizons. There are new ways to publish, read and write. Just as the music industry has been changed forever by the advent of digital, so has literature. Traditionalists might not like it, but there is no escaping change. Some see digital publishing as a threat to writers, making an already low-paid profession even harder to make a living from. Others recognise that while there may be threats associated with the digital world, there are also many opportunities.

Back in the nineteenth century, literature was largely the preserve of the wealthy. Only those with money, time and connections were able to write and publish novels. Even women were often barred, hence writers like George Eliot publishing under assumed male names. Inevitably, much nineteenth century literature deals with the lives of people like their authors: the middle and upper-classes. Charles Dickens is a notable exception (though not the only one), and he was rewarded by interest in his work from the largely illiterate poor, who would pay a small sum to ‘Dickens clubs’ where his work was read to them. The twentieth century brought wider literacy, cheaper books and more extensive publishing. The advent of the paperback in the 1930s meant that anyone could sit on their cheap sofa reading the latest novel.

As the century progressed, so did interest in literature, and more and more people wanted not only to be readers, but to be writers. Publishers today are inundated with many more manuscripts than they’ll ever get around to reading. Competition for publishing deals is fierce, and many publishers are unwilling to take a risk on an upcoming author with an unusual style, who may or may not sell. This kind of competition created the self-publishing industry: not a bad way for someone who wants to publish a book for their family and friends to read on a very small print run, but often exploitative and expensive, particularly for those with bigger dreams than talent.

So, into the twenty-first century, and the publishing industry is adapting to new forms of publishing and of selling books. Fewer and fewer books are sold in bookshops, with more and more readers choosing to buy their books online (often after using the bookshop as somewhere to browse before taking advantage of cheaper online prices). Many independent bookshops have sadly been unable to survive. The launch of the Amazon Kindle in 2007 offered readers, a way to read digital books without having to squint at a computer screen. Its popularity is unquestionable: US Amazon now sells more Kindle books than it does paperbacks.

So where does all this leave the writer? As in the music industry, the big names are likely to be relatively unaffected by the digital age. For the rest, things are changing, but not necessarily for the worse. Few novelists ever make a full time wage as things stand (the average income of a novelist from their writing is just a few thousand dollars a year), and with digital books more easily shared than physical ones, their incomes are hardly likely to increase. However, digital publishing also creates a huge opportunity for writers. Some publishers are starting to run competitions on their websites for aspiring authors, giving them the chance to be read not just by the public, but by the publishers. Some authors publicise their work by putting extracts online or even publishing a free book: just as musicians have been able to showcase their work via Myspace. As in the music industry too, it may be that there is an increase in interest in live literature, as writers seek non- traditional ways to get themselves noticed. This is a return to the days of Dickens, who toured the world giving very popular readings.

We cannot roll back the digital world: it is here to stay. The truth is, there has never really been a golden age when anyone could write a novel and make a living from it. The industry has always been socially elitist or highly competitive (or both). Digital publishing gives writers who might not ever get past the ‘slush-pile’ the chance to work their own way into readers’ hearts.

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Self-publishing: Upending the Book Industry

A Wall Street Journal article called, How I Became a Best-Selling Author, by Alexandra Alter, tells us success stories of alternative approaches to getting published and selling books:

This summer, Darcie Chan’s debut novel became an unexpected hit. It has sold more than 400,000 copies and landed on the best-seller lists alongside brand-name authors like Michael Connelly, James Patterson and Kathryn Stockett.

It’s been a success by any measure, save one. Ms. Chan still hasn’t found a publisher.

Five years ago, Ms. Chan’s novel, “The Mill River Recluse,” which tells the story of a wealthy Vermont widow who bestows her fortune on town residents who barely knew her, would have languished in a drawer. A dozen publishers and more than 100 literary agents rejected it.

“Nobody was willing to take a chance,” says Ms. Chan, a 37-year-old lawyer who drafts environmental legislation for the U.S. Senate. “It was too much of a publishing risk.”


Read the rest at the above link.



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New York’s Literary Cubs

From the New York Times, an article about some bright young people with a website, The New Inquiry

that functions as an Intellectuals Anonymous of sorts for desperate members of the city’s literary underclass barred from the publishing establishment. Fueled by B.Y.O.B. bourbon, impressive degrees and the angst that comes with being young and unmoored, members spend their hours filling the air with talk of Edmund Wilson and poststructuralism.

Lately, they have been catching the eye of the literary elite, earning praise that sounds as extravagantly brainy as the thesis-like articles that The New Inquiry uploads every few days.

But here is an article that suggests an alternative view—Everything Old Is New Again, from Commentary magazine, taking the Times to task for its pretentiousness. (Hat Tip: Frank Wilson)

What is happening now is the revenge of the market. A high literary culture, utterly divorced from economic realities, was artificially propped up for fifty years. In rather more technical terms, American literary culture is an inefficient market; its products are overpriced, and there aren’t many buyers for them at any rate. As the air goes out of the higher education bubble, the literary life as fantasized by the New York Times’s attractive young literary cubs is deflating along with it.

Which is not to say that literature will disappear. Young writers’ expectations of a good-paying job (with benefits) fiddling all day on overwritten and unsaleable manuscripts — that will disappear. Most everything else will remain the same. Toil, envy, and want will still be the writer’s lot in life. The old economic conditions will be new again. And writers (and maybe even critics) will have to pay attention to them. That’s the only real change. Deal with it, clubbers.

While I like bright young people—I even know a few—I think Commentary has the more realistic perspective.

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Amazon Cutting Out Publishers

From CNBC: Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of Deal (Hat tip: Instapundit—”Goodbye Middleman”)

Amazon.com has taught readers that they do not need bookstores. Now it is encouraging writers to cast aside their publishers.

Rapid change continues to occur in the publishing industry.

Update from Instapundit:

REGARDING AMAZON ENTERING THE PUBLISHING BUSINESS, a reader emails: “Amazon isn’t getting rid of publishers, it’s becoming a publisher. This means the group that controls the distribution also controls the content selection. Not exactly a blow for the Army of Davids in my opinion — when all the publishers are gone, who will publish the books critical of Amazon? Bottom line: It’s not getting rid of middlemen, it’s just muscling them out so it’s the only middleman. It does however reveal that in the age of digital publishing, discoverability and promotion on the digital storefront is the only thing that actually matters. The role of publishers in curation is almost totally abrogated to the sellers. When anyone can publish a book, it’s no longer the publishers that are the gating factor to what we read, it’s the digital storefront. It’s a very interesting shift and definitely good news for Amazon and the like.”

That’s a good point. I like Amazon, but if they become a chokepoint that would be bad. Right now their platform is very open to self-publishers and others, but if that were to change it would be a bad thing. There would probably be antitrust issues, too.


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Licensing publishers?

From Instapundit, which links to an article referring to Australia, one of my favorite countries—a point I may have to reconsider:  Government Won’t Rule Out A License To Publish. As Glenn Reynolds wrote,

Licensing publishers is, of course, a serious break with the English-speaking civil liberties tradition.


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The True Price of Publishing

The true price of publishing, from the Guardian, asks:

Ebooks have reignited the question of what we’re really paying publishers for – the physical product, or what’s written inside?


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My Book—What I’m Up Against

As well as many other writers….Found at The Centered Librarian:

1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.

42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.

80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.

70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.

57 percent of new books are not read to completion.

70 percent of books published do not earn back their advance.

70 percent of the books published do not make a profit.


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Open Road Integrated Media

An article at NPR, “Publishers Navigate The ‘Open Road’ Of E-Books,” tells us about Open Road Media, “a company that is banking its future on digital publishing.”

Open Road Media was co-founded by Jane Friedman, who had a long and illustrious career in what is now commonly referred to as the “traditional” publishing industry. Once the CEO of Harper Collins, one of the “big six” publishing companies, Friedman says she never looks back.

The publishing business is rapidly changing (in case you haven’t noticed).

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I’ve Signed a Publishing Contract!

On Thursday, April 28, 2011, I signed a publishing contract with Hugo House Publishing, a small independent publisher based in Englewood, Colorado. I was thankfully introduced to Dr. Patricia Ross, co-owner of Hugo House Publishers, at a CIPA (Colorado Independent Publishers Association) meeting late last year by book marketing expert, Mary Walewski, who is on the Board at CIPA and who I’ve joyfully worked with in learning about book promotion. Dr. Ross and I agreed to an exploratory meeting following my “query” submission per their standards. At that meeting we agreed to get my manuscript in shape and then see what the best course of action would be for publishing. The editing took some time. We then did some market research, which took a little more time. Understanding and closing the deal was the next step. It’s done—the commitment to publishing has been made. Now there is a lot more work to do.

Dr. Ross has a PhD from NYU in English Literature, specializing in modern American Literature. She has, of course, helped me tremendously through this process, as I am learning an entirely new business. And anyone close to it knows that it is a business that is rapidly changing. Also, as I’ve gotten to know Patricia, we’ve enjoyed many discussions on literature in general, our likes and dislikes. Today we looked at book covers at the Tattered Cover Book Store, one of the best book stores anywhere, independent or otherwise. Next steps:

Book cover design.

Clean up my synopsis with themes.

Finalize manuscript—last edits.

Interior set up.

Work on back cover.

Print first proofs.

Review copies in hand—July.

Get some reviews.

Publish—early fourth quarter.





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