Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Publishing 2010

I've been following a very interesting discussion among some big and medium guns on Google Book Search (GBS), copyrights and the future of publishing.

I wanted to summarize the articles and give you my opinion at the end (as I do like doing so often), but it's been three days that I have no time to write the proper post appropriate to opinionated self. So I'll just give you the headlines and hope to write about it properly some other time.

It all started (as far as my following the matter) with Cory Doctorow's article on Boing Boing Why Publishing Should Send Fruit-Baskets exactly a week ago. His article, obviously argues the case for GBS. In Doctorow true fashion, he shows how GBS can revive "dead" books and how free ebooks (along with GBS) can lift authors from obscurity.

Then, Michael Allen from GOB, referred to Doctorow's article only to refer to another article the next day. The article by Val Landy starts with a long description of the Great Barrier Reef, which in his eyes is "a perfect metaphor for the violent change and transformation the Web is having on all forms of media: music, film, newspapers, and soon, books."

Val Landy also bring two other changes/trends in addition to GBS: Amazon’s print-on-demand publishing company, BookSurge, and self-publishing (the likes of Lulu). He quotes Victor Keegan's article in the Guardian - Frustrated Author, Publish Yourself - [Are] “books about to go the same way as music and videos, with everyone able to publish from their back rooms, cutting out all the agents in the middle?”

So now I wonder. I've seen a few writers trying to sell their books using Lulu or Pdf downloads. Cavan, Benjamin and Chris are examples just off the top of my head and I'm sure there are many others. Not being an early adopter, I still hold on to traditional publishing, but it does seem the industry is changing.

Wouldn't it be nice one day not to get rejection letters?

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Anonymous said...

Instereting post. I'm still not sold on this whole, POD and Ebook thing. I take the train everyday and I have never noticed anyone reading an ebook and I look for this sort of thing. I also take notice of what people are reading and I rarely see people reading things that are not on the best seller list. Harry Potter and Shopoholic books reign supreme on the train.

I have purchased a few ebooks in my time but I find them to be a bit of a pain to read. I can't read them standing in line waiting for the train or when I'm in bed.

Ebooks and POD options are appealing to me as a writer but I wonder if these books get the same exposure as the books published by the major houses.

Still, it would be nice to be able to go that route and have the same chance of success as going the traditional route.

Melly said...

Perhaps I wasn't very clear. I tried to write it quickly.
I wasn't talking exactly about print vs. ebook. It's more that many authors who have either free downloads of their books like Doctorow, or others use it to combat obscurity and increase their print sale.
As for self-publishing, again, the goal is to use BookSurge to print on demand a self-published book, not necessarily to stay in the realm of ebooks.

I wonder, though, if it's also a direction, and hence a generational thing. I mean, perhpas the next generation will read more ebooks - I don't know, just like they all have ipods. Dunno...

Chris Howard said...

I was with you up to the last sentence!

I'm impatient, which is why I will always receive rejection letters. I can't wait to send the story out--polished or not. On the other hand, I usually edit in between rejects, so it eventually gets the polish it deserves, and most of my stuff has found a home, paying or not.

Thanks for the link! I've published one novel through my own publishing company, printed and distributed directly through Lightning Source, but I see it as a way into traditional publishing. A year from now, with 500 books sold, I just might be able to convince a publisher that I can write a story that people want to read, a story that sells. They're in business. I completely understand their want of some assurance of success. I'd want it too.

I don't plan on writing two or three novels, but dozens, and I'm willing to not make anything on the first few in exchange for publicity. Readers buy books. It's all about readers, and if they don't know who I am or have never heard of my book, how can I expect them buy it and read it?

I don't see the downside to Google's Book Search or Print. Now, as a newb author with a few published short stories and a self-published book, what can I possibly know about the position of the established authors complaining about Google? Maybe not a lot. But it still looks like more readers to me, and like money and books, there's no such thing as too many readers.

Melly said...

Chris, I see I wasn't that clear with that post at all. My fault.
The last sentence meant - if we all self-publish (as some already do), then we won't get rejection letters. Okay, not too successful that sentence was :)

Obscurity is exactly what Doctorow is talking about and why GBS can help, as well as exactly what you're doing with your self-publishing.
He thinks the authors complaining about GBS are rent-seekers.

Pat Kirby said...

“books about to go the same way as music and videos, with everyone able to publish from their back rooms, cutting out all the agents in the middle?”

Well, except most of us (okay, me) still get our music and DVDs via the usual channels, i.e., produced and distributed by the market giants. I think even the majority of stuff over at iTunes was produced by a major label, no?

Ultimately, a release from a major label/studio is going to get more attention and better distribution, leading to more sales.

So if the goal is making a smidgen of money in the process, making CDs in your basement might not be the best method. Ditto, self-publishing.

Note, I'm not against self-publishing. Tain't none of my bizness. Just pointing out the inherent problem with distribution when operating on a small budget and trying to get your book stocked in the big stores.

Ebooks may alleviate some of the problems with distribution, but keep in mind that the "reading public" is trending older and they prefer books in print. The best sellers in Ebooks at the moment are those in the erotic and romance genres, i.e., publishers like Ellora's Cave. I guess soccer moms like the privacy afforded with Ebooks.

Melly said...

I also prefer the more traditional route for now, Pat.

I don't think the point is to also distribute the book yourself if you self-publish. I think it's a way to later sell distribution rights (just like independent films that are later distributed by Alliance Atlantis and what not).

One example is McGowan's book that sold for 7 figures after she self-publsihed. link

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that you were completely clear in what you wrote. I tend to write my comments very early in the morning while I'm having my first cup of tea so who knows what the heck I'm writing!

Melly said...

Should you possible, and this is just a suggestion here, switch to coffee ??? :):)

Kidding of course.

I do the same, but with coffee.

Carter said...

The biggest problem with GBS is not what they are doing but how they are doing it. If they went with an opt-in system, there would have been no problem at all. Instead, they chose to, in effect, publish electronic editions of authors' books without getting permission first. That is known as piracy or copyright infringement when individuals do it. I guess it's different when you have oodles of bucks.

Sorry about the rant. I'm a librarian (30+ years service), and this is not just a hot button, but a Launch-the-Nukes button for me.

As far as e-books/self-publishing/POD, etc. The prediction of the death of the paper book has been going around since I was a boy (back when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth). They certainly have a place, as long they are not mis-used. The biggest problem I see with self-publishing is the lack of quality control. When anyone can publish anything they want, then the crap-to-good ration will skyrocket out of sight.

I guess I'd better write my own post about these things, so I can say everything I have to say.

Good post. Thought-provoking, as well as Carter-provoking. :)

Melly said...

Carter :)
Didn't mean to step on any toes here :)
Anyways, I felt very much the same about GBS, but Cory Doctorow makes some real fine points. Fine ones. Check them out and see what you think.

I didn't mean to imply that print will disappear, but rather that e-formats will help with sales of print.

I'm very glad you brought up the point about quality-control. I was wondering the same thing myself.

Waiting to read your post :)

Jonathan M. Dobson said...

I had no idea about all this. My eyes have not just been opened - a new pair has grown over the old ones. This is awesome.

I've always felt more comfortable writing without the WORRY of getting paid or being plagiarized. This possible "new way" is meshing well with my personal dynamic. I can write to be read, and avoid writing to be paid. How freeing is that? Not that I wouldn't mind making money - that's always welcome. But the path is being pressed into the grass, so perhaps I'll just take a walk down it to see what's there. I'm already publishing all my work via blogger, so what the hay.

Thanks, Melly!

Cavan said...

I feel like I should make some long-winded remark on self-publishing, but instead let me boil it down to the two most important points, as I see it...

#1. Unless the stars align correctly and you've missed your true calling in sales, you won't sell enough books to recoup your investment.

#2. Contrary to popular belief, once you've self-published, that doesn't mean the evolution of your book is over and done with. A lot of POD books have been sold to traditional publishers and, if you read POD-dy Mouth and her agent interviews, you'll know that a lot of agents have no issue with taking on a book that's already been published via POD.

Conclusion: POD, in my eyes, is just another path to traditional publishing success.

Melly said...

Most welcome Jonathan :)

So you're seriously considering self-publishing?

Melly said...

Thanks Cavan. I was waiting to hear your perspective on the issue.
Thanks. (did I say that already? :)

Benjamin Solah said...

POD seems to be good for anthos or collections, but I'd still go for traditional publishing first with a finished novel, because marketing wise, POD is much harder.

I mean if POD companies could have better ties with marketing sources, maybe sales would pick up, or something needs to be done to bring sales up along side traditional publishing, even though it seems a mammoth ask.

Melly said...

Benjamin, I'm so glad to see you here because I was hoping to get you, Chris and Cavan all commenting about this.

I cannot imagine how hard it must be to market a book. Any book. Traditional publishers do tend to help with marketing, but even they don't work at it very hard. Many times it falls on the author.

Jonathan M. Dobson said...

Yes, I will self-publish. I don't really care if I sell enough to recoup the losses. No, that's wrong. I would be delighted if I sold enough to recoup the losses.

My wife already makes me complete. I don't need validation for my work, thank the heavens. That boy died when I got married. So pushing the work myself seems like just as much fun as writing the damn stuff. This isn't optimism - it's a settled, contented happiness. All water returns to the sea. It's just words. Blah blah blah, you get the gist.

Melly said...

It's a good way to be, Jonathan.
It's a content and happy way to be. Good for you :)