A post on my own methods for plotting my stories. Take from it what you will.
A post on my own methods for plotting my stories. Take from it what you will.
Read an interesting article over at the Vroman’s blog about how publishers need to create brand recognition. This was in reference to a Seth Godin speech made that stated in no uncertain terms that publishers don’t really provide anything the authors can’t now do for themselves. One of the things stated for publishers to change in the future was brand. The simple fact of the matter is that readers don’t buy based on publisher and for the most part, have no clue who they are or what kinds of books they publish. I freely admit that I pay little attention to it, as far as buying anything goes. I do look and see if a read a book, but it has zero to do with my buying decision. As for the pubs do nothing that authors can’t now do for themselves? Technically, this is probably true. Realistically, I think that’s bullshit.
For anyone who has seriously looked at self-publishing, you realize that the amount of work involved and often money as well, is not worth the return on investment. The chances for success are even less than in the traditional marketplace. Publishers give authors the leeway to keep writing. While I know that authors have a far more active role in marketing their books (I’m at this point now, and can see that it will be a lot of work), publishers take care of a lot of things that would otherwise make it so I could hardly write at all until my current book had run its course. This might be different for a full-time writer, but most of us are not. So, can authors do everything publishers do for their book? Yes, they could. Do authors want to turn their marketing efforts into a full-time business? Hell no. The publisher has resources, people, and expetise that I simply do not have and don’t want to invest in having. I want to write. I’ll help my publisher to sell my book with the time and resources at my disposal. It’s a partnership, a business arrangement, and far more worthwhile to me than attempting to go at it on my own. Simple fact of the matter is, I have no desire to be my own publisher.
Regarding brand. I guess once upon a time, bookstores used to actually shelve books by publisher. If the future of saving publishing is in this direction, why is it so hard to work on this? I’ll admit that I’m not terribly savvy when it comes to bookstores and how they work with publishers. I do know that pubs pay stores a good deal of money to prominently display particular authors. The almighty co-op. I’ll see tables set up for certain genres like fantasy or thrillers, with certain authors receiving higher billing. I understand this. It makes sense. So, why can’t/aren’t they doing this on the scale of publishers/imprints? People don’t buy based on publishers you say. Ok, so? Change their perceptions on this. I’m guessing publishers will pay for prominent space highlighing their releases. Bookstores can certainly change how they direct and educate their customers. You liked that Tor fantasy? Go check out the Tor display for other fantasies they have out now. I’m sure you’ll like some of their other offerings. I know as a reader that I will sometimes as a bookstore to recommend other authors like this particular author I really liked, so why not direct along publisher lines? Maybe I’m wrong but this makes a great deal of sense to me.
Amazon’s recent (these are getting rather common it seems) flub involving the erasure of George Orwell’s 1984 from customer’s Kindles without any notification (smooth move Amazon), brought an interesting and difficult issue to light that I had not really realized before. Orwell’s books are still copyright protected in the States. Amazon pulled copies from people who had downloaded an unauthorized version of the book put up in the Kindle store by a company other than the publisher. You can still get the publisher’s version, albeit at a higher price. The thing is though, you can go to sites outside of the U.S. and still get cheap downloads of the book. Other countries don’t follow the same copyright law as the U.S. Orwell’s books are public domain in these other countries. This poses some dilemmas for publishers. How do you legitimately try to sell copyrighted books for regular ebook prices when it’s available in the public domain from other places around the world? While many are too lazy to go hunting around to take advantage of this, it certainly appears to be a money-losing situation for the publishers.
I personally don’t have much knowledge in the area of copyright law or all of the issues generated by this problem being faced by publishers regarding world rights conflicts, but it certainly is interesting, and I’m certainly far more likely knowing this, to go look for classics elsewhere (if and when I get an ereader) than spend my 6.99 for it at Amazon.
I came across an interesting online application the other day while looking for possible ways to post writing for people to respond to in real-time online. It’s called Etherpad. Basically you create ‘room’ for up to eight people where the posted text can be edited in real-time by whoever is logged into the ‘pad.’ Each person gets a different font color. People can import files from the computer and then export them back out when done. There are lots of possibilities here, such as live crit groups, cooperative writing efforts, and perhaps writing groups inviting in publishing pros such as agents/editors to offer up insight/critique for things like queries, first pages, etc. Certainly worth checking out and playing with.
After having read this article: http://www.idealog.com/blog/the-evolving-role-of-agents, I have been very curious about how this whole economic crisis in publishing is affecting agents. We hear all sorts of info about how hard it is for authors now, as well as how houses are cutting back on their acquiring, laying off staff, etc. So, where do the agents fit into this? And more importantly, what are they going to end up doing about it?
Given that publishers are focusing even more on sure money-makers than previously, this narrowing of focus might actually benefit those few agents who have a best-seller clientele, work with celebrities, or any other folks with big platforms who are as guaranteed as one can generally be in publishing to make money. For the greater bulk of agents whose base is more in the mid-list, this shrinking of the market would seem to have a detrimental effect. Publishers don’t want to put up as big an advance, don’t want to risk as much. They can’t afford it. This has to be affecting the pocketbook. So, what are they to do to maintain viability? It could also be that they aren’t terribly affected by this change, but I suspect it is.
One thing I see happening is the fact that the editors at big houses are actually doing far less editing (even more so now than before). They are in the position now of being almost purelydevoted to acquisition. They want clean, basically ready to publish material. This seems to put the agent in the position of taking on a greater focus as an editor. Some agents are former editors or are those who actually enjoy the editing process. The question of course is time. They are already overloaded trying to deal with acquiring new clients and dealing with all the goings on of current clients. How can they deal with this shift?
One method of course is to not take on any new clients who don’t present clean, well-edited manuscripts. Not that authors shouldn’t be doing this anyway, but agents have been known to take on stories they really like but feel it needs some work to be marketable to the publishers. Will this added pressure now make them less inclined to do this? My guess is yes. Another possibility is that agents will turn to negotiating editing services into their client contracts. Need significant edits? The services of the agent in this regard may cost you another 5%. I’m sure there are other ways agents may look for additional compensation in order to ensure ‘publisher ready’ manuscripts. Agents might look into fees for services on the backend too, regarding publicity, marketing, additional rights, etc.
However it may pan out, I suspect the average agent is hurting in this changing climate, and just like everyone else in this industry, changes in the ways they do things are likely coming. What do you think they might be?
I had another random publishing idea today, regarding new ways for publishers to incorporate the use if digital content as a means to stimulate print demand. I read in an article today about a notion I had myself a couple weeks ago, that print publishers might begin to debut new authors in digital format prior to putting them out in print, as a way to build hype and test the waters so to speak. This got me thinking. Why don’t publishers offer up a subscription based program to allow people to access debut authors works for free? I don’t have an ereader, but if I did, I know that I would be tempted to subscribe to one or more of the big pubs for a monthly fee if I could gain early access to new authors prior to print publication. The subscription would give me a price break, as long as I made regular use of it, and there’s the incentive of getting to see content ‘early,’ which is always fun. Anyway, just a thought. What are yours?