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Books and the publishing industry

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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Mon February 2nd, 2009, 1:14 am

[quote=""Libby""]So does the future for publishing mean that it is the best publicists rather than the best writers who will have the higher readership?[/quote]

Basically, yes.

I'm hoping in ten years or so word of mouth will boost my sales. ;)

Would anyone be more apt to read self-published works if they could be purchased as a download for a lot less money?

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Mon February 2nd, 2009, 6:02 am

I don't think it is nearly as grim as that. I think that the best work will float to the top, and the mediocre work won't, no matter how well it is publicized.

although if a writer does not bother to garner any exposure, they won't get noticed no matter how brilliant their writing is. That is no different from the old system, except that under the old system, it was much harder for a good writer to grab the attention of the very few gatekeepers, who had not time to sample more than a very few; whereas now, the tools are available for everybody to reach somebody, which can start the snowball rolling, if the book is really worth recommending.

I see this as the end of mediocrity being artificially pushed to the top. Also as a chance for writers to connect directly with their readers and learn from the feedback, rather than being insulated by multiple layers of middlemen .

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Leyland
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Post by Leyland » Mon February 2nd, 2009, 4:24 pm

[quote=""LoveHistory""]Would anyone be more apt to read self-published works if they could be purchased as a download for a lot less money?[/quote] As a consumer, I would hope the price of a new 'book' purchased in an e-format would be less expensive since the production costs should be considerably less than a printed and bound version. The price should be high enough to be able to support a working author so he/she can continue to create.

It all depends on those e-sales volumes, of course. Don't want to see a writer starving in a bare garret, now. ;)
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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Mon February 2nd, 2009, 7:42 pm

Here's an intriguing experiment by a frustrated novelist: http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0202/p17s01-lign.html. In this case, he's not a first-time author, but one whose sales had been declining and who was having trouble finding publishers for his current work. Though I have to say, this approach can only work as long as very few novelists are using it. (Can you imagine if every novelist did this?!!)
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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Mon February 2nd, 2009, 8:40 pm

[quote=""Leyland""]Don't want to see a writer starving in a bare garret, now. ;) [/quote]

But isn't that the best way to produce a great work of literature? :D

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Libby
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Post by Libby » Mon February 2nd, 2009, 8:49 pm

[quote=""Margaret""]Here's an intriguing experiment by a frustrated novelist: http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0202/p17s01-lign.html. In this case, he's not a first-time author, but one whose sales had been declining and who was having trouble finding publishers for his current work. Though I have to say, this approach can only work as long as very few novelists are using it. (Can you imagine if every novelist did this?!!)[/quote]

I think that it happens a lot though - not in the sense of a physical book, but in the sense that many stories are posted on websites, forums, and fanfic sites for others to read free.

I have an excerpt from my novel on my website as well as some articles and short stories. I've also posted fanfic. Not because I can't find a publisher but because the story was aimed at a specific readership and was a bit of fun!

But of course it all helps with the marketing. As does joining forums like this. ;)

I think it's true that although there is more writing available for people to read, it has never been easier to have your writing read (at least if you're prepared to 'give it away').
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cw gortner
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Post by cw gortner » Tue February 3rd, 2009, 6:33 pm

[quote=""Ariadne""] It's not a case of either/or... it just means fewer venues with which to get the word out about books.[/quote]

I echo Ariadne's sentiments, as well as others posted here. A very interesting discussion! Having been indie and then sold mainstream, I can say there are drawbacks and advantages to both, not equally balanced.

On the indie side, the benefits for me:

1) I got published and I had lots of input in cover design;
2) The book became available for sale, though almost exclusively online. My first indie publisher did a tiny first run, less than 5,000 copies, then switched to POD, so no bookstores would stock it. The main reason: no returnability;
3) I got reviewed by bloggers and average amazon.com readers, so eventually I got noticed by an agent, as in three years later;
4) I got sold to Random House.

So the route worked, for me. The major advantages to having a mainstream publisher are significant:

1) I made more money with my advance than in the entire three years I was indie-published. I know it's crass to talk about money and writing in the same breath, but honestly, if you want to make a living at it, or even take a stab at making a living, you need to eat.

2) Professional editing, which enhanced my writing, the book's appeal and made me look at my work in ways I'd never have done otherwise. I can't emphasize this enough. My indie publisher was a shoe-string operation; editing was left to me. I hired a freelancer and still, errors persisted. More importantly, the "tone" of my work never shifted with a freelancer, while the publishing house had a vested interest in their cash layout and went the extra mile to make sure my work was the best it can be. There were tradeoffs, of course, but in the end I did stuff with revisions I'd never have tackled with my indie.

3) Distribution. Overnight, books were stocked and available in most chains, independents, etc. Though the returns model is antiquated and a killer for many books, it's how stores take risks with untried writers. The book was visible, in a physical way. Despite e-everything, we're still animals: we like to sniff and smell and touch. Books are a sensory experience as well as an emotional one. A beautiful cover turns me on; a computer screen, no matter how well-lit, does not.

4) Publicity, publicity, publicity. I hit the proverbial streets and the web, of course, and ladled out a chunk of change towards my own promotion, but having an in-house publicist was a godsend. She was tireless. So were my foreign house publicists. They had contacts I'd never be able to access on my own.

5) Foreign rights. Enough said. With indie, I didn't sell one. With mainsteam, I sold 10. For good money; again, so I can fill my refrigerator.

I think the publishing model as it exists needs change. But I mainly see it in terms of returns and format. The returns system must be addressed and revamped; too much waste, with fewer and fewer books garnering the chance to claim readership before they're being remaindered. It goes back to publicity and marketing; budgets are finite and proven sellers get the lion's share. Newbies struggle to eke out their portion, so forums like this and bloggers (bless you all!) are essential to helping us get word out.

Format is also becoming an issue. While hardcover carries prestige and the alleged opportunity for reviews in the US, the truth is with the cutbacks at PW, LJ, Kirkus, etc. only the critically-praised in advance, the buzzed, the huge sellers are getting reviews. It's harder and harder for new novels, particularly genre, to snag one or any of these Big 4 reviewers anymore. Hardcover is also expensive, and people are not buying them as much. Trade paperback, on the other hand, while seen as less prestigious and review-worthy, can be ideal for launching a new author. What you don't make on the advance side going in, you can possibly make on the sales side, as ideally a lot more copies will move.

I would be very sad if publishing as we know it vanishes. I've loved working with mine, truly; the experience eclipses my indie one and now I'd be hard-pressed to go back. However, I'm in honey-moon phase. I believe the playing field should level: many indie offerings are excellent and many are not. Just as in mainstream. Editing, quality, cover design are where indies falter, particularly self published. It's still expensive to publish a book well, whether indie or mainsteam. The difference is, the marketplace still frowns on most indie published books and getting readers to take notice is an uphill battle.

Who knows what the future holds? If it were up to me, I'd like to see more sophisticated trade paperbacks for debut fiction - Europe and Canada do these extremely well -; better marketing for debut fiction, using money saved from hc production costs; and revamping the returns system.

All with a wave of my magic wand . . . :p
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michellemoran
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Post by michellemoran » Tue February 3rd, 2009, 7:12 pm

I'm with you Christopher all the way. I couldn't agree more. And we need to shift to trade and mass market pp, like England. Nothing sells like a mass market pp, even if my personal preference is for hardcover.
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Ludmilla
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Post by Ludmilla » Wed February 4th, 2009, 2:43 pm

I wonder whether increased book trades will make hardcovers even less economical. I know once I read a book and have determined I don't want to keep it (will trade via a swap site), it is cumbersome and more expensive to mail.

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