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The Proverbial Sex Reassignment Surgery: what this transition is really about

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
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Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

The Proverbial Sex Reassignment Surgery: what this transition is really about

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Fri January 14th, 2011, 3:22 am

Hey, the sensational title was chosen by the writer, not me! But this article from publishr (sic) expresses better than I what I meant in a recent post when I commented on the Ivory Tower aspect of the publishing business as it has been.

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fljustice
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Post by fljustice » Sat January 15th, 2011, 5:28 pm

Thanks for the link, MLE. Some publishers are waking up to the changes. I liked the comment that added the second half to the discussion: the move from Business to Customer business model to Producer(writer) to Customer model and the publishinger's role as curator.
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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Sun January 16th, 2011, 7:11 am

Very interesting. But what do they mean by B-to-B?
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sun January 16th, 2011, 3:17 pm

Margaret, B to B is Business to Business. Basically, they are discussing the layers, the wholesale-retail nature of publishing.

What they are saying is that now it's going to be P to C -- Producer to Customer. Whereas it used to be Producer (writer) to Business (publisher) to Business (bookstore) to Customer (reader). And that all those layers insulated the producer from the consumer so that the producer wrote for the publisher rather than the reader.

I'm stuck on the horns of that dilemma -- I write stories that are 130-150K, on average; which plenty of readers (me, for instance) consider an ideal length. But for a first-time author, publishers want 100K to reduce the expense and therefore risk of a physical book. So I'm sweating to make that happen. ebooks will change that--the word count won't cost any more or less to produce, only the skill of the writer and whether the customer stays engaged with the story.

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Margaret
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Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
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Post by Margaret » Sun January 16th, 2011, 9:25 pm

Thank you, MLE! I was kind of scanning through my memory banks of B-words related to publishing, but never came up with that. Makes sense now. I did get the part about the layers of insulation.

Historical novelists, I think, are especially likely (compared to contemporary novelists) to have trouble with the decrees about length for debut novels, because of the extra setting detail necessary to make that extremely foreign world come alive for modern readers in a way they can understand and relate to. On the other hand, it is possible to write a really fine historical novel at the shorter lengths that fit into the publishers' decrees. C.W. Gortner's The Last Queen, for example, evokes the period quite well, tells Juana's story in an emotionally compelling way, and is as short as a typical contemporary novel. But I think the length difficulty may be why so many historical novelists write sequels and trilogies. Margaret Irwin's exceptionally fine novels about Elizabeth I as a princess are short, but each tells only a portion of her story, although they also feel satisfying and complete on their own, a real testament to Irwin's skills as a novelist.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sun January 16th, 2011, 10:00 pm

I have to quote a comment by one Jason Black. I have been seeing this publisher-as-curator role for some time, but he says it better:

"This is brilliant, but IMHO, only half right.

B-to-C is only a transition step on a longer evolutionary path the publishing industry finds itself on.

At the end of the day (or the decade, as it may turn out to be), the real shift that will have taken place is to create viable models that connect _writers_ directly with _readers_. Or, producer-to-consumer in business jargon.

I think that's what most scares the hell out of traditional publishers. It should, but only because they'll need to change what they do in order to stay relevant (or, I should say, to stay in business).

What publishers need to realize is that no amount of internety web 3.0 goodness is going to change the fact that most writers produce utter slush. And most readers have no interest in reading utter slush. Consequently, while the rest of the web is figuring out viable ways for writers to connect directly to their readers and make some money doing it, publishers need to find ways to preserve their historical _curatorial_ role as quality filters.

If publishers can find a way to skim a bit out of the revenue stream in exchange for providing reliable, trustworthy stamps of quality on the work of the few writers who don't write slush, then yeah, they can stay in business. If they can, at the same time, use that curatorial expertese to drive larger volumes of readers towards my content, then hell yeah, as a writer I'm totally happy for them to skim a bit off the top.

Right now, change is coming and they don't like it. They're stuck in the "five stages of grief" model of emotional response. Most of them are in stage one, so neck-deep in denial about the whole situation they can't even see straight. A very few have moved all the way through denial, anger, and bargaining, finding themselves stuck in stage 4, depression. They can't let go of the past long enough to see a way out.

I haven't seen any major publisher (although a few indies are doing some interesting things) move to stage 5, acceptance, where they can actually start functioning as constructive participants in the Great Shift going on all around them."

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Margaret
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Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favourite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Post by Margaret » Sun January 16th, 2011, 10:21 pm

He's hit the nail on the head, I think.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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