Friday, 17 April 2009

A New Model for Publishing?

For decades, the publishing business has worked pretty well. Writers write books; agents sell those books to publishers; publishers make the books available to the market. Money flows through the system from reader to writer via the publisher and agent. Everyone involved makes money, and gets what they want.

The publishing process—and the flow of money through it—begins to break down when the people involved in it aren't up to scratch.

You've written a book but your writing is so poor that you can't get an agent or a publisher to take you on? Learning to write well is the Old Model for writers, and therefore outdated. Publish your book yourself, then you'll have books in your hand within a week which you can sell direct to your own readers, mistakes and all!

You want to be an agent but you lack the expertise, experience and contacts you need to sell books to publishers? No problem! Make your money direct from writers! There are plenty of them and if they’re paying you direct, you can do away entirely with submitting to publishers. This New Model saves you both time and money!

You're a publisher, but can't sell your books to readers? No problem! Sell them to your writers instead! They’ll not be put off by poor writing or mistakes in their own books, so you can do away with editors; and you won’t have to employ sales people to get your books into bookshops (not that they’d stock them anyway, with all those mistakes in them), as your authors will buy their own books online, direct from you. Your New Model for Traditional Publishing will earn you a heap of cash—and you won’t even have to read any submissions. Just stick them out there as fast as they’re submitted, and watch the cash roll in.

Be very wary of new models of publishing. The old one works just fine.

[Note: this piece first appeared on my blog last June but somehow moved itself back into my list of draft posts, along with a couple of others. I will republish them all when the schedule allows. If you have read it before, apologies for the repetition; if you haven't, then please ignore this!]


Dan Holloway said...

Jane, you're an angel. I'm guessing this is the piece you'd intended to link to. Thank you so much for putting it up. I'm going to copy and paste it to a Word doc to read if that's OK, just in case it turns out the tech has a personal vendetta against this particular picece

Jane Smith said...

Yes, Dan, this is the post that disappeared, and thanks to you alerting me to its absence I've found a few others which have done the same. I've reinstated the missing link now, and don't worry: if this tries to slink off back into that draft list again, I'll just slap it back up again.

green_knight said...

I think there are any number of aspects of the publishing model that need to change, but the basic 'every writer should find his own readers' self-publishing model seems to be just as flawed - if not more - than the traditional one.

As a reader, my time is limited, so I need a) someone to ensure a certain basic quality, and b) to find a good selection of potential books in easily accessible places. (Currently called 'bookstores.') I don't want to browse fifteen or twenty websites, or rely on hearing from each potential author individually, because my day is too short.

Equally, it sounds like a major undertaking trying to market to the target audience, and it seems silly that every author should duplicate that effort when you could have publishers do it for you.

Anonymous said...

Be very wary of new models of publishing. The old one works just fine.And this is why you're my new best friend.Well, that and you beta read my book - for which I'll always be in your debt!

none said...

But making the excuse that you don't read the books you "publish" will get you nowhere in a libel suit. So I guess the "old model" of civil law is holding up okay.

Donna Hosie said...

Just because something is difficult, doesn't mean it isn't working. If it ain't broke - don't fix it.Self & vanity publishing prey on the desires of the impatient. I can completely understand this, but it's not a route I want to go down, because nothing is going to take away from me that moment I learn I am going to be a published author. I am prepared to wait, work and learn whilst keeping my money firmly in my pocket - (unless I spot some really gorgeous shoes obviously!)

Dan Holloway said...

I posted an article on my blog today about how I see the model of publishing emerging from the recession.

I don't disagree with any of what you say. I do think the way publishing works will change. I don't know whether it will be for better or worse - the reason I am taking the route I have chosen is more that I want to see what the opportunities arte, and to do that I want to be at the front and not the back of the new landscape.

That route, by the way, is more akin to what musicians than writers are doing. My previous book, Songs from the Other Side of the Wall, I am self-publishing, and marketing through a writers' collective - which is hardly new, but I hope we will do it with more research, focus, and efficiency than many previous attempts.

My current book, The man Who Painted agnieszka's Shoes, I am writing "live" on Facebook this summer, and giving away (I know the copyright issues and I'm happy with them before anyone says anything) - I'm structuring it like a mix of a DVD - there's a virtual environment in which the book exists (also rather like academic books do); a game - there's the chance for readers to develop the story themselves; and a music tour - there are real and virtual events, and the whole thing will, I hope, develop a festival atmosphere.

If (and I may decide not to - getting a following is reward enough) I decide to try and earn something from the current book, it won't be from the book - eberyoen gets that for free. It will be from the equivalent of a souvenir brochure (and maybe T-shirts, bags, caps - the novel is about online celebrity and marketing as well as being an exiostential thriller). And because this is merchandising rather than a novel, those people who buy it will a) do so willingly, and knowing what they are getting - it's an aspirational product and b) pay a price that affords a higher royalty, as it's a value-added product.

I don't know what I'll do in the futur - but I do know that what started as a business idea has actually had a profound (and positive) effect on my writing - both tehnically and in terms of the enjoyment I derive from it.

I know this is NOT for everyone, and I wouldn't claim it is. I do think, though, that we writers should remember that culture isn't so divided up as we think - The man Who Painted Agnieszka's Shoes is a mix of literature, art (it's effectively an installation), and music (not only in business, but the project has a house band, who are real, and whose music features in the story). I think we should think long and hard about what it means to be a "writer", and if we decide it means we are contributing to a long cultural heritage, then we might want to open our eyes, and see a wide range of not only not only creative but also commercial opportunities.