Just read this article in Publisher's Weekly. If I was a tradtional publisher I think I'd start to get nervous. This has all the feeling of a small snowball rolling down a mountain side turning into a massive avalenche.
Editors move all the time. Authors aren't supposed to move unless they've been kicked out. It's supposed to turn other publishers against them. Let's be clear about this: they hold all the marbles and we toe the line. (Is that a mixed metaphor? I'm not up on marbles)
agree, Dana. it kind of has to be one way or the other. I do think both versions of the contradictory cost argument amount to - "We don't know what's going to happen and we don't know what to worry more about."
I'd be happy for someone in publishing to say, "We don't know." Nothing wrong with that. It's when they don't know, but still think everyone should defer to their experience with a rapidly deteriorating business model that I get a little testy.
When the cost of books plummets, in whatever format they're offered, publishers will abandon the field for lack of profits, leaving writers back at square one - with masterful works, no doubt, and only the gigantic struggle of making those works known to the world. From the readers' point of view, it seems good to have cheap books on offer, but when there's no longer a publicity department because no longer profits in books, readers will face the same problem the industry's gatekeepers face, having to sift through the thousands of manuscripts for possible gems. Lose the publishers and you lose the filtering process for readers. Who has that kind of time? As a reader of books I want publishers to stay in the game for this very reason, so I hope the proper balance is struck for all concerned. As a fledgling publisher, I recognise the individual author's flight to recoup more of the work's profits as the proper reflex of anyone who does the actual business of writing the book - they deserve all that's possible. But I also recognise the pivotal role publishers play in keeping the field open for all writers of talent. Without those publishers, the best works will be ever harder to find.
While I certainly think a lot of what will happen is up in the air, I don't see any particular reason why publishers have to be the ones serving the gate-keeping role. I could spend 15 minutes online and be assured of finding enough good books to read for the next year just by going to Goodreads and looking for recommendations by people who like the same books I like. I'm not saying everyone will do that, of course, and there may be better ways than Goodreads, but I've yet to hear a reason why publishers have to be the gatekeepers.
Funny, I don't see publishers as "gate-keepers." Every publisher and editor I've ever spoken to says they'd like to publish more books but they don't have the money.
All those recommendations on GoodReads started out as manuscripts submitted to publishers. The publishers don't really gaurd the gates to keep books out, they're making the ones people recommend available.
Now you're right, of course, it doesn't have to be publishers.
Valid points (though some of the books on goodreads are self-published). I don't mean gate-keepers in the negative sense that you hear so often, I was responding to how McG used it. They may not be seeking to be gatekeepers, but effectively they are. When I read agents and publishers talking about the value of publishers, that role is one of the two main things they tend to point out.
Dana is quite right. There is no publicity department for most authors published by a major house. The marketing consists of placing the title and blurb in the seasonal catalog addressed to booksellers, where it is clearly identified as to saleability by how much or little the publisher is spending on publicity. A few titles in the front receive support; the rest get nothing. Trust me, that kind of marketing can hurt more than it helps.
At the same time, they have no choice but to establish some kind of triage system. They know, or think they know, the difference between the small, niche books and the big, mass-market books. Inevitably in that process some deserving books are overlooked and undersold, while other books suck up more promo money than they should. Publishers have to flip the coin because the promo money's so limited. If you want a best-seller, you have to write a "best-seller." Failing that, you'll be lucky to have sales (and advances) in the low five digits. There's very little middle-ground, unfortunately.