Amazon’s Kindle Store, it seems, is quickly becoming a bandwagon for novels that couldn’t find a publisher elsewhere. Some of these authors are posting respectable sales figures but, for my money, the vetting process is the main advantage traditional publishers have. Self-publishing is still self-publishing, whether as an ebook or POD. I won't buy either, at any price, or even download for free (unless it's an author I'm familiar with), because I don't waste my time reading rubbish. I'm sure there are some diamonds in the rough out there, but I simply don't have time to sift through the dreck trying to find them. With a traditional publisher, at least I know several professional eyes have seen and greenlighted a project before it hits the shelves. I still might be disappointed, but the odds are better that I won't.

What do you guys think? Will sites like Amazon’s Kindle Store eventually put agents and editors on the endangered species list? Or, is the traditional vetting process essential to the future of publishing?

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I think a lot of publishers are turning down books because they don't feel there is a "big enough," market for them - not because the books aren't "good enough."

I hope you're right. (I think.) Almost all of the rejections I got for my PI novel praised the writing. My agent didn't want to drop down to smaller publishers, and I thought I had a better chance of building a readership by getting on base and moving the runners than standing standing around waiting for a home run. (Not to strain the sports metaphor too much.)

She said my FBI/organized crime story wouldn't sell, so I took it out on my own to small publishers, and so far she's right: it hasn't sold. If the issue is that my books aren't "big enough" to be marketable, but "good enough" to be publishable, then I'm hoping I can find a small house to take a chance on me, or for one of these new niches (like direct to electronic) may show some promise for me. There's only so small I can afford to go and still be worthwhile, though, given my real job, a daughter starting college, and my personality. I do need a publisher, not just a printer.
Amen, John! On the fact that publishers turn down books because they don't think they'll get enough sales. I have the same problem with readers as you do. And I have the same problem as Dana, placing my literary historical thriller. Those who have seen it don't know what to make of it because it doesn't fit the current fads. My agent thinks I should rewrite it.
No way! It may crop up on Kindle.
It's funny, there are many boks about the movie business lamenting the fact that agents and marketing departments have too much power.

I shudder to think what the state of literature would be today if sales projections and fads of the moment had determined what got published.

Well, I guess publishing would look a lot like Hollywood. Or even more like Hollywood than it does now.
This is an interesting point--and I think it's leading in a direction that traditional publishers may find disturbing. Let's say you're veteran best-selling author X, whose Kindle (or other e-book) sales are now pushing into significant numbers. What's to stop you, next time negotiations w/ publisher come around, from breaking out electronic publishing and retaining those rights for yourself? Or from skipping the traditional bound-book publishing route altogether--what role does the publisher play in the e-book universe that's really worth 85% of your gross? If you feel that you still need editing, what's to stop you from hiring a pro to do a little editing work on the side? I do think the e-book is potentially a game-changer for publishers--one they ultimately won't like, as more and more best-selling authors jump ship and go into business for themselves.
It is an interesting idea, Jon. For a bestselling author, it would be cheaper to hire an editor and a tech person to handle all the online sales stuff and a PR person than it would be to give an agent and a publisher their cut.

Sort of a revolution en haus as opposed to the self-publishing revolution en bas (thanks for giving me the chance to pull those out ;)
I think this is where the parallel with the music industry holds up best, with the already established names. I bought an Eagles album last year, and the only place to by it was online from them. (At least at the time I bought it.) Established talents have that option, as their fans will look for them.
Depends on the author, I guess, but if I were getting seven-figure advances from my publisher I don't think I would jump ship on the slim chance that I could make more on my own through internet sales--with all the headaches that go along with being a sole propriator.
Oh, exactly. I intend to raise that point with my agent next time a contract rolls around. If it does.
Arrgh! This goes with John Loomis's post. The electronic rights are now part of the print contract, but they can be taken out and retained by the author.
Publishers have traditionally offered authors two things, or maybe three: access and distribution, and maybe promotion. Editing may or may not be offered, and may or may not be helpful, depending on the editor. Agents may or may not suggest useful rewrites. "Vetting" as performed by agents and editors is largely self-serving--they can't afford to waste much time on stuff that won't sell. It's not about weeding out the crap, necessarily, though some agents and editors still care about good writing--it's about finding books that have a good chance of selling for a lot of money, and then selling a buttload of copies once they're in print, crap or not. Promotion has now gone the way of the woolly mammoth, except for a few sure-fire best-sellers. Access and distribution are also evolving rapidly: with Kindle, access is suddenly universal, and distribution is instant and infinite, no dead trees required. For publishers, it's a potential windfall--production and distribution costs reduced to near zero, zero returns, no more getting raked over the coals by Borders et al on discounts; but it's also fraught with danger--what's to stop established stars (the Stephen Kings and Lee Childs, say) from jumping ship and going it on their own electronically? For emerging or midlist authors, the e-book trend is promising up to a point--it might help sales a little, and right now Kindle pays the same royalty as a full-priced hardcover, which is great. But will we reach a point when traditional publishers, ever wary of risk, begin to push emerging and midlist authors into Kindle-only Kontracts? The electronic version of throw-it-against-the-wall strategy? I'll bet my lunch money we'll start to see "smaller" books coming out in e-book only versions in the near future, if the e-book sales trend continues on its current track.
Hah! It could happen. Wouldn't put anything past them. We could dig in our heels, I suppose. And as long as Kindle takes offerings, we can go that route ourselves without sharing.
I still buy from book stores even though i know many readers that now happily purchase "unknown" authors from sites like amazon. There may be a viable future in internet books but it will tak a while to get there.

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