Maybe everyone should write--it can be therapeutic, I suppose, although that's never been the case for me--but should everyone publish?  Was there some value for the larger culture in the old-school gatekeeper role of traditional publishing?  Sure--they missed a lot of good stuff that deserved to be published, and published a lot of stuff that they ought to be ashamed of.  But did they also serve a valuable role by weeding out huge quantities of execrable schlock?  Surely there's some writing that should never see the light of day--but now the rusty handbrake of traditional publishing has been released, and what's left of literary culture is careening toward the cliffs.  I'm playing devil's advocate here, to a degree--but for the sake of argument, who are the gatekeepers now?  Or was there ever a need for gatekeepers in the first place?

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I think some midlist authors still do, but they do so by accepting ruinous contracts and giving up almost all their profits on e-rights.

It is true that publishers make a profit on a midlist author long before they say the books have earned out.

As ebooks continue to explode in popularity and print books continue to fall by the wayside, the publisher poised to capture the lion's share of the digital market will naturally become the primary gatekeeper. And I think we all know which publisher that is. Bestsellers and mid-listers alike will flock to Amazon's imprints; the contracts are WAY more favorable toward the author, and the marketing muscle is second to none. Amazon's imprints are every bit as selective as traditional publishers, and they provide professional editing and formatting and cover art. It's traditional vetting for readers, without the bending over and taking it up the you-know-what for writers. Writers win, readers win, and the publisher wins. The way it should be.

Yes.  In the current publishing climate, authors get very poor deals from the traditional publishers.  This may change some day.

That's the best summary I've heard in a while. Makes total sense that the retailers will be vetting the publishers, whether they are companies or individuals.

Naw, there's still a role for publishers - small publishers selling to niche markets. Amazon and other ebook distribution will make it possible for small publishers to get into the game and to stay in it.

I suspect we'll see the big media companies like Hachette and Bertlesmann sell off their publishing divisions or at least reduce the amount of fiction they publish. For writers, making big money from fiction will be the extreme longshot it has always been and will still have more to do with selling the movie rights than anything else.

There won't be small publishers selling to niche markets if there aren't any authors willing to sign their crappy contracts. With so many better opportunities available, why would anyone sign away most or all of his or her rights for a meager advance and digital royalties so low they're arguably criminal?

Good point, Jude.  But I mostly agree with John.  Not everybody wants to or is capable of formatting and more to the point promoting a book.  So something like Trestle, where somebody else does that for them and gives them something is a desirable alternative.  (Oops, bad example, huh?  :-)  But the fact that Trestle were art pirates is independent from what they offered to authors, and they had a lot of takers)

Most people I know figure amazon will be the only publisher in the world eventually.  And will be totally evil.  

I heard a guy last month say that since the way the monolithic NEW YORK TIMES best-seller/book review kind of critical structure is being replaced by networks of small. focused sources like blogs and newsletters, it might be possible to see some of them emerge as influential enough to start doing some publishing on the side.

Not everybody wants to or is capable of formatting and more to the point promoting a book.

Go back and read my first comment. But even if you want to self-publish, you can get professional formatting for about $150 and a pro cover for less than $500. Then you get 70% royalties on ebooks (forever!) instead of 17.5% (or less). Promotion? Get real. You're going to be expected to promote your own book no matter how you go about getting it published.

Putting out $650 on spec is nothing I would do.  And actually, Trestle did get some promo for their line.  

I'm not going to go back and dig up some previous comment.  If it's something that has huge import on what I said, or somehow disproves it, I'm sure you'll repeat it.  

But you might try reading the last line of mine--just right there over your head.  Being published on a subsidiary line to Kindle Nation or something might not be such a bad way to go.

I might extend that to something like: Used to be you went to publishers because they had the presses and stores and lines of capital credit.  Now you go to publishers because they're hooked in to high-volume internet sites.  The only reason amazon doesn't fall into that category is because they got big.

And if you're paying $500 for cover art, you need to do more research.  SmashWords formatting (and SmashWords was the original platform for Trestle, as I recall) can be had for $30.

How any of this affects people who don't want to mess with it, I'm not sure.  There are people who want to just "get published".  And people who want to have a press name, not be "self-published".

Wow, Jude, this seems like a complete about face from where you were on self-publishing not that long ago. Glad to see things are working out.


I still think there will be a role for good editors and even promotional people at small publishers and academic presses. Sure, the royalty situation will change.

And now I'm going to take this chance to plug my new book coming out from an excellent small press, ECW, on March 1st called Tumblin' Dice.

Good title.  Hope it's nice and Stonesy

The guy I mentioned in my other post made the point that small presses, which could be anything between Whiskey Creek or Greywolf and some mom and pop ebook publisher of Westerns or gay vampire romance or some such thing,  are the "middle step" between SP and what he calls "legacy publishers". making it a spectrum, rather than a dichotomy.

Wow, Jude, this seems like a complete about face from where you were on self-publishing not that long ago. Glad to see things are working out.

Actually, I signed with Thomas and Mercer, so best of both worlds, IMO. :)

And yes, my attitude toward self-publishing has changed dramatically. Because publishing itself has changed dramatically. When the Kindle came along, it was suddenly a viable option for writers with game.


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