I've been noticing the plethora of small publishing shops springing up; those that charge the author (gasp!) and those that don't, and while I do appreciate the opportunity for all and all to get published, I’m wondering if some of these firms should come with a warning? What really bothers me is those that charge the author for publishing; I have no doubt this has been hashed out before here, and I apologize if I’m beating a dead horse. I only want to say that I applaud, and also differentiate, those small publishing houses that continue to exist and give chances to those great authors the big houses ignore. It seems for the author just starting out, unless you have a serious hook, or something they think will sell, you’re doomed. I’m sure this sounds familiar…nonetheless, I’ve read many excellent books from smaller publishers that give me hope that they are still aiming for the holy grail, while perhaps some of the bigger houses have gone “Brittney Spears.”

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There's a pretty good article in this month's Harpers called "The Last Book Party." Well, I think it's good because it says things I agree with. One of them is that publishing has just gone through about twenty years of corporate ownership by "media" companies that were after larger profits than books can sustain. So, the likelihood is that these media companies will shut down or sell of their fiction publishing divisions.

The question then is, what will rise out of this? Some people see a return to old-time publishing when the comanies were small, private operations willing to accept a 3-5% profit margin.

That may happen, of course, but there's also the possibility that completely new business models will emerge that take advantage of new technologies.

I can see a sort of guild or co-op approach to publishing when huge capital for print runs and so on aren't as necessary - we've talked about this here before, a kind of United Artists for novelists that might include writers, editors and promotion (bloggers and so on).

Anything's possible really, but it's probably a good idea not to be too attatched to the big-advance-other-people-do-all-the-promo work model.
I'm all for the end of the corporate stranglehold on commercial publishing--how anyone could think that a bottom-line driven approach to publishing was a good idea is beyond me. The fact that the MBA moneyboyz have driven the whole business into the ground is no surprise. Ultimately I think the trend has been to trade quality for commercialism: I've long been of the opinion that people would read more of what's published if so much of it wasn't such abysmal crapola. I can't speak for anyone else, but I try to make it a point not to give money to people who insult my intelligence.

As for letting the pros do the promotion work: really, really a good idea in my case. I like doing readings/events, and I'm fine with schmoozing booksellers, but I get about three months of actual writing time a year, during which I feel it's important to, you know, write. Anything that cuts into that in any serious way is going to be problematic for me.
Good point, Jon. I wonder if it has ever occurred to the MBAs that the people best suited to a gig by training and temperament should be the people to do it. Don;t the publishers' marketing people go to college to get marketing fegrees? Seems to me most of what they do now is decide which books should get published, based on their knowledge of "marketing." How much actual marketing they do, and what empirical evidence they have for its efficiency, is a murky business.
As far as I can tell, the marketing is directed at booksellers. I believe they send out salespeople. We used to get them from the academic publishers, selling textbooks, and mostly they were a nuisance because we were too busy to chat with them and already knew what textbooks we wanted. I see bookstore owners behaving in a similar fashion. Publishers also spend some money on posters and displays for some of their authors, and if they are really pushing, they pay for shelf and table displays, or displays near the cash registers. The publicists arrange tours, big ones for favored authors. They also send ARCs to reviewers. As far as I'm concerned, only reviews and store displays work. Everything else sells too few books to make a difference. I no longer do book tours.
My forecast sees a larger share of sales handled by Amazon than by bookstores.
My forecast is more and more and more online booksellers, and a fragmentation of that market. I also predict the demise of the hardcover once and for all, at least in genre fiction.

Don't get me started on the textbook industry--what a freakin' racket. Every time I finally find an anthology I like with stories or poems that seem worth teaching the fucking thing goes out of print, to be replaced by a new edition that's infinitely worse. I hate the sonsofbitches that run the textbook market--they seem to go out of their way to make my job more difficult.
We must be getting very close to the day when you'll be able to give your students a list of poems and stories and they'll be able to get them all online. I mean, get them legally, not through one of those textbook torrent places.
There are POD textbooks now--you go online, pick from a list of licensed material, arrange it in the order you want, enter how many copies you need and hit the order button. I haven't tried it, but it has a certain appeal: I've thought for a long time that I needed to edit my own anthology, mostly so I'd have something useful from which to teach.
I think you are right. I am sure you must pick from an approved list of material, but if you can mix and match to meet your lesson plan I'd go for it.
There might even be a way to make a buck a book on it. I remember some profs making a pretty good penny off of the textbook market.
I don't want to sound my age or anything, but college graduation was less than two years back for me. The sting of B.S. textbook publishers is still strong. Every semester there was a new version of this or that. It's refreshing to see a prof such as yourself, Jon, be equally disgusted. Some refused to teach from anything that wasn't cooling from the hot touch of the press. That always irked the crap out of me.
Well, the problem is that once they go out of print and have been in remainder for awhile you can't reliably get enough copies to teach a class--so you have no choice but to go with the new one, or something different altogether. It's a pisser, as they say in New England. What did you think of profs who assigned their own books? I'm thinking of doing that for my mystery as lit class in the fall; it's cheesy, I know, but it might also be kind of fun. What do you think?
I think at the college level it is a great idea. I know you don't make enough as a teacher.
As ex-faculty, ex-wife of faculty, and life-time student, I can say that one of the benefits of sitting for hours in the hallowed halls is to know the prof. I would be delighted to have the teacher's book -- it was sometimes the reason I signed up for that class.


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