Let’s End the Author vs. Publisher Feuding and Indie vs Trad
There’s a lot of back and forth in publishing going on. Especially between “traditional” publishing and non-traditional. The latter would include not only the indie authors, but also non-traditional publishers flexing their muscles, such as Amazon.
I posted a blog a while back saying I felt like traditional publishing died in March 2012, we just haven’t realized it—with the emphasis on traditional not publishing. Surprisingly, it received little reaction. Then I posted a reply to an interview with Simon & Schuster’s Chief Digital Officer from an author’s perspective. That got some attention from inside the industry.
Sometimes it appears that the Big 6 and Amazon are locked in a strange struggle, much like Don Cheadle and his ex-wife in an early episode of House of Lies, where they’re screwing each other in an office bathroom while at the same time choking each other to the point where they both pass out.
After all, Amazon needs content right? And the Big 6 provide it. And the Big 6 are earning money off eBooks, making up for declining print sales and the majority of those e-sales come via Amazon. Right?
And both Amazon and the Big 6 need writers. Right?
Because readers want books. So the reader wanting the book is the destination. How and in what format the reader gets that book can vary greatly.
The reader has always been someone that writers were very focused on. But publishers, not so much. Distribution was the focus. Giving the reader access to the book. That’s changed drastically and thus we have position like Chief Digital Officer in a publishing house.
So we have the writer creating content and the reader consuming content. Everyone else is in between. The question then becomes are they facilitating that relationship or hindering it?
A fundamental problem in publishing has always been a disconnect between publishers and writers/readers. I see authors getting press for championing publishers and the way the system works (Scott Turow, strangely as president of the Author’s Guild, a misnomer, Malcolm Gladwell and others.). But they are the 5%. If we have Occupy Wall Street, perhaps the indie author movement is Occupy Publishing? The midlist author has, frankly, been treated poorly by publishers. Not out of meanness or spite. But because of lack of resources and lack of return. The publisher didn’t have the editors, publicists, etc to support them and ultimately, the bookstore didn’t have the shelfspace. And the ROI for the vast majority of those authors wasn’t worth it with around 90% of novels “failing”. Of course, the argument could be made, and I’ve made it for years, is that this is a classic chicken/egg situation. Was the lack of ROI because of the lack of support, which was because of the lack of ROI?
So on the other end of Turow/Gladwell, the well-curated who naturally want to protect a system that is working just fine for them, we have some indie authors wishing hellfire and brimstone on the traditional publishing world. I know from whence his rage comes. Every midlist, low list and unpublished writers does.
I think what really needs to happen is that the vast majority of authors need real representation with publishers. At least be listened to. If 90% of novels published, “fail” then we need to really rethink the business model. The people who have the most vested interest in those novels not failing are the author. Instead of having an adversarial relationship we need to go in the other direction and make the author-publisher relationship much closer than it’s ever been.
Your thoughts? What can publishers do to help midlist authors sell books?
And, as an aside, Jen and I are teaching a Self-Publishing Options on-line course in April and May.
- Writers create content, readers consume content, where does everyone else fit? (writeitforward.wordpress.com)
- IndieReader’s Amy Edelman on Self-Publishing (ebyline.biz)
- The Reality of Amazon and the Digital Publishing World (writeitforward.wordpress.com)