Monday, July 27, 2009

Another Perspective on Ad-based Publishing

Well, well, well…I leave for a second and what happens? Chaos! And I didn’t even get to start it. Hmmph. Someone owes me a banana split or butterscotch sundae (raises eyebrow at spouse).

Seriously, for those readers twisting and turning about the whole ad-based, print-is/isn’t-dying, why-did-you-post-it-this-way-instead-of-that-way discussion, please do keep in mind the key word “discussion.” That’s what we do at the agency, at conferences, with family, and pretty much everywhere. It’s the heart of why people are attracted to the Internet. Discourse, discovery, the sharing of thoughts and ideas, and also an easy way to get pictures of Russell Crowe. But I digress.

Even between agents at the same agency, you will find matters in which they agree and disagree. We here at WMLA often have lively conversations, some heated, about all things publishing-related. I believe I have mentioned the ongoing mainstream versus genre argument that we regularly engage in, the irony of it being that we fundamentally agree but somehow Robert is always wrong and I am always right. At the end of the day, though—and I mean this literally—everything ends up with snuggles (between me and Robert, not Scott). Yes, literary agents snuggle, at least we do. I know. Take a moment. Try to wipe the image from your mind and we’ll move forward.

Okay. This post is about where I agree and disagree with Robert and Scott, or my take on the whole ad-based publishing endeavor and the future of publishing in general. I should warn you that I’m a change junkie. Born that way and I don’t know why. Change is good. Change is normal. Change is the way of all things. For some reason, I never go into a situation without thinking about how it could be changed to be better in some way. Do I welcome the changes in publishing and in my profession in general? Oh, yes. I can't wait. I can't wait to see what the literary Phoenix looks like as it rises from the ashes. I think current publishing is irrevocably flawed and needs, at the least, freshened up a bit. How that plays out has yet to be seen, but promises to be very, very entertaining.

As you can guess, this hasn’t always worked in my favor in the publishing industry, but sometimes it’s put me ahead of everyone else. Such is the nature of things and how I operate. To that end, my views on the industry extend across the spectrum, because with change comes many unknown factors and change junkies are always aware of those tiny unknowns that can throw the whole course of your prediction(s) off.

My response includes not only my thoughts on Scott’s post, but some of the commenters as well. First, do I believe all books will become e-books? No, not all of them. I think there will always be a niche population who desire or need them, so I don’t think that we can say e-books will be the only type of reading material in the future. Earth’s population is too diverse for that, and we have to take into consideration human limits and human physiology. There will be some people who simply can’t use e-books, just as there are those who function better with them.

I think Scott’s idea of ad placement has potential, but I believe that it would only evolve as its own branch of publishing rather than being the only publishing paradigm. I think that is key. I don’t think there is going to be one publishing model, because that doesn’t work for everyone, and in reality, there isn’t just one publishing model now. Some are just more familiar than others. I agree with Robert that some people will just turn off completely if ads are introduced, but I also think there will be generations of readers who are so used to ads, due to Google and Facebook and such, that they won’t care. This actually works against Scott’s idea in a way, but in a way it doesn’t. I still pay attention to ads I see in magazines and on Facebook, if they aren’t ridiculous come-ons, so I think it will be a generational thing. I think different demographics will be attracted to reading material presented in a variety of ways. Again, this is actually true now, but no one is really doing anything about it because the old model is so absolute. That, I think, is going to change in the next decade. And that’s a GOOD thing.

Robert is absolutely right about corporations, which is what book publishers are. Some are greedy. Some feel they are bastions of culture. None are going to go down without a fight. No new technology is going to be accepted until it proves profitable or inevitable, and anyone who’s been making money in an industry is going to have to choose whether to cut losses or grab a stake in the future mula-making. The current war between open source versus proprietary is only going to heat up. For every entity that believes individuals should be able to create their own fun, there’s an entity that believes they can provide a better experience based on their expertise.

I have more to say, but this has rambled on too long. I invite any questions or comments and will, as time permits, add more of my thoughts on the demise of publishing. Happy reading!--Sharene


An Old Sea Dog Author said...

I have had more people send me links to this blog today than any other blog. Ever. One friend said, "Read this!" and gave a link. Others got all long-winded but essentially they meant the same thing.

Scott, you're damn smart. Period. You should write BOTH near-future science fiction AND non-fiction futurology. They will compliment each other and you.

Robert, I know many an old editor that would love to adopt you for trying to fight back the tide. Not that you're all wrong. You got to work in the now, but you also need to look ahead and prepare for the future.

Sharene, I think the fate of your agency depends on you. Experiment. No one ever said you had to be all one or all the other. I haven't seen Scott's fiction writing, but I can tell you from his guest blogs here, he'd make a fine non-fiction writer. I say make him your guinea pig. (No offense meant, Scott.)

That's all I'm going to say.

Go Go Writer Pen! said...

If you can, I suggest you somehow increase the number of blog posts shown on this page so Part One doesn't need to be dug out of the archives. This is all a set that should be easily read by visitors.

Oh, and great discussion! I would say you I think is right but I'm not wearing my flame-proof underwear so I'll pass. [Looks nervously at Robert.]

Jim MacKrell said...

This is a great discussion and I admire the frankness herein. I don't see advertising as become a magazine type of ad format but more of a model after TV Sponsorship. I am in the middle of negotiation with a major corp about sponsorship and mutual marketing of my novel. In this case, the company will receive credit as sponsor on the cover and back cover. A page acknowledging its participation the forward and most of the "imprint" will be on the website that supports sales. Both the book's website and the corp's. We are both looking at the same audience and the same market. Since I am in the middle of this venture, we all will have to wait and see if this works. So far, so good.

The Underground said...

Sharene, when Robert isn't looking, sign Scott up and represent him. I think you two would be a good match.

Longtime Lurker said...

What has happened to this blog? One day it is in a coma and the next day there are so many fireworks going off that you'd think it is Bastille Day in Paris.

I'm not complaining but I sure wish I had checked this more often so I could have watched all this develop before my eyes. I'll move this blog from my weekly bookmarks back into my morning bookmarks until all this excitement subsides.

Is there any chance Robert and Scott could go face-to-face at an upcoming literary convention? Sharene, you could act as referee. I bet that would be the most attended event at that con.

Scott Jensen said...

Sharene wrote: I think Scott’s idea of ad placement has potential, but I believe that it would only evolve as its own branch of publishing rather than being the only publishing paradigm.

I agree. And I think "publishing" might be too arcane of a word for what will then happen. I don't see a place for publishers. Writers, agents, and advertisers, yes. Publishers, no.

What I think might develop is people with experience dealing with ad firms being the ones that pick up this ball and run with it.

Robert and Sharene, correct me if I'm wrong, but the vast majority (if not all) literary agents come out of the world of publishing and not advertising, right? What you bring as an agent is a firm understanding of the publishing world and personal contacts within it that you can leverage for your author clients. Is that right?

If it is right, the idea of agents then pitching ad firms will likely scare your typical agents. It is unfamiliar ground. The world of ad firms plays by different rules. It has different customs and etiquette. And when you sit down with an account executive or agency head, they do expect you to be able to talk their language. To have an understanding of how marketing works. As you're asking money from them, they will expect you to bend for them and not them for you. I question if your average lit agents possesses any of that. I think that knowledge of a lack of knowledge will prevent lit agents from doing as I propose.

Not that this knowledge cannot be acquired. It can be. But there will be a learning curve that I question if current lit agents are willing to climb to be part of the new future I've been talking about. Just as it took time to establish oneself as an agent in the publishing world, it will likely take just as long doing in the advertising world.

It is for the reasons above that I am now thinking of sending letters to a number of ad firms to see if they'd be willing to represent me to other ad firms. They would be better at pitching ad firms since they're an ad firm themselves.

However, the above idea isn't good when it comes to the selling of others rights, specifically movie and TV rights. Robert and Sharene, am I correct that the average lit agent has experience dealing with such negotiations? If so, this gives them an edge over the ad firms. Then again, it just means a learning curve for the ad firms as dealing with ad firms will involve a learning curve for lit agents.

As my novel is currently in the beta reader stage, I have time to ponder this and hopefully better arrange myself for the upcoming pitch stage.

Thoughts and comment appreciated by all. And not just from Sharene and Robert. All are welcomed. All input will be appreciated.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Longtime Lurker--

Act as the referee? Are you kidding!?! Do I have to wear a bikini and carry a sign around the ring at the end of each round, too? It's because I'm a girl, isn't it? OMG, this ALWAYS happens. Here, Robert, you big strappin' agent guy, you do the keynote...Sharene, honey, can you just stand there and look pretty? And don't say too much. It'll mess up your lipstick. AAAAAARRRRGGGGGHHHHH!

Longtime Lurker said...

When did being a debate moderator become a demeaning position? In the news world, being the moderator of one of the Presidential debates is considered quite an honor. The person sought for that honor is one that is respected by their colleagues in the press and has a reputation for being fair. Not rooting for one side or another. From your post, I thought you were trying to take the middle ground. Where was I off?

Hatchet Man said...

Woohoo! Sharene in a thong bikini! Shake it, baby! Shake that money maker! Here's a dollar for you! Work for it! Work for it!

Tracy said...

Sharene, I don't think Longtime Lurker meant it that way. I think LL meant you were to be the host of the debate. I don't think it was a put-down of you because of your gender.

Scott Jensen said...

Go Go Writer Pen wrote: If you can, I suggest you somehow increase the number of blog posts shown on this page so Part One doesn't need to be dug out of the archives. This is all a set that should be easily read by visitors.

Actually, I would recommend that Robert's "Demise of Print Publishing" blog post also be included. My posts were originally a merely comment to Robert's post. It is Robert that upgraded it to a three-part blog post. And for all those that think Robert and I are on opposite ends of this debate, read that "Demise" blog post. As far as I view things, Robert and I are only arguing over what change will happen. Robert isn't arguing against change. His "Demise" blog post makes that clear. Even the title of that blog post makes that clear.

Big Apple Dame (BAD) said...

Sharene, I like your post. Very diplomatic. I hope Scott replies to it. I would like to see an exchange between you two as much as I'd like to see an exchange between Robert and Scott. I think Robert is taking a more confrontation approach to Scott's ideas. That's fine and will probably produce some really good discussion, but I would also enjoy a more level-headed mature discourse as well. (Robert, I'm not meaning that as an insult and I hope you don't take that as an insult.)

Scott, if you're reading this, please read over Sharene's post and see what would be a good point(s) to further discuss with her. Thank you.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Longtime Lurker--Sorry for the confusion, but as you can see, I'm definitely outnumbered here in the testosterone department and simply mistook the implication of your statement. My apologies. The written word, as much as I love it, sometimes doesn't convey the whole meaning of a person's thoughts. :)

Big Apple Dame (BAD) said...

This comment sections are messed up. I know I posted a comment about wanting to see Scott's reply to Sharene's post. Now it appears but it looks like it was posted before my comment about it was posted. That's messed up. Robert and Sharene, are you approving later comments before earlier comments? If so, stop it. It makes these comment sections confusing and doesn't show the progression of discussion in them in the order they appeared to us readers. It makes some of us look like more of a fool than we already are and we don't need any help in that regards.