Saturday, August 01, 2009

People is Publishing

I realize that I’ve sort of dropped out of this discussion, but running the agency and selling books demands much of my time, as it does Robert’s. Saturdays can be lighter for us, so I thought I’d try to get some thoughts out there while I can. We are continuing to explore this topic because we think this is an important discussion, which is why we’ve made time for it. So far, it appears to have gotten some ideas out there, and we are glad of that, especially if at any point it somehow makes a difference.

There are so many points to cover that I’m sure I’ll miss some of them. This is a complex issue and only parts of it can really be addressed adequately in the short amount of space we can allot at any given time. I suggest that anyone interested in the subject continue to read a variety of sources online and in print to keep up with the changes in publishing that will affect not only readers, but writers and other members of society as well. As we go through this, please keep in mind that “people is publishing and publishing is people.” It all comes down to that, to the human aspect, and this is the fundamental reason why there is no one perfect publishing model that suits everyone.

If this discussion has shown one thing, it’s that there are different perspectives on the future of publishing that are somewhat filtered through each poster’s wants, needs, and background. I know my experiences as an agent/writer color how I perceive Scott’s concept. I’ve published in both print and electronic formats in about 3-4 different areas, and basically feel writing for publication is very much about convincing someone or some entity to invest in a product—your story—which is why you target what you write to publishers who handle that type of project. What most writers, especially new ones, object to is that “getting in” seems like a random and completely arbitrary process controlled by inaccessible people making decisions about your work based on who knows what. Even with Scott’s plan, though, there’s still that element there, although they would be ad execs and marketing people. You might be trading one perceived set of bozos for another perceived set of bozos, but in all of it, some set of perceived bozos has a hand in the writer’s destiny. That is not going to change. If a writer doesn’t like that, there actually ways to get around it that are available now. Scott’s idea will open another venue for writers who have a certain skillset and predilection for a certain type of writing, but that person’s work will still have to be approved by someone. I see it as another venue, but not the only one. Society is too diverse for only one model to meet all its needs.

For any change to work, as Robert mentioned, you have to get current popular writers to buy into it, and so you’re asking people who’ve been successful in one type of system to give it up to perpetuate a new paradigm that might not work in their favor, and, until proven, may not be good for the reader. That’s asking A LOT in any industry. One of the basic drives in humans is self-preservation, which is why even someone who does nothing but complain about his job will fight like a cornered Chihuahua if there’s a chance that job will be taken away. Self-preservation says that swapping the known and successful for the unknown and possibly disastrous is not a good idea unless someone has a really, really good reason. Unfortunately, for most humans, the greater noble cause, as history has proven, is not good reason enough. And even for those writers who care about readers, why would they switch if the new plan isn’t proven to help their audience yet? No one takes a pill without it having been through years of study, so why would publishing, which does reflect our culture, be any different?

That being said, as I mentioned before, I think Scott’s idea can work, but I don’t think it will take over publishing completely. E-books, at some point, will have a larger share of the market and perhaps reach 75% of it over a course of years. I agree with Robert in that respect, but I am more apt to encourage those who want to try new things to do so more quickly. The sooner we get started trying different ideas, the more quickly we get to the ideas that have the best chance of actually being sustainable. You have to be prepared for a lot of failures, though. History doesn't remember them, but for every incredible, mind-blowing success, there were dozens of failed ideas that made the way for its rise to greatness.

I believe the rise of e-books will take this long because of simple numbers. Different types of readers will migrate toward what is comfortable for them, and this is generational. As long as there’s a demographic out there made up of readers who want print books, there’s going to be some publisher who wants to make a buck exploiting that market. That’s just good business, ala P.T. Barnum. Unless there’s a strain of flu that wipes out my generation and a couple or so before it, those readers are going to be around for a long time. I think my generation is a bridge in that some will demand print, others will demand electronic, and others, like me, function well with both. These generations also have very definite feelings about advertising. Older generations tend to hate and not trust it; newer generations are so used to it that it’s more white noise than anything, and others, again like me, have a love/hate relationship with it. For example, I just bought a pair of shoes I saw advertised in a magazine, the kind I really had been looking for. However, if a commercial comes on during my TV program, I start flipping channels until the barrage of ads is over and I can return to my show.

This is why I think there will continue to be different publishing models flourishing in the future, much like now but each with a larger share of the market except traditional publishing, which will have much less of a share than it has now unless it responds adequately to the changes in reader needs.

Technology, as it has done, continues to move us forward and the industry is slowly changing (NOTHING happens quickly in publishing). We have been and are on the path forward, and what Scott is doing is what many people are currently trying to do—innovate. Many publishing innovators will fail. Some will succeed. At least they’re trying to do something. Scott is putting his time and energy where his mouth is; he’s not just offering a suggestion, he’s putting it out there and DOING it. It might fail miserably, but he’s taking that risk. If it fails, then that’s one publishing innovation to mark off the list, so that in itself is a success. I respect that, as does Robert, because, believe me, starting a literary agency in Kokomo, Indiana, has been nothing but a risk. We are an anomaly, and one that statistically shouldn't exist. I don't think there are any other agencies out there like us, at least not still in business. We constantly strive to innovate by the books we take on. Yes, there is the commercial aspect of it that sustains the business. However, we can sneak in books that challenge current norms, whether mainstream publishing is quite ready for them or not, and nurture those careers because we have that luxury, due to our location. This is how we can work within the current paradigm but also be open to other ideas. Do all these efforts result in publication? No, but some do, and we are upfront with the authors about their chances. It's a risk we take together, and every time this happens, every time the magic works, we're all the better for it.

I think I should mention something here: Robert is the “nice” one in the family. Writers get waaaaay more sympathy from him than from me. He’s the one who really got me firmly entrenched in technology with his love for computers and music-related gadgets (he got his IPod first), he comes from an entertainment family, and he worked in advertising as a young man. He loves to innovate and try new adventures, and I love him for it. Needless to say, it’s been strange to see others perceive him as an inflexible technophobe reluctant to change. He’s playing devil’s advocate and voicing his opinion as someone who’s worked in the field for over a decade. He's simply reserving judgment until the method can prove itself viable. If anything, he represents exactly what anyone with a new idea in any business is going to face and should face. Just because an old way is flawed doesn’t mean you jump on the bandwagon to crush it and see what arises from its destruction without first giving some thought to all the possible outcomes, at least not unless you really don’t care if the new system is successful or not. Do I look forward to the changes? Yes, whole-heartedly, mainly because I don’t think the current model works for all readers. Do I think Scott’s is going to be the only change if it works? I doubt it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value and can’t make a difference.

I think e-books with ads could definitely have their own place in the market, just like manga and graphic novels, but I think they would appeal to a certain demographic. I could see some writers really getting into the challenge of producing a book with parameters set by advertisers just for the fun and challenge of it. As an agent, though, I have to be aware of my clients’ goals, as is Robert. If they don’t include experimenting with different types of writing, then we focus on the goals at hand. I can advise my clients as to the latest advances in publishing, but Scott’s idea isn’t a latest advance yet. It’s still in prototype mode and not quite viable yet. He’s not the only one trying something new. There are exciting changes going on all around us. This is, oddly, a great time in publishing, even though it’s also a tough time for many writers, agents, editors, and publishers. As opportunities arise, we advise our clients of their viability and our ability to assist them in the development of such endeavors.

I can see some writer who loves extreme sports creating stories about extreme sports for those readers into that lifestyle, and those e-books with ads being offered by some sport shops. The readers would welcome the ads and the new reading material because it would serve two purposes: offering them exposure to new products of interest and offering them a reading experience geared toward their interests. The YA market would be especially open to this, given many kids download music and read online. It’s natural to them, but I don’t think that this would be the only way they’d get their reading material. Scott’s example of a cruise ship partnership hit home because we love to cruise, and many people who do are returning cruisers, and if you’ve ever been on a cruise ship, you know there’s lots of young and old readers (most cruise ships have print libraries). Could this be modified into Scott’s model? Probably.

So what happens next? Let’s go back to the extreme sports example. Who do you think advertisers are going to want to write these books? You or Shaun White? Who will get more downloads? You or Shaun White? You might get hired to write the book, but whose name will appear on it in an effort to get the ads out to more consumers? So what has changed?

Something else to consider: Consumers know they can download a good book in their area of interest with ads that might be of use to them, probably written by Shaun White, so maybe now they want the sports shop to have a reading area, just like a bookstore or library, where a bunch of people can hang out, read free e-books, and drink over-priced beverages filled with legal stimulants. Now you have to convince brick and mortar shops, places where people converge, to change the way they do business by dedicating space and personnel to the reading area. I can hear it now…

“What? Dude? No, wait. Dude! Duuuuuude. Ah, dude.”

So this goes back to my original point that changes in publishing will have far reaching effects. It’s up to people to decide why and how they want to participate in the coming changes. Responding to change isn't easy, but one thing is certain...it's worth it.--Sharene

27 comments:

A Fan said...

Nice blog post, Sharene.

As for Robert's devil advocacy, I think the problem was that people were taking Robert at his word without realizing he was playing devil's advocate. I think that's why people were reacting the way they were. And it does explain Scott's calm replies to Robert and even coming to Robert's defense at times. Scott got what Robert was doing whereas Scott's "defenders" didn't. Maybe if Robert were to mention that this is what he's doing when he's doing it, things will calm down in the comment sections.

Again, nice blog post, Sharene.

Helen said...

A very thoughtful post. Thanks for posting it.

A Fellow Pen said...

Sharene, I agree with the others that your post is a good one. My question then is: Does this mean you and/or Robert will help Scott or not?

Though Robert is trying to shut down discussion in the comment section for "Ad-Based Publishing--The Debate Goes On" to move it here, I suggest you read what I and others -- such as Frank Speaking Frankly -- have said in that section.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Dear A Fellow Pen Pal,

Sharene is currently busy with something and since your question also includes me, I'll try to answer it. But first I have to ask you, and others, what exactly is it that I'm supposed to do for Scott? Scott has already stated that he's testing his theory by writing an ad-based book. As he writes it, he will try to convince advertisers to pay for content- based ads in this project. So far there's nothing to back him in as he hasn't asked me to back him. In the meantime, I'm doing my job as devil's advocate telling him, and you and everyone who comes here about some of the pitfalls such a system might face. Maybe I'm too enthusiastic about shooting his idea down, but that's what I'm trying to do. Every pilot program needs someone like me, or should have someone who sees holes in a theory, holes that must be plugged if the endeavor is going to work--and better before it's implementation than after. Scott is taking notes and you and others get a front row seat to the discussion.

While I'm at it and since you've ask me a question, I'd like to ask one, if I may. My question is this: What do you see in this for you as a writer? Also, do you think that Scott's theory will solve all of publishing's problems? And thirdly, what do you think publishing's problems are that would make you want to see it drastically changed? That last one in particular I think will be of value for people interested in this topic to answer. What is wrong with publishing today?

Big Apple Dame (BAD) said...

Robert, admit it. You have Sharene tied up in the closet and only let her out when people are demanding to know that she's still alive! I'm onto you, Robert! Don't think I'm not!

Helen said...

Robert, does Scott know you're helping him in this way?

Frank Speaking Frankly said...

Robert, as you asked not only A Fellow Pen to answer your question, I'll jump in with my two cents. You asked:

what exactly is it that I'm supposed to do for Scott?

How about what I suggested in my fifth point in my comment in the comment section of "Ad-Based Publishing--The Debate Goes On". So people don't have to go digging around in the root cellar for it, here it is again:

Fifth, how I think W-M can help Scott out is by representing his sci fi novel to ad firms. If Scott does it himself, he's just some Joe off the street. If W-M does the contacting, he'll be taken seriously. Now if you're lazy, over-worked, swamped, or just don't think you have the marketing ability, what I suggest is turn over the initial contact work to Scott. He's a marketer, right? I bet he can do the email inquiries in his sleep. Just let him use an email W-M email address. It shouldn't be under his name or that would defeat the purpose. I'd suggest making up a fake W-M "junior" agent name for him to use. Have him bcc all the email work he does to one or both of you so you can keep tabs on what he's doing (and possibly learn some good marketing lessons in the process) and then if some ad firm or big-time advertiser says they're interested, you can take it from there. Or let Scott continue to do the work as long as it continues by email until it needs a voice on the phone or face at a meeting whereupon one of you takes over and does the representation. How about that???

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Dear Helen,

Playing devil's advocate, yes. I don't know if he's taking notes exactly because I can't see him. :)

A Cold Splash of Reality said...

Sharene, have you, Robert, or one of your thankless slush pile readers read any of Scott's science fiction novel? Any of it? Even the first page? If it is crap, that it then fails to prove Scott's ad-based ebook idea will mean nothing. Do see what I'm saying? Now if it is a great novel that either of you would love to represent to major publishers and both think will win a Hugo and a Nebula as well as go down as one of science fiction's classics, that's another thing. Then what Scott is doing is potentially sacrificing his novel to test his business model. Then I would say what he's about to do would qualify as "noble", as another poster put it.

And if it is really such a great novel, wouldn't it call upon you to try to talk Scott out of potentially sacrificing it to test his business model? You say you love books. If you really don't think Scott's business model is a viable one and his novel is a great one, doesn't your conscience demand you try to get him to get it published the "old" way?

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Frank Speaking Frankly,

Since this is a big chunk, I'll try to answer line by line.

Fifth, how I think W-M can help Scott out is by representing his sci fi novel to ad firms.

He's not asked me to do this for him--plus I have no contacts at ad firms. I'm in the publishing realm not the advertising realm.

If Scott does it himself, he's just some Joe off the street. If W-M does the contacting, he'll be taken seriously.

Scott is a marketing expert and thus he's familiar with the world of advertising. I am a literary agent, although I did at one time contact ad agencies, that was when I was a kid in Jacksonville, FL. Those ad firms don't exist today. Bottom line is that I have no creds with ad firms and so I'd be just some Joe walking in off the street to them.

Now if you're lazy, over-worked, swamped, or just don't think you have the marketing ability, what I suggest is turn over the initial contact work to Scott.

I'm not lazy, but I do have other demands, "like clients" whose novels and books I represent to publishers. As I said above, I don't have the expertise with ad agencies and therefore would have to go back to college to get a degree in marketing or some area that would make me more knowledgeable in that area. I have no desire go back to college, no desire to get a degree in marketing nor to work in that field. Secondly I don't have the time and thirdly, I don' have the money or the desire to get the money. I'm very comfortable in what I do now. If my services are no longer needed as a literary agent, I have enough knowledge of general publishing that I could switch into something else in the industry. The rest of your comment, I believe is answered this and what I've said above. Scott is the expert. He doesn't need WM or any other agency's credentials as advertising is not publishing and vice versa--but you know that, right? Hope this answers your question. If not I'll try again.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Dear A Cold Splash of Reality,

What you hear is a great sigh of relief. Finally a person who has actually read the posts and sees some holes. lol

To answer your question, Scott has not queried us on his novel, and its status is not known to us because it has really only come up within the context of this discussion. We are sure if he deems it to need representation at some point, he will ask us to read it and see if it's marketable.

However, according to his current model, he plans on offering it free as an e-book download. In that form, he would not need us or anyone in publishing for that matter. If his work is successful and his model works, then he has a trial balloon from which to launch his publishing career. If it fails, then possibly he might contact us. . .

Hatchet Man said...

Sharene and Robert,

Here's what I see as four possible outcomes for Scott's experiment. These partly inspired A Cold Splash of Reality.

Scenario #1: His novel is crap and his business model doesn't work. RESULT: Bad reviews and no financial success of any kind.

Scenario #2: His novel is an instant-classic and his business model doesn't work. RESULTS: He wins awards (Hugo, Nebula, etc.) but it financially fails.

Scenario #3: His novel is crap but his business model works great. RESULTS: Critics rip on the novel (no favorable awards) but it is a financial success.

Scenario #4: His novel is great AND his business model works great. RESULTS: Awards and riches. Fame and glory.

The interesting thing about the above four scenarios is that #1 and #4 don't provide good conclusive results. With #1, why did it fail goes unanswered. It could have been for either reason. With #4, while it shows more conclusive results than #1, it might not be results that can be repeated by other authors since they very likely will not be able to always produce instant-classics.

What is interesting is #2 and #3. They would show whether or not Scott's business model works or doesn't. With #2, it had the benefit of a stellar piece of fiction but nevertheless failed because Scott's business model couldn't capitalize on it. With #4, Scott's business model is so good that it can make even a piece of crap into a financial success.

I know this will sound odd, but if Scott is doing this experiment to prove his business model works, he should purposely write up a suicide-inducing piece of fiction and try to make it a financial success. Am I right or am I wrong? See any holes in what I'm saying?

A Fellow Pen said...

Robert,

what exactly is it that I'm supposed to do for Scott?

Help him. I don't agree with what you told Frank Speaking Frankly about his suggestions. I think if you offered to do that, it would enable Scott to at least appear to have a knowledgeable third party essentially endorsing his novel. You being established lit agents can say that. Something like:

We at the Wylie-Merrick Literary Agency think Scott's novel is a great piece of science fiction. We would love to pitch it to the major print publishers (whom we believe will want to publish it), but Scott is interested in seeing if advertisers (like those you represent) would instead like to advertise between this novel's chapters and then release it as a free ebook to the public.

While that won't help him completely, it would help.

Nor do I agree that you must wait for Scott to ask before you offer can offer help. If you're really a friend, you offer help without waiting for your friend to ask for it.

As for your questions, here's my replies.

What do you see in this for you as a writer?

A chance to continue to be a full-time novelist into the future.

Also, do you think that Scott's theory will solve all of publishing's problems?

Who cares about publishers? I don't. I don't know any author who actually does. You need to hang around authors more often and you'll find out we despise publishers in the worst way.

What Scott is proposing will kill them off and good riddance. It won't kill off us writers nor agents. Or rather, it won't kill off agents willing to change. Those agents that cling to the old way will go down with the ship. In your last paragraph to Frank Speaking Frankly, you sound like one of those change-resistant agents. Very much so and no one, not even Sharene, can say that can be misinterpreted. On the bright side, you'll have no trouble finding a good deck chair as the Titanic sinks.

What do you think publishing's problems are that would make you want to see it drastically changed? ... What is wrong with publishing today?

You don't see any problems with print publishing??? You're either joking or clueless. In either case, I'm not interested in getting into an argument with you. Contrary to what Sharene tried to do in her blog post, you torpedoed all her effort in that last paragraph to Frank Speaking Frankly.

Sharene Liberation Front said...

Sharene,

If you can read this, be assured that we are working for your release. The RR (Robert Regime) will be defeated. All RR's slaves will be freed and you with them. Hold on! Don't give up hope! We're coming!

Go Go Writer Pen! said...

Sharene and Robert,

Why don't you simply ask to see his novel? If a friend of mine was writing one and I was a lit agent, I'd naturally ask to see it and offer to give him my professional opinion about it. Or aren't you that close of a friend?

Mystery Hack said...

This has been a really grand discussion. A friend sent me a link to Scott's Part 1 on Friday and I have been reading through all of it from "Demise of Print Publishing" to this latest blog post. There are so many unanswered questions and I really hope Scott continues sharing what he's thinking and planning on doing.

And here's my contribution. First a little about me. To date, I have had published twenty-four novels (twenty mysteries, three thrillers, and one romance). My bread-and-butter are naturally mysteries. They pay the bills and enable me to live a comfortable life as a full-time novelist. Not lavish. No castle or private island, but a nice home in the suburbs and kids in private schools. A couple of cruises a year and the ability to attend all the mystery conventions that my wife will let me attend. She says they inflate my ego too much so I'm only allowed a strict diet of one a month and none during December. But enough about me.

Robert asked A Fellow Pen some questions and opened them up to all of us writers. I'll address the last one.

"What is wrong with publishing today?"

I think the problem with publishing is books are getting ever more expensive and that is reducing sales. Every increase in price results in a decrease in sales. We are pricing ourselves out of customers. This trend will only get worse. Something has to be done to reverse it.

I think Scott's idea could be the answer, but possibly not in its current form. What about a hybrid of it? What about putting ads into print books? Between the chapters. Advertisers pay and the price of books are reduced. Cheaper books = more book sales. More book sales = more people reading books. Possibly advertising can reduce the price of hardcovers to a mere $5! What about that? Has that been tried? I've asked around and no author I know can recall anyone trying it. I called up my agent today and asked him. He's never heard any publisher doing it.

What about giving that a try? Have you proposed such an idea to Scott, Robert? If not and you think it might be worth a shot, how about suggesting it to him? Wouldn't that be a grand experiment?

Have Scott's science fiction novel come out in two forms. A regular hardcover book priced at the current rate for hardcovers ($29.95) and one with ads between the chapters for $5. Same story. The two types sold side by side and then let the public decide which they prefer more. Think of the big public debate this might cause. I bet newspapers would run articles on this contest. What do you think, Robert? Sharene?

A Bloody Brit said...

Robert wrote:

To answer your question, Scott has not queried us on his novel, and its status is not known to us because it has really only come up within the context of this discussion.

Not true. In the comment section of your "7/1/2009 Query Policy" blog post (which was the blog post right before your "Demise of Print Publishing" blog post), Scott wrote:

Second, just my luck. My bad luck. Now you're up for mysteries and the current book I'm working on is a science fiction, not the YA kind. *LOL* Oh well. After this current one (I just stepped over the minimum halfway mark of 43,000 words), my plan is...

Fly On The Wall said...

Enlightening and interesting. Robert, Sharene and Scott, thank you for letting us sit at your table as you guys have your confab and allowing us to ask questions so we more fully understand what you three are talking about. Thanks.

LA Baby said...

Hatchet Man, your scenarios don't include if the book is so-so or the business model is so-so. You only presented the extremes when those are not likely to happen.

Sharene and Robert, please comment on Hatchet Man's four scenarios, but also inject and comment on so-so scenarios too.

Frank Speaking Frankly said...

Robert wrote: If my services are no longer needed as a literary agent, I have enough knowledge of general publishing that I could switch into something else in the industry.

If Scott succeeds, there might not be a publishing job for you to fall back on.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Hatchet Man,

Yes. . . and No...

A Fan said...

Robert: "Hatchet Man,

Yes. . . and No..."

What? I don't understand.

Mystery Hack said...

Where is my comment?

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Hatchet Man and A Fan,

I'm messing with you. I used to work for a guy who answer everything that way--yes--and no. Anyway, who knows what the future will bring. My crystal ball is in the repair shop and until it's fixed I can't predict the future too well. They say they don't have the part,any time soon--that it came from the dark side of Jupiter or one of it's moons--they don't know which. But the next UFO has a shipment on it so they're sure that the part is in transit. Anyway, until then, I'll have to fake it and confess that I don't know the answers to your questions. If someone has some gift that they haven't let anyone know about, please help us out here.

Oh, big news flash!!! Scott just wrote and said that he's sending his next post in a day or so and most of your questions will be answered--maybe, if his crystal ball is working that is. I'm slso hoping, in the near future, to have guest bloggers from conventional publishing give their take on Scott's ideas. We'll keep you posted.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Mystery Hack,

Patience, my man, patience. I have a literary agency to run.

To answer your question about putting ads in print books, this suggestion was floated a couple of years ago as a way to reduce the cost of books and help to get major publishing on a more solid footing. But since then, I've not heard anything more about it. I'm thinking ads in print books might work better in some non-fiction books then it would in fiction novels. Why do I say this? I say it because fiction is in trouble as it is and because of this, I think publishers feel that putting ads into something that's in decline anyway, might push the whole category over the edge. As Sharene and I have said in our posts, people, readers and non-readers alike truly despise advertising of all forms. Some folks will put up with it to get their entertainment at a reduced price, but others will pay more not to have advertisements. Examples might be satellite radio, HBO, Showtime, CDs, DVDs etc, showing that some folks, if given the option, will pay extra not to have advertising in their entertainment. Good question to ask yourself is why there aren't ads, other than those for upcoming movies on DVDs or music CDs. Aren't these overpriced also? In my opinion, I think if given the option of whether to pay less and turn these media other to advertisers, people would opt to pay the extra money. Along that same line, folks were offered free dialup internet if they'd just watch the ads, but not many chose to do it.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Frankly Speaking Frank.

First of all there has to be an understanding of open and closed source publishing. At present both are available to writers. In other words, if you want to publish your book as it is, you have always had the right to do that and it's easier and less expensive now than at any other time in human history. At the present time, soon after I write this post, it will be published--and it's free. That's because I'm publishing in open source media. I'm the acquisitions, editor and copy editor. There's no distributors involved, no marketing people to satisfy, and no publisher because I do it all right here. Now in closed source publishing--both electronic and print, someone has to do the acquisitions, copy and regular editing, someone has to do set up for print (this done the same way in both electronic and print publishers), cover art, a marketing director and possibly a complete office staff and there's a distributor--all these people have to receive a pay check and, on top of that, there has to be a profit. So in Scott's model and the one you're so overjoyed about (open source publishing where everything submitted is published) there can't be much overhead or it won't work--you can't give away free books in other words. Open source publishing goes on all the time. A place called Authornet will put your book on their Web site for a small fee--thousands of writers put their books on their Web sites and some put books, chapter by chapter, on blogs. However, electronic and print publishing (closed source) slogs on. I don't see the death of publishing as you envision it. Open source is already here and has been here for years, yet no one pays much attention to it. Put ads in it and people will pay even less attention to it.

Melissa said...

All these lovely commentors exemplify why old school book publishing has not died. Book authors, unless they take to reading their Amazon reviews--don't have to tolerate having a bunch of anonymous posters telling them what to write, when to write, how to write, where to write, etc.

Robert doesn't need to tell people he's being the devil's advocate. My understanding, from reading the posts (something I suggest people actually do before commenting) is that Scott had an interesting POV that WMLA wished to share with those readers who don't read the comments thoroughly.

Several of you were clamoring for Sharene's take on the argument, then when she posts, you continue to harp on Robert and why they aren't throwing poor Scott a bone. As Scott said earlier, he's not here trying to get a literary agent. He's trying to add to a discussion about the future of publishing, a topic that should be of interest to those readers of a blog done by literary agents.

I agreed with several points Sharene makes, including the idea of how ads could be used to market reading to a group who aren't known for picking up the classics.

And that point is exactly it. Are you supporting reading or books? Because while I have enjoyed Ms. Sharfeddin's books, I disagree with her comment here. I think publishing, like other forms of entertainment, has its art and its fluff--and they all suit a purpose. And many different business models can co-exist in the publishing world. If it were an all or nothing game, hardcovers would go out of print as soon as mass market paperbacks came into the picture. But both formats continue to exist.

Those people who contend that print books are superior to e-format aren't really readers--their fetishists. As one myself, I believe I'm allowed to make this statement. I read online constantly. But I still can't resist bookstores and purchasing a book. I'm currently doing an online degree program. But I print out articles that I could theoretically read online. I like to make notes, highlight quotes, and I find it makes it easier to write about what I've read to be able to do so. With non-fiction, especially, I might skim certain things or flip back later to re-read something. I don't find this as easy with online text.

Scott's idea has merit and I really liked Mystery Hack's suggestion of releasing the book in both models. Give the reader a choice. And frankly, I think both would sell just as people frequently listen to an audio book AND read the paperback. Just as people shell out money to buy books of essays that are all reprints from other sources. David Sedaris would be a perfect example of how this model works.

Currently, Chris Anderson has released the audio format of his new book, Free, for free download while still managing to sell enough of the print edition to be #12 on the NYT bestseller list its first week. So Sharene's observation that many forms will continue to exist seems correct to me.