Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Buyin’ In or Sellin’ Out?


Picture this: You're an author who’s sold hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of ebooks on your own. You’re known for promoting the ebook path as one many writers should consider because traditional print publishing is, well, so traditional. You write books and blog and do presentations encouraging writers to try this ebook stuff—forget the major paper publishers in NYC! They’re hostile to new writers and don’t know the good stuff when it skitters across their shiny, expensive desks, the ones they paid for through the blood, sweat, and tears of their stable of underpaid (only six figures sometimes—egads!) celebrity authors. No, you, Mr./Ms. Successfully Epublished Author, soundly reject the idea of putting a book of yours in paper because the bloated bureaucracy that is traditional publishing is archaic and crumbling, and it crushes the dreams of writers and…

Brrrrrrrrnnnnnnng!

Author: “Hello?”
Publisher: “Hi, Mrs. Successfully Epublished Author Who Rants Against Traditional Publishers. It’s us, Huge Publishing Conglomerate, and we want to give you money so we can print your books in the paper format and charge your adoring fans way too much for them to make a disgustingly disproportionate profit neither of us deserve.”
Author: “Deal!”

What would you do if you were this author? Remember, you’ve successfully launched your own ebook empire wherein all monies flow to you and only you, and now you’d be signing a contract that gives you an advance and royalty package only, with little say in how the final product will turn out. Do you sign that contract? And if you do, are you buyin’ in or sellin’ out?

Are you buying into the idea that in this business you do what you must to make money, and that might mean signing with a paper publisher because it’s a good business deal and might expand your reader base? Or are you selling out like the people who espoused the hippie lifestyle in the 1960s until they realized that said lifestyle didn’t provide a retirement plan, nor did it include any way to pay for little Rainbow’s braces and brother Saturn Dragonfly’s school uniforms?

As with any revolution, sometimes those responsible for setting or keeping it in motion simply get tired or finally show their true colors. The ebook revolution is no different. Several major players, those in the news promoting ebooks as a viable, even more attractive, venue for frustrated and talented authors, have chosen to sign contracts for paper books with major publishers for large advances. Their reasons may differ, but the result is the same. The landscape is changing…again.

But were these players really necessary or just poster children for the cause? Were these authors unwitting marionettes controlled by a clever puppet master, one whose presence was clearly unseen but certainly felt?

Yeah, they were.

Eventually the faces of the success stories would have changed anyway as new literary phenomena replace the old, but the driving force remains the same. Technology, with its rapid advancements and subsequent imminent integration into the human race, will produce new pundits and radicals with every new version of every new thing. It is as inevitable as it is comforting, but still, I’m curious…

What would you have done?

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