Table of Contents
- Parallel Tracks
- The Establishment Snipes Back
- The Authors’ Revival Service
- Ether-eal Quote of the Week
- And Why Aren’t You Self-Publishing?
- Last Gas: Going the Other Way, Into HarperCollins
In the first section of this installment of the Ether, “The Establishment Snipes Back,” we see a case in which figures in the industry! the industry! seem to be switching places with the ruder, more vociferous elements of the self-publishing community of a year ago.
In the second, “The Authors’ Revival Service,” we see an opposing impetus — equally questionable — a kind of euphoria that can squeeze the hearts of self-publishing enthusiasts and make it hard for them to hang on to some needed perspective.
Here at Publishing Perspectives, Roger Tagholm quoted Faber publisher Stephen Page at the London Book Fair talking about recruiting. In What New Skills Do Publishers Need to Navigate in Publishing? Tagholm has Page saying:
I’m looking for people who know how to create value for our authors. I don’t want apologists for books who come with a sort of post-graduate attitude. Everybody wanted to be TS Eliot’s assistant once. We don’t need programmers, but we do need people for whom technology comes naturally and who can see ways that technology can help build a different kind of engagement between readers and writers.
Page, known to be one of the most forthright publishers, willing to concede challenges where others dissemble, also contributed the phrase “mirage of stability” to one of my own London on the Ether columns for The Bookseller.
Publishing Perspectives’ lead, Edward Nawotka, writes forcefully with Tagholm from London in Publisher Complaints Against Amazon Becoming Pervasive.
Here are senior figures in publishing “speaking off the record, as has become the norm when Amazon is involved.”
And when is Amazon not involved?
Nawotka is echoed by The Bookseller’s chief, Philip Jones, who writes in Carry on publishing with canny caution, “how crazily fretful the sector is when it comes to the folk from Seattle.
“No one will talk on the record about Amazon, and some won’t even talk privately.”
It adds up to a disturbing tension that pops its head around the shiny walls of trade-show booths and glows red under exit signs in writing-conference halls. Like overly zealous social-media fans muddying investigations with their attempts to identify suspects, it’s easy to slip in to ideas of intra-industry competition.
I’m feeling like I might do a round of BLAH BLAH BLAH PUBLISHING tweets soon, if only because people are saying stupid things again.
— Ginger Clark (@Ginger_Clark) April 22, 2013
The drive to find a “new normal,” to declare the disruption over, has arrived this spring with all the grace of prickly heat. So keep calm and read on. As agent Jonny Geller gently, respectfully helps us remember, all of us, even the majors, have our bad moments:
Found my old copy of this 1st edition of a great book -with an unfortunate typo on back cover.. twitter.com/jonnygeller/st… — jonny geller (@jonnygeller) April 20, 2013
The Establishment Snipes Back
One literary agent in the audience, Sorche Elizabeth Fairbank, tweeted that I was “offering up bullshit” in suggesting that a legacy publisher’s primary value is paper distribution.
This is author Barry Eisler writing in Eisler on Digital Denial at the site of fellow-author and sometimes co-pundit J.A. Konrath.
When a keynoter offers up bullshit (publishers core value as paper distributors) at a writer’s conference, do I speak up? Develop Tourettes? — Fairbank Literary (@FairbankLit) April 20, 2013
Several times in the past, I’ve appreciated Eisler’s even-toned counterbalance to the frequent “Konwrathful” (my term, not Eisler’s) commentary of his associate. In this case, however, Joe Konrath—who follows Eisler with comments of his own—is almost as reserved as Eisler, himself. Especially when compared to the tweet storm “offered up” by agents and editors who heard Eisler’s most recent keynote address.
@fairbanklit I really dodged a bullet when I lost the auction for the privilege to paper-distribute a certain someone. Yeesh.
— sarah knight (@MCSnugz) April 20, 2013
The incident in question involves a speech Eisler gave Saturday at Pikes Peak Writers Conference. I heard his keynote at the 2011 Writer’s Digest Conference in New York, and his talk then was along the lines of what he describes here having said to the Pikes Peak audience.
@fairbanklit call them out. You have to. — Tyrus Books (@TyrusBooks) April 20, 2013
What’s getting Eisler into hot water is his basic assertion that self-publishers are capable of mounting almost every element of effective publication themselves, except the print distribution power that large traditional houses have through their physical apparatus and contractual connections with the brick-and-mortar retail marketplace. The engagement on Twitter of agent Sorche Fairbanks and the associated comments of someone tweeting for Tyrus Books as well as agents Rachel Ekstrom, Janet Reid, Pam van Hylckama, editor Sarah Knight and some others (you need to follow the conversation back to see them) indicates that there is, in fact, a bright line of contention around the idea of hardback and paperback distribution being the last redoubt of legacy publishers.
@fairbanklit stop listening! save yourself! — jennifer laughran (@literaticat) April 20, 2013
But while there’s certainly a degree of over-simplification in someone saying “paper distribution is all traditional publishers can offer today that an author can’t do for her- or himself,” it’s not hard to understand that concept.
@barrygoldblatt @barbferrer @laurendane I wanted to walk out but I’m a wuss. — Pam van Hylckama(@BookaliciousPam) April 20, 2013
Three points Eisler does not bring up in his own defense are worth noting here:
(1) The highest-profile self-publishing deals of late with traditional houses have been for what?—print. Authors including Hugh Howey, Bella Andre, and Colleen Hoover have been able to retain ebook rights in major deals with large legacy publishers for print editions of their books. The fundamental validity of Eisler’s point is proved right there: Our most powerful self-publishers go to traditional publishers for that key asset, print distribution. And, in a major change from the past, they’re able to get those deals while not handing over control of their e-rights to those publishers. What’s more, in the domination of print distribution, there is a lot being said on behalf of major publishers, I hear nobody bad-mouthing their capabilities there.
As I wrote here in Ether for Authors two weeks ago, Howey’s agent Kristin Nelson spoke compellingly at Writer’s Digest Conference East about what a traditional publisher can do when genuinely committed to a print run. Nelson called that effect “unbelievable.” She spoke appreciatively of the “almost evangelical” commitment of such a publisher (the particular reference being to Random House in the UK, Howey’s print publisher there). And she added:
To play the devil’s advocate, I’ve yet to see a book go to international bestseller without a traditional publisher.
In a day when publishers are assailed on all sides, their print-distribution powers may be the one arena left in which they still command respect, hands down. Doesn’t it look as if trade representatives might want to be grateful for that?
Pikes Peak. doesn’t look like spring here twitter.com/LelandBChapman… — Leland Chapman (@LelandBChapman) April 21, 2013
(2) The standoff between Simon & Schuster and Barnes & Noble, is about print. Because S&S’s contract is up first, it has become the first knight to this battle. B&N is “disappearing” S&S titles from its shelves, apparently willing to hurt authors and readers in its struggle for whatever it’s trying to achieve in a “showrooming” agreement with the publisher. This protracted skirmish, like the high-visibility print-only deals for self-publishing authors, argues that this is, in some ways, one of Big Publishing’s last stands.
@janet_reid Didn’t have to name names, did I. On the bright side, I’ve never had so much fun saying bullshit to a table of horrified writers — Fairbank Literary (@FairbankLit) April 20, 2013
(3) The digital dynamic, as I’ve written before, is an energy of distribution. It is about distribution. It is a creature of distribution. That is precisely its nature, its mechanism, and its power. When you say “digital,” you are saying “new distribution.” There is every reason, every reason, for Eisler and anyone else to look to distribution as a delineating factor here. Every reason. A failure to understand that is a failure to grasp the very essence of digital disruption. Braying at Eisler may show more ignorance than indignation.
Great weekend at Pikes Peak Writers Conference, though I am apparently not pals with altitude. I’ll have to train with @haleshannon. — libba bray (@libbabray) April 21, 2013
These reactions, and the attitudes behind them, aren’t just immature. They’re also fundamentally unhealthy. How can agents and editors serve writers in a dramatically changing industry if they refuse to listen to new and contrary views? If they believe — and actually advise others — that it’s a mistake even to risk exposure to contrary views?
And when we see his message so bitterly assaulted by members of the agenting community, we have to recall agent April Eberhardt’s comments, again at Writer’s Digest this month (recounted in that same Ether).
Most agents, Eberhardt told the audience, still are “invested in the traditional” industry operations. We didn’t have to wait long to see that, did we? Look at some of the climb-downs now:
@barryeisler I think, at least I hope, that my tweets weren’t as lynch mob as some. I agree that trade folk have to change to survive. — Pam van Hylckama(@BookaliciousPam) April 22, 2013
@barryeisler and that it’s the most glorious time to be an author. Oh, and that passion is a great word. 😉 — Pam van Hylckama(@BookaliciousPam) April 22, 2013
@barryeisler anytime! I really didn’t mean to sound as sassy as I did. 140 characters does no one any favors. — Pam van Hylckama(@BookaliciousPam) April 22, 2013
@barryeisler in fact if you have time in the near future I’d like to take you to lunch and discuss ideas on how my agency can be better. — Pam van Hylckama(@BookaliciousPam) April 22, 2013
Awwww. Big exchange of cat pictures to follow.
Of course, the writers who were at Pikes Peak and experienced the agents’ attack may not be seeing this about-face. Damage was done. And the gracious and wise Eisler—if you follow him these days, you’ll notice him cordially letting many prodigals off the hook—even handles the publishing-as-lottery question well.
The odds of success in legacy publishing can be thought of as a kind of lottery — but this is true of self-publishing, as well, where the odds of success are also statistically low.
Where I see tweeters blowing right past what Eisler has written is in thinking he has said that one or the other publishing approach is the “only” lottery. No, he just wrote that they are both lotteries, if what you hope to achieve is big success. He’s saying that major success is hard to come by in both traditional and self-publishing. If you ignore this, if you say he hasn’t said what he has said, then your argument against Eisler is feckless.
Another bad bit: “Legacy publishing is a lottery” as if it’s not about skill and dedication to market and craft. — Fairbank Literary (@FairbankLit) April 20, 2013
Eisler goes on:
Too often, people compare the reality of self-publishing to the ideal of legacy publishing, and such a skewed comparison doesn’t yield useful results. The most useful way to look at the choice between legacy publishing and self-publishing, therefore, is as a choice between two kinds of lottery, each with different odds, different kinds of payouts, and different overall advantages and disadvantages.
This is constructive commentary, regardless of your feelings about Eisler or his bouncier bro Konrath or the food at Pike’s Peak. It’s entertaining, in fact, to see more of Eisler’s critics coming down off the ceiling (or not), after he asks them to step up and respond to his column.
Hope @literaticat @janet_reid @bookaliciouspam @barrygoldblatt @laurendane will have integrity to respond: bit.ly/15wrxNL #PPWC2013 — Barry Eisler (@barryeisler) April 21, 2013
@barryeisler my only problem (and I said this to/about trade folk) was the over simplification of what publishing is. — Pam van Hylckama(@BookaliciousPam) April 21, 2013
@barryeisler I wasn’t there, didn’t hear the talk. My comment was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek response to the person who was irritated. — jennifer laughran (@literaticat) April 21, 2013
I’ve included agent Jennifer Laughran’s tweet here in spite of the fact that she has established with Eisler in comments that she was not flying at him with the others, and he has accepted her explanation on this. Konrath, however, has followed up on Laughran’s comeback with some cogent things to say regarding deportment online, things we all need to read and bear in mind. (As I’ve said, Eisler and Konrath make an unusually effective team this time.)
The Internet is forever. Things you say will always be there to come back and bite you. Those with integrity defend their words. They don’t make excuses or refuse to debate the issue they bitched about.
Some other instructive viewpoints are appearing in comments on Eisler’s weekend post at Konrath’s site, too. Here, for example, is fantasy author Laura Resnick in a comment:
I was a keynote speaker at that same conference in 2010. I don’t think literary agents liked my speech, either–though about 100 attendees (including 2 editors) pulled me aside in the hallway by the end of the day to tell me how much my talk had resonated with them. I spoke about why I had decided to cease working with literary agents 3 years earlier, and about why that had proved to be the best business decision I’d ever made. Still is.
At any rate, despite being aware of how threatened most mediocre-to-bad agents routinely appear to feel these days (I think smart, capable agents are doing just fine, but they’re the minority), I’m still surprised at the panicky vitriol inspired by your (I agree ) mild, uncontroversial comments in that speech.
Maybe it’s in the water. Or those high elevations.
Here’s a comment from a man whose hand I was glad to shake in London. The author and frequent self-publishing leadership figure David Gaughran was at the Author Lounge when I was (more later on this Ether) and here he is, in comments, sanity falling on the situation at last:
I genuinely struggle to see what’s so controversial in what Barry said – print distribution is the USP of a traditional publisher. That doesn’t mean publishers can’t (potentially) provide great editing, covers, or marketing – just that it’s possible for authors to attain those services on the open market, whereas print distribution is much trickier. What probably annoys agents and editors is the obvious question which follows: if paper is shrinking, bookstores are closing, and book-buying is transition online, what value is there in giving 52.5% to a publisher whose USP is print distro?… They could learn a lot from self-publishers (and Amazon), if they weren’t so busy shouting at clouds.
“Shouting at clouds.”
And what we finally come down to is a fascinating switch. A year ago, we were beset by self-publishing evangelists who (a) seemed to think there was some sort of holy war to be won, and (b) were frequently their own worst enemies because of the nasty, foul-mouthed attacks they made on traditional companies and/or personnel. Now, look at how these several agents are behaving, in open data stream, lobbing epithets at Eisler and, by association, at anyone who thinks as he does. I appreciate agent Barry Goldblatt recanting the ugliness of his initial response, that takes guts:
Just got shamed by Barry Eisler and rightly so. No need for name calling; had plenty of legit criticisms. #lessonlearned — Barry Goldblatt (@barrygoldblatt) April 21, 2013
Others are not so gracious, as some of the tweets I’ve included here in this column show you.
@fairbanklit ohhh…you’re listening to Barry Eisler! First mistake: going to a conference that has him as the keynote. — Janet Reid (@Janet_Reid) April 20, 2013
Here’s my question: Do authors want to be represented by agents who fire off contentious public comments of this kind when they disagree with other publishing figures’ positions on issues? Is carrying a concealed pitchfork acceptable in today’s publishing industry? Agents I’ve watched most carefully as they studied this quaking terrain don’t behave this way. Nelson and Eberhardt are two of them. Jonny Geller is another. Jason Allen Ashlock and Rachelle Gardner are two more. There are other fine agents working to develop and refine new paths to profitability and creativity for their clients, inclusive of self-publishing and of the new limitations to the roles of big publishers. They’re able to lay out their positions and join the industry’s conversations without deriding others they don’t like. And if we take it on ourselves to ask self-publishing authors to cool their rhetoric, we must do the same with trade-industry types.
@hellieogden & @andrewlownie, bringing friendly & personable back after endless tales of agent-based woe. Faith is restored! #authorlounge — lisa james (@petit_monstre) April 16, 2013
Two days before Eisler gave his talk in Colorado, Rachel Deahl of Publishers Weekly was in London, as many of us were, for the trade show.
She wrote in London Book Fair 2013: Defining the New Role for Literary Agents about a panel that included agent Andrew Lownie, formerly with Curtis Brown and since 1998 heading up his own shop. It’s a good read, not least for Lownie’s echoes of the “radical advocacy” Ashlock describes. Lownie’s term for agents is “copyright protectors.” Deahl writes:
Lownie noted, literary agents have become more like “sports agents or celebrity managers,” in so far as they now need to look after their authors’ entire career(s).
And then Deahl goes to the question that Eisler has positioned about publishers and print:
Lownie put it bluntly when he said that only a publisher can “get books into the supermarket.” (In London, with the dissolution of many of the bookstores, the supermarket is one of the most important outlets for selling books.)…Lownie said that while many authors can (and have) found success self-publishing, he thinks they will continue to need to seek out a traditional deal to “move to the next level.” As examples of this, Lownie cited authors like E.L. James and Amanda Hocking, who both struck traditional print deals, after finding success self-publishing.
Agents @andrewlownie & @hellieogden were informative & insightful discussing the future of literary agents #LBF13 #AuthorLounge ‘s brilliant — Elaine AM Smith (@elaineamsmith) April 16, 2013
And that’s what Eisler is talking about as a defining element of traditional publishing capability that still lies outside the reach of much self-publishing capability: print distribution. As far as I know, Lownie wasn’t chased out of Earls Court by tweet-spitting agents.
Ausflug nach Charlottenburg cc/ @frohmannverlag twitter.com/sposth/status/… — Sebastian Posth (@sposth) April 20, 2013
The Authors’ Revival Service
You know I’m a glass half full person, but I really do think the industry attitude has changed towards authors and self-publishing.
Author Joanna Penn is, actually, a glass-95-percent-full person, and her infectious ebullience is evident in London Book Fair RoundUp 2013: An Author’s Perspective.
She goes on:
The Authoright Author Lounge in the Digital Zone was packed out for every session, with security guards turning away people because the crush was a fire hazard. I did hear (unsubstantiated) rumors that 25% of attendees were actually authors and hopefully that means an even better event next year with more space allocated to the growing number of authors who want to learn more about the industry.
I was glad to get to say hello to Penn again, our second meeting in London, during the book fair there.
I saw her at the central event for the UK-side self-publishing community, the launch by Orna Ross’ Independent Author Alliance of a guidebook for authors, Choosing a Self-Publishing Service 2013.
Alliance members Ben Galley and Mick Rooney have taken the lead on writing it with Ross editing and Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss contributing.
Spreadin’ the Authorly Luv (A Short Cut to Book Marketing) buff.ly/14IkGl6 — IndieAuthorsAlliance (@IndieAuthorALLI) April 22, 2013
The idea is to update the book at intervals of some 20 weeks or so, Ross said during the launch, to accommodate the fast changes making things so queasy these days. It’s good to see this sort of guidance culled and collated by an element of the authors’ corps, and on a particularly vexing topic, too. Many writers need the warnings the Alliance and Strauss can offer about companies now preying on would-be authors. From the book’s introduction:
There are sharks out there in the literary waters. Literary deceptions abound, from fee-charging literary agents, to dishonest editors, to deceptive vanity publishers, to fake contests. The good news is that you can protect yourself, with the right information and a healthy dose of caution. This book provides the information; you must bring the caution.
Wish you’d seen @thecreativepenn‘s #book marketing talk at #LBF13? Here it is (slides)ow.ly/khTbo #selfpub #publishing — Roz Morris (@NailYourNovel) April 22, 2013
At the Book Fair, however, the tone was unstintingly positive.
At the book launch — ably led by an affable emcee, author C.J. Lyons, in a bit of call-and-response, no less — euphoria began to outweigh perspective. This is okay. The arrival of the book is an important milestone for the organization.
But while the “Digital Zone” area of the fair did feel buzzy, as Penn describes, that was in part because it was all centered around a comfortable watering hole, the Digital Café.
It also was far from the power-core of the fair: the main floor with its elaborate publishers’ pavilions and wide concourses was in the EC1 complex, while the Author Lounge, Author of the Day outback, and Digital Zone installations were a long walk—it seemed about halfway to West Drayton — and not at all integrated into the digs and doings of the main industry.
+1 MT @ljndawson: At some point, value of un-linked, closed data will trend to 0; value of #LOD will become self-evident. #publishersforum — Max Kaiser (@maxkaiser) April 22, 2013
I can vouch for those crowds.
I had to come back after hours to see the Author Lounge setup without artily dressed folks jammed in for various events.
So excited were the Alliance members presenting the new book that they had to be asked by someone in the audience for its title, they’d forgotten to tell us.
And, as I write this, the book isn’t showing up on the Alliance’s site, something I feel sure they’ll want to rectify when the excitement eases.
We’re in London at #LBF13 with @amazonkdp. If you’re in town, say hi and help spread the #AuthorLove twitter.com/CreateSpace/st… — CreateSpace (@CreateSpace) April 14, 2013
The energy of simply being at the big fair, in other words, began to become its own end for some folks involved in the moment. In fact, authors have always been at the London Book Fair, but as props, parts of the publishers’ exhibits, brought in to glamorize sales reps and charm distributors. Like so:
Joan Collins is every bit as glamorous in the flesh as she is on telly: Tuesday, at the Ivy Club at the #LBF13 twitter.com/VictoriaLamb1/… — Victoria Lamb (@VictoriaLamb1) April 19, 2013
The difference in the self-publishing authors’ presence is that they’re not put forward by publishers, of course, and the Digital Zone booths and stands, like the Authoright-programmed Author Lounge, itself, are corporate efforts to capitalize on the self-publishing movement. The authors were ringed by author services. Friendly ones. But this was no church picnic.
Time for a glass of wine to celebrate an overwhelmingly successful #AuthorLounge thnx to all who came and took part twitter.com/Authoright/sta… — Authoright (@Authoright) April 17, 2013
What I’d like to see next year is a program called “Adopt a Publishing Employee.” Each self-publishing enthusiast might collect his or her industry rep from EC1 and bond deeply during the long pilgrimage together into the wilds of EC2 so that trade people have a chance to see and hear what’s being offered and said to and about self-publishers. The divide is the problem.
Waves, coughs, waves! RT @nrmaharaj: If you caught a cold at the London Book Fair! Wave a snotty tissue like you just don’t care!#LBF13 — Mark Leslie Lefebvre (@MarkLeslie) April 22, 2013
This week, in reference to the fair and its various energies, we’re helped by the candor of author Roz Morris in Book marketing, self-publishing – and should you seek a publisher? All the fun of the London Book Fair 2013. She’s a member of the Alliance, herself, and was with us at the book launch. She also took a turn as an author-in-residence in the busy Kobo Writing Life display at its capacious pavilion.
Aura HD tem a melhor tela, mas é caro app.folha.com/compartilhe/no… — luiz barboza (@luiz_barboza) April 22, 2013
Kobo was launching its new Aura HD unit “for passionate book lovers,” as written up by Laura Hazard Owen at paidContent in Kobo launches $169 ‘Porsche of e-readers’ for power users, and it and Amazon vied amiably for the attentions of entrepreneurial authors. Relative to the discussion in our previous section, Morris encountered an interesting thing when she took print copies of her books with her to Kobo for her appearance there.
For my talk, I’d brought along print copies. When I pulled them out of my bag, the reaction was immediate and adoring, as if they were fluffy kittens. Even from the Kobo staff. People picked the books up, flicked through the pages, stroked the spine, read the back (spine and back covers are as important as front). I was amazed, actually, at how much impact a print edition makes.
All is not ebooks, you see, and this is something many self-publishing authors are grappling with. What’s more, rather than letting us think the authorial presence out in EC2 was all winged beings bending to bless the Book Fair with the exuberance of their creativity, Morris gets right down to what some of those authors were doing there:
The guys at the [Amazon] KDP stand reported that this year’s number one question was, “Why isn’t my book selling?” (Some writers were ruder than that. I saw a furious lady collar an Amazonian and growl: “I have five books on KDP, what are you going to do about selling them?” If Amazon starts offering marketing services, don’t wail that they’re evil. They get asked about it day in, day out. And it’s very unfair to blame them for it. They just give you the space to use.)
Happy birthday, Nabokov! The beloved author on what makes a good reader j.mp/10i2irA — Maria Popova (@brainpicker) April 22, 2013
Morris is also one of the Alliance’s folks who’s willing to grapple more earnestly than some with the gray areas inherent in this cheek-by-jowl proximity of self-publishers and trade people at a trade show. Her advice isn’t everything many self-publishers want to hear. Which makes her all the more valuable to party-hat wearers at the Alliance. She writes:
I still think if you’re new to the industry you should query, because you never know what opportunities you might find…An agent is probably more help to you at the moment than a publisher. Even if they don’t get you a deal, it’s a contact in the industry, should you need it. But also consider the agent’s motivation. They’re not risk-takers or talent-nurturers. They want you to make a deal, otherwise they don’t get paid…Publishers at the moment don’t seem to be worth the bother. Smart authors can do better for themselves, but this can’t continue. For a while, publishers will bluster on, trying to keep things the way they are. But in a few years’ time, they might be offering true partnerships and fair, transparent deals.
And when those “true partnerships and fair, transparent deals” come along, I hope self-publishers aren’t still out in the meadowlands of EC2 on their own, hooting it up about their independence.
Self published authors sometimes claim agents are “useless” and “dinosauric” but I wish them luck navigating that film contract negotiation.
— Ginger Clark (@Ginger_Clark) April 22, 2013
Find yourself a trade-publishing chum—an editor, a publicist, a proofreader, anybody. Get to know his or her issues; help him or her know yours. Bring EC2 closer to EC1. Because we can’t even get one publishing industry to work well. The last thing we need is industries not working.
@coberscheid The other thing is, the CONTENT is more valuable if it’s linked (a form of collaboration). #publishersforum — ljndawson (@ljndawson) April 22, 2013
Ether-eal Quote of the Week
You could make this so much easier for yourself if you stuck to only publishing bestsellers.
From The Editor Is You by David Worlock of Oxford.
If self-publishing eBooks has taught us anything , from Amanda Hockings and John Lock onwards , it is that the publisher editorial selection process does not satisfy the participatory urges of large populations , and that user review and rating is seen as the selectivity tool , not publisher puff and blurb .
Is 50-degree spring days how life is now? — Jeremy Greenfield (@JDGsaid) April 22, 2013
And Why Aren’t You Self-Publishing?
These authors will write about the writing craft, querying, the waiting period before their books release, promo…nothing about switching to digital or any of the upheaval they must surely be experiencing/aware of in their dealings with traditional publishers.
Like many of us, author Elizabeth S. Craig is taken with the large number of authors who seem indifferent to the revving engine of self-publishing. In Why Some Traditionally Published Writers Aren’t Self-Publishing, she looks at this anti-trend.
The reason I’m bringing it up at all (since I’m not exactly the type who wants to be a lightning rod of any kind) is out of concern for these writers, moving forward. And the fact that I’m somewhat frustrated and mystified. If these writers are simply satisfied with their current situation…I’m wondering how long that’s going to continue being true as advances decrease and bookstores close. As publishers tighten their belts and take on fewer manuscripts. As publishers merge or close their doors.
Some of the reasoning she brings to the table:
The main excuse I’ve heard for not exploring self-publishing is time. Some writers have got contracts for several years into the future and don’t see themselves starting another series for self-publishing.
I can see the time concern as weighty. But I think she may be getting closer to a quiet truth about the paranoia of the situation here:
I’ve also observed a sense among some authors that if they’re publicly vocal about self-publishing that it will somehow hurt their traditionally published career…that it will hint at their unhappiness with traditional publishing or imply criticism of it when they don’t actually feel that way.
I used to get cross with people for being delusional until I realised delusions keep us alive. — Matt Haig (@matthaig1) April 21, 2013
It’s an interesting read. Craig mentions non-compete clauses, which, in existing contracts, can stop authors in their self-publishing tracks. She also looks for perceptions of self-published projects as being less than commercially viable, and other elements of the usual stigma. Craig is a hybrid and has come to self-publish parts of her cozy-mystery-series output thoughtfully and cautiously. Today, she concludes:
I think many of the above reasons for not exploring self-publishing are hooey. I worry these writers are burying their heads in the sand and some of them are great writers–I would miss their stories.
“Calling him a spy writer is like calling Joseph Conrad a sea writer.” 81-year-old John le Carré, still at it. tinyurl.com/bonbdq3 — James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) April 19, 2013
If you have a publishing conference in the offing, let me know about it via my contact page, and I’ll be happy to consider including it in my site’s listing and in columns as I have the chance. Here’s a look at conferences coming in the near term. Please note that a listing here is not my endorsement of a conference or other event, but an informational inclusion. Amazingly, there are still some conferences I haven’t seen in action yet.
May 2-5 Oxford, Mississippi Oxford Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference & Workshops: Susan Cushman follows her Memphis Creative Nonfiction confab with this year’s gathering at the shrine. Among faculty members: Neil White, Leigh Feldman, Lee Gutkind, Dinty W. Moore, Beth Ann Fennelly, Bob Guccione Jr. and Lee Martin. Pre-conference workshops or just the creature itself, your choice.
May 3-5 Boston The Muse & the Marketplace 2013 is a production of Eve Bridburg’s fast-rising non-profit Grub Street program. Its material tells us that organizers plan more than “110 craft and publishing sessions led by top-notch authors, editors, agents and publicists from around the country. The Manuscript Mart, the very popular and effective one-on-one manuscript reviews with agents and editors, will also span three days. We expect nearly 800 writers and publishing professionals to attend, while maintaining the conference’s wonderfully intimate, ‘grubby’ energy that we love.” (Hashtag: #Muse2013) Live-tweet coverage from this conference.
May 28 New York City: Reaching Readers: Book Marketing Conference 2013 is a production of our Ether-eal host here, Publishing Perspectives and the Frankfurt Academy. An early-bird rate of $365 runs to April 15. After that, regular price is $415 for the day that features expert commentary from folks including Ketchum’s Nancy Martira, Scholastic’s Morgan Baden, Wiley’s Jeanenne Ray, Edelman’s Steve Rubel, and many more.
May 29-June 1 New York City BookExpo America (BEA): “BEA continues to evolve each year by adding new and exciting features to keep pace with the industry and in direct response to customer feedback to ensure you get the best return on investment by participating in North America’s premier publishing event.”
May 29-30 New York City IDPF Digital Book Conference at BookExpo America (BEA): “IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) Digital Book 2013 at BEA is a two-day conference focused on all the key issues we face in advancing publishing in an increasingly digital world. In-depth sessions will analyze key opportunities and pitfalls, highlighting compelling business strategies and actionable solutions.”
May 29 New York City: Publishers Launch BEA is May’s installment of the series of daylong conferences programmed by Mike Shatzkin of Idea Logical and Michael Cader of Publishers Lunch. Speakers on tap so far include agent Brian DeFiore, Enders Analysis’ Benedict Evans, Trident Media’s Robert Gottlieb, Aerbook’s Ron Martinez, consultant Peter McCarthy, Hachette’s Ken Michaels, and more.
May 29 New York City BEA Bloggers Conference at BookExpo America (BEA): “Attend BEA Bloggers Conference to learn, be inspired, and connect with book bloggers, authors, and publishing industry professionals. You will benefit from a jam-packed day of education, extreme networking, and the passion and fun that surrounds book blogging. Session topics include: blogging in today’s world, critical reviews, making money with your blog, creating community, and how publishers and bloggers work together.”
June 1 New York City uPublishU at BEA: “Are you ready to take the leap and transform your manuscript to a published book and/or ebook? Aspiring writers and authors will learn from industry experts tips and tactics and all about the tools and technology to help them self-publish a print book or an ebook.”
June 27-29 Jackson Hole, Wyoming: Jackson Hole Writers Conference: “Each year distinguished speakers, editors and agents join our resident faculty to deliver a weekend of active and engaging dialogue, collaboration and the opportunity for all of us to raise the stakes on our work.Manuscript critiques are an important part of our conference, providing a way for you to discuss your work one-on-one with experienced writers, editors and agents.” The program also features a pre-conference writing workshop.
A version of Minority Report but with reddit instead of precogs — Jacob Harris (@harrisj) April 18, 2013
Last Gas: Going the Other Way, Into HarperCollins
Hanas has been publishing ebooks before most people in publishing knew what they were. He self-published his first ebook, Single, in 2006, a collection of two of his previously published stories – a radical experiment at the time. That release and other such experiments led him to an ebook publishing deal in 2010 with Toronto-based ECW Press for his story collection Why They Cried.
But now, Jim Hanas is at HarperCollins, joining the staff as director of audience development.
And Jeremy Greenfield at Digital Book World, has an interview with him. HarperCollins Audience Development Director Jim Hanas: Finding an Audience, Book-by-Book. Some might see an immediate question in that headline. “Book by book.” Not reader by reader. Naysayers will tell you that’s precisely the problem with big publishing. It still knows its books, not its readers. But Hanas is a smart and creative soul. He has an answer:
The book business is very unique in that the end users are consumers but the immediate clients are not consumers. The bad news is that we’re in the same situation as Pepsi in that we’re now addressing consumers. The good news is that we’re in the media business so we know how to entertain people.
We have to hope he’s right.
Every piece of content — whether it’s an article in the New York Observer or a book from Ecco Press — has an audience of a certain size and is out there and audience development in my mind is the role of building systems and maintaining content strategy that make it as easy for us to reach that audience with that piece of content.
Much to follow up on from London Book Fair. This is a high-class problem. #LBF13 — DonLinn (@DonLinn) April 19, 2013
And as to being the author he is in a corporate role:
I like both sides of the game. I’m a literary writer and a literary reader and that’s what I love from an artistic perspective but you’ll find from my resume that I do enjoy digital media and how it’s changing and how it works. So, I actually enjoy the game of figuring out how to get content in front of the people who want it.
AND NOW I HAVE NO COPY LEFT IN ME. AT ALL. I LEAVE ALL OF YOU TO THE CHASE. OFF TO THE DON.
— Paul Bogaards (@paulbogaards) April 19, 2013
Porter Anderson is a Fellow with the National Critics Institute, a 32-year journalist with several newspapers and three networks of CNN, as well as a producer posted to the Rome headquarters of the United Nations’ World Food Programme. This column, Ether for Authors, appears here at Publishing Perspectives on Mondays. Anderson’s Writing on the Ether is read Thursdays at JaneFriedman.com and he is a regular contributor to WriterUnboxed.com. His all-new London on the Ether for The Bookseller was inaugurated during the London Book Fair. More about him is at PorterAnderson.com.
Main image – iStockphoto: Lexan