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Sunday, March 11, 2012

More on Publishing Industry's Growing Pains

Unless you've been shipwrecked on some far distant island without access to radio, books, or internet, you're well aware of the revolution occurring in the publishing industry. 

As authors, we are hard at it daily not only trying to write and edit our books (along with the other many aspects of preparing a book for publication) but we also have to stay abreast of industry news.  And there is a LOT of industry news to stay on top of.

For that reason, I'm pasting some links below.

Scott Turow, President of The Authors Guild, posted an article decrying the fact that the Department of Justice may be taking a look at whether Apple and the Big 6 (well 5 of the 6) Publishers violated anti-trust laws to fix prices of books (known as the Agency Model).

His post is here:

Next, I am posting a link to a response article by Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler, which you can find here:

Be warned, Konrath and Eisler at times use some colorful language, but when it comes to laying it all on the line, they are usually excellent sources of information on publishing, particularly when it come to championing innovation in an industry that has usually not favored innovation or authors.

Last but not least, I'd like to provide you with a third and final post by James Scott Bell which ends up the whole discussion on an encouraging note.  You can find that here:

I'm not going to rehash the substance of these articles here.  That is for each reader to delve into for themselves.  I will simply make a few observations:

-  While I am not familiar with The Authors Guild, by its very name I would expect that it has the best interests of authors at heart, yet the post in question at The Authors Guild reads as more pro-publisher establishment, not pro-author.

-  I am completely mystified that anyone would stand by this statement in the present age:  "bookstores are critical to modern bookselling."  Huh?  I'm not against bookstores--I don't know anyone who doesn't like to go browse a bookstore.  But facts speak louder--I haven't purchased a book in a bookstore in a long time.  Why?  $$$$.  Lousy economy.  No raises.  Very little discretionary income to use on books.  So I go to Amazon, where they actually offer books at affordable prices.  Likewise, Amazon offers a vastly greater selection than even the largest brick and mortar bookstore.

-  Aside from any of the issues and arguments addressed in these articles, my biggest gripe about the old publishing establishment was that it prevented books that are different from being published.  Make no mistake--I absolutely DO understand why.  Any business is going to market those products it knows it can sell the most of.  In their shoes, I would do the same thing.  But with the digital book and indie publishing revolution, people who write books that are not part of the same beaten path have more opportunities to get their work out there.  Do these indie authors run the risk of modest or even very poor sales?  Of course they do.  But at least they are given the opportunity to try.  That alone is worth the digital revolution.

I'm very sorry that innovation causes suffering.  Advances in technology have a long history of displacing employees.  And the digital revolution has forced the down-sizing of some publishing companies and bookstores (some going under) and they probably have more painful changes yet to come, but they won't disappear.  But though loss of jobs is painful, those displaced typically find alternate ways to make a living and perhaps even become innovators themselves in other fields.

But despite what The Authors Guild suggests is a black day for authors with a challenge to the agency model, I say it's nice to have the odds a little more in favor of authors and consumers.

Interesting how different authors react differently to the changes.  Just because I feel a certain way about the direction of publishing doesn't mean someone else should feel the same way.  We each have to make our own decisions about our writing careers.  In fact, traditional publishing and indie publishing are not mutually exclusive terms.  Authors can and do both.

I'm just thankful for the industry players who keep the issues out in front of us so we can reach our own conclusions and respond accordingly.

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