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June 17, 2012

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Maxine

Very good post. As a reader I would somewhat defend Amazon as one has a great choice (compared with any actual bookstore anywhere near where I live) and pricing. I agree that Amazon has, from its own point of view, a very good business model for authors ;-) (but please, Amazon, think of the readers). I am not an Apple user/fan but I am sure, from what I know of them, they are equally hard-headed business-wise, if not more so, as they are not as open as Amazon, by a long way.

These comments address the last part of your post. I have no issues with the first (longer) part!

Ed Wyrick

I agree with all that you wrote regarding the need for professional vetting of books. I have had many arguments with fellow writers during which I tell them their avoiding the agent/publishing house rejections means they'll never be better writers. I shudder to think if the first novel I had published was the first one I submitted. Holy smokes! However, I won't sit around whining about Amazon or Walmart, or anybody else. Walmart's been around a while and other businesses exist and thrive. Those companies found things that Walmart couldn't do. Publishing houses that don't change are the livery stables of the twenty-first century, and they will become as quaint as the after-dinner horse drawn carriage rides in New Orleans. Publishing houses that embrace E-publishing, and provide the kind of vetting that Amazon doesn't do will thrive. The bigger danger is that Amazon takes over that part, too. They've already begun their own "imprint." It is inevitable that someone will have to separate e-wheat from e-chaff. If Amazon succeeds as an effective gatekeeper for E-publishing while print publishers fiddle, it'll be no one's fault but the fiddlers.

Pepper Smith

With regard to your second point #1, I live in the heart of Wal-mart land. You don't have to convince me of what you're saying.

However, you post anonymously. I don't. The online retailer in question has been known to retaliate. Sometimes one must err on the side of caution.

Bernadette

so much to agree with here and in the previous post...but I shall just concur on one issue - that every writer needs an editor - one of the best examples of this for me is Stephen King whose book THE STAND was one of my favourite books for years - until he re-released it when he got all famours and could put back in all the stuff he had been forced to take out - that second version is an inferior book - several woeful, self-indulgent passages of many pages - UGH.

Ziv Wities

I don't mean to downplay the threat of Amazon taking control of the market. That's a real and immediate danger, no question about it.

But frankly, the threat Amazon is posing is not exactly new to the field - it's the same problems we've always had, only more so. Writers, editors and agents have always been grossly underpaid. Products which are (if nothing else) professionally produced and curated have always had to compete with cutrate competition selling cheap imitations. And publishers have always been held captive to the booksellers who do the job of actually carrying off the financial transactions with the customers.

There are differences, to be sure. Primarily difference of scope, and also the difference of one company being in firm and unshakable control. But the point remains that this has always been an industry skating along the brink of catastrophe.

I'm guessing you're responding to a lot of feedback that's all ra-ra-ra-ing Amazon's mass accessibility and price cuts. I absolutely agree with you on everything you're saying here. Just don't forget about all the *other* challenges you talked about in that post - I thought you had a lot of important, insightful points there; I'd hate to see them swallowed up in the Amazonian swamp - which, in many ways, is just the latest leak in the boat.

Lance C.

First: I'm not sure where you're seeing the personal criticisms you cite (pitchforks and egotism, etc.); they certainly weren't in the comments on the 8 May post on this topic (http://mysteriousmatters.typepad.com/mysterious_matters_myster/2012/05/the-biggest-challenges.html). Are you posting someplace else?

Second: what would you, as a publisher, do to adapt to this new environment? You must have ideas, or you may have already started doing things with your business model. As a small publisher, you may have more flexibility to experiment than do the Big 6. You can't make Amazon or Apple go away; how will you answer their challenge? I'd love to hear a publisher's constructive ideas about how to move forward, rather than just a general denunciation of what’s happening now.

cavalier973

If Amazon's business model proves successful, then the optimist in me says to expect the Big 6 to begin opening their own "vanity publishing" shops, with perhaps more features than Amazon can give.

The pessimist in me says to expect the Big 6 to petition for some sort of gov't assistance, with the end result being one must be gov't licensed to be an author.

Smith

It's refreshing to read that you actually provide comments in reply to submissions. This is a solution to part of the problem. I understand that agents receive tons of queries and 10 pages, and certainly answering them all in depth is impossible. The boilerplate that arrives in my email is usually kind in its rejection, encouraging me to keep submitting, but that is useless. It would take 20 seconds or less to write, "Your query is confusing, stick with the main character" or say it's not focused on the plot and action or that is reads well as is but is genuinely not for you, or that the writing in the 10 pages needs to lose unnecessary words. You are very right about the advantage of an editor that comes with an agent's acceptance, but what about now, where does one find an editor that has been vetted, is not a crook, will really make the work print worthy? Writers are swimming at sea, looking for direction toward land. The query and samples are looking for, at least, an echo from the shore telling them to turn left, right, continue on, or exhale completely, put your head under and inhale deeply. We swim not knowing for sure where we're going, we go until we are exhausted and sink or until we get a break from the ones who control the slushpile. What must I think after 8 people have read the manuscript, four either don't like the genre or are not objective, but four say they would buy it. I spent 4 years in a writers group reading submissions ranging from newbies to published authors. I learned to pick out what is working and what isn't--I'm sure I have bias when reading my own though. So what is the difference whether I'm in agents' slushpiles or Amazon slush. At least with Amazon I have control over getting it noticed, I get feedback from readers. They might not be professional crits but they are the buyers. It's like America; every one can start a business and compete for the market. The ones that do it well, or learn to, will rise from the slush.

Annoyed Writer

"Many comments exhibit a profound ignorance of the economics of publishing. Do you think it's cheap to edit, typeset, format, print, warehouse, market, ship, and publicize books?"

If this is your argument, you are showing your own ignorance (deliberate?) of the realities of publishing, and those who can (and will, btw) do it much cheaper will put you out of business. Your choice is to keep whining about it or to adapt.

ebooks are 1/3 of the adult market and still growing. No printing, warehousing, shipping.

Publishers do so little in general for publicity, it's laughable that this is considered a cost. An author could likely get more return by plowing the advance into a good service for this. Unless your Random House supporting a Big Name, stop pretending.

Typesetting? Seriously? In this age, there are so many programs that even a remotely qualified BA can work that this is a red herring. It's not the 1980s.

Editing is the ONLY thing of relevance. Yes, editors cost (the good ones). Yes, they are needed by EVERY author. But NO, they are not congregated in publishing houses. Especially now, with the writing on the wall, more and more are free lancing. An author at least HAS A CHOICE when they go with a free lancer. They can research, negotiate, ask for sample edits. With a publisher, it's take it or leave it. The author is at the mercy of the house employees. Hey, you might get lucky! Might as well pretend you are because once you sign, you lose all power and freedom over your art.

You are making a VERY poor case for the traditional model here.

I actually hope the traditional houses, big and small, CAN adapt. There is a lot of good there. But this backward thinking is decreasing my hopefulness. "Amazon is bad and evil! Stop them!" Seriously? How about you compete with them? If they are beating you, you have no one else to blame but yourself.

The old model is dead. Those who adapt and create the new one will survive.

End of story.

AGATHO RESPONDS: "A little learning is a dangerous thing." -- Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism


Drew Yujs

A friend just told me about book editing and how this will be a great tool to increase the quality of a book and how this will be a great idea to make it more reliable.

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