Traditional publishing (aka Big Publishing, Legacy Publishing, etc) is in decline, probably on its way out entirely, or at the very least, doomed to become a niche market like vinly records. You only have to look at the success of independent e-publishers like Amanda Hocking to see that. They’re dinosaurs and their business model is bad for writers. The only sane thing to do is e-publish.
Amanda Hocking, the darling of the self-publishing world, has been shopping a four-book series to major publishers, attracting bids of well over $1 million for world English rights, two publishing executives said.
People who think they’re going to duplicate the sucess of outliers like Hocking and J.A. Konrath are fooling themselves. Traditional/Big/Legacy publishing may have its problems, but it can still do things that self-publishing can’t. The only sane thing to do is try to find a traditional publisher and let them handle the whole package, including e-books.
In a recent interview, novelist Barry Eisler said he turned down a $500,000 book deal and decided to self-publish his work.
The revelation came in a 13,000-word interview with novelist Joe Konrath. Eisler last published with Ballantine Books, but his self-publishing experiment began with “The Lost Coast,” a $2.99 short story. Konrath quipped: ‘Barry Eisler Walks Away From $500,000 Deal to Self-Pub’ is going to be one for the Twitter Hall of Fame.”
So who’s crazy? The young woman who’s had enormous success with electronic self-publishing who’s now seeking to publish with a “Big 6” house, or the NYT bestseller who’s decided to forsake the comfortable traditional route and light out for the digital frontier on his own?
Damned if I know. Right now there are an awful lot of self-proclaimed “experts” telling us with complete confidence how the publishing business is going to go and where we’ll be in the next ten years. But, you know, “experts” in publishing have been confidently predicting what the public wants for decades. Orwell’s ANIMAL FARM got turned down by a publisher because “it is impossible to sell talking-animal stories in America.” Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Geisel was told his first book was “too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.” And so on.
Meanwhile, remember John Twelve Hawks? He was supposed to be the Next Big Thing. THE TRAVELER was supposed to be the next DA VINCI CODE. Heard much about him lately? Me neither.
Almost exactly two years ago, I wrote here about a panel of industry experts who’d frustrated a conference audience because, in the words of a commenter who was there, “there wasn’t an ounce of new think going on.” In that piece, I quoted one of my favorite thinkers on New Media, Dr. Clay Shirky of NYU:
During the wrenching transition to print, experiments were only revealed in retrospect to be turning points. Aldus Manutius, the Venetian printer and publisher, invented the smaller octavo volume along with italic type. What seemed like a minor change — take a book and shrink it — was in retrospect a key innovation in the democratization of the printed word. As books became cheaper, more portable, and therefore more desirable, they expanded the market for all publishers, heightening the value of literacy still further.
That is what real revolutions are like. The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place. The importance of any given experiment isn’t apparent at the moment it appears; big changes stall, small changes spread. Even the revolutionaries can’t predict what will happen. Agreements on all sides that core institutions must be protected are rendered meaningless by the very people doing the agreeing.
Two years down the road, and while there are any number of opinions delivered with complete assurance, I can’t say that we’re any closer to really knowing any of the answers. We don’t know for sure what big changes are going to stall, or which small changes are going to spread. People are going every which way, and no one knows if Eisler or Hocking has made the smarter decision…or if, indeed, one can be said to be smarter than the other.
There is this to consider, though: in the end, decisions about what’s going to sell are always made by the buyers, the readers, not by the so-called experts. Decisions on what works are made from the ground up, not the top down, no matter how we may convince ourselves otherwise.
So, ‘Rati: seeing as how we’re all experts, and all fools, tell us: who’s crazier, Eisler or Hocking? Are they both crazy like foxes? Look into your crystal spheres, cast the bones, and tell us: what’s the future hold? Not what you want it to be…what’s it going to be?
Lay some prophecy on me, brothers and sisters.