Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Publishing's New World Order

    I love books. Real books, without on-switches. Maybe we can get navitasnavisphobia (fear of energy cells, batteries...) added to the Disabilities Act? Convince Homeland Security that the Energizer Bunny is a terrorist?

   Change is coming to the world of the Author, Agent and Publisher. Whether any of what I've written will come true...? Whatever happens, however complex it makes the author's world, is out of our hands now, or is it? Ideally, ever author in the world would have refused Google and Amazon the rights to their work, and life would have stayed as before.
   First came the estates of authors selling rights to past catalogues and unprotected works of the literary past that are considered in the public domain. Next came deals with notable authors for their back-lists. Technology enabled Amazon and Google to see a market opening to their, you must admit, genius and innovation. Publishing tried legal and tantrum-like means to stem the incursion into their world... Oops! The solution would have been to invest in the back-lists, creating a second tier effort to market these works. The problem with this solution is that Amazon and Google have more money than most countries and publishers are rather miserly. If anyone doubted who would win that battle, you need to get out more.

   E-Books are comin' round the bend and into the stretch. Their place is set as a component of future Publishing. Will they make printed books disappear... NO. Will they deny many authors a chance at print publication... Sorry to say it, but YES.

  Here are some predictions of how things may look:

  The scene, set by initial re-action to a heretofore unchallenged industry, will create a multi-tiered publication mechanism. Hardcover books will be little effected, though fewer in number.

  Paperbacks, the current home of the mid-list author for initial release, are going to feel the heat to the greatest degree.

  The overall profits for the publishing industry will actually go UP.

  I think this is where I say, "You heard it here first", only I'm quite sure I am not the first to either think this or write it down.

  I believe Literary Agencies will build or expand in-house marketing expertise, even merging with Marketing firms to remain competitive. Many agencies will make the mistake of contraction in this new Publishing Economy. The agencies that seek to hold on to "Big Authors", concentrating on them, will have a bleak future. These same authors will seek out larger book deals, while publishers and agents battle to see who can put together "$200 million - two book deals" to keep them.

  The Mid-list will be the farm team of the publishing world. Alan Rinzler, amazing editor that he is, has already written an interesting article on the subject . Authors doing well here, will be courted to join the Big Author league... Free agency for authors?

  Literary Agencies will create in house sub-publishing units, handling e-books marketing, will see this unit out perform the traditional print arms. The term - "Self-published authors", will all but disappear at the mid-list level. Some BIG authors will form their own publishing units (a few have them now) and they will form loose associations, to control the upper tier of the market place, actually recruiting mid-list authors to their "teams".

  Genres will fill to bursting, which is a Good/Bad thing... Research Supply and Demand theories for more on this....

  If any of this comes true, there may be some bright spots that you may want to consider.

  Agents who find books that they love, but can't find a place for on the current publishing dance card, will be able to bring these books to light, as long as the enhanced royalty levels of e-publishing remain fairly static. Agents will make more money on these "side projects", and their social networking skills will become a financial asset far beyond what it is now.

  Editors may be coming into a Gold Rush period. The quality of e-published books has to rise to remain credible. Poor quality of finished works being "posted" for sale is haunting Amazon. While it is possible that the book buying public will learn to settle for misspelling, sentence fragments and adverb lush prose (look at the alter-English in Instant Messages), I have to believe reading will slow if this shabby writing isn't fixed. All hail the Free Lance Editor! Their time will be at a premium like never before.  English Literature/Composition as a major may even get a boost. HotJobs will be filled with "Editor Needed" posts.

  There will be a seedy side to this possible future. More shady agents will pop up. Amazon, BN, Borders, etc... may get greedy... hard to believe but... Position of e-book publication may be based on how much royalty the author will give up for prominent placement.

  I honestly hope none of this happens, though what I have written has an Orwellian cast. Some of this will probably happen. Our industry can go Scarlet O'Hara and think about it tomorrow, but I think the professionals in our industry have already considered forms of what I have written. I would rather write my Week to Week posts, but for some reason this whole subject has been bothering me. The lack of insight to plan ahead by our industry, for authors to be ready, disturbs me.

  This is where I can blame Tawna Fenske . Why not? She really didn't do anything, but what are online friends for, if not to assign reasons for moments of melancholy.

  Whatever happens, be ready. This is an authors time to contribute, not just to the discussion, but to participate in the innovation process as well. It's our future, let's take some control of the decisions that will set the standard of Literature for centuries to come.