I said yesterday that I’ve learned a lot about publishing since last posting. One of the ways I’ve done that is by seeking a balance in the information I ingest. I read a lot from self-published authors and supporters (Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Katherine Rusch, The Book Designer, The Passive Voice)as well as traditional publishing supporters (Janet Reid, Tobias Bucknell, Nathan Bransford, and various other agent’s blogs).
I want to share a couple of articles, because I think they present some good opinions on both side.
First off, Tobias Bucknell’s article on Survivorship Bias. It’s about the success you’re seeing in self publishing being the only voice, or the loudest voice, because of the sort of “cause” surrounding it. Anyone who disparrages it is seen as a defeatist or anti revolutionary. It’s a really good article and worth reading even if you’re not looking at publishing. That type of bias applies to a lot more than just getting published.
The second is a three parter (one, two, and three) by Judith Tarr. I found it via Dean Wesley Smith’s blog (already linked, but I want to emphasize checking it out, even if you don’t self-publish, his advice on writing is stellar), and discuss how the industry has changed and the poisonous nature of the Big Six (Is it Five yet? Maybe Five and Half?).
Both articles make some great points. As with all things, I believe it probably falls somewhere in the middle and mileage will vary based on circumstances.
Even as a relatively new outsider, I can see the industry has changed. It takes only a cursory amount of business knowledge to know that when an industry changes, the businesses that stay in the past fail. Publishing, bookselling, writing, everything involved with the environment, is changing, if it hasn’t already.
During my blogging hiatus I read a lot in the industry. I saw Nightshade, a major small press, go under and read as their authors tried to survive its sinking. I read as Random House tried to lock authors into deals (Via Hydra) that were so bad, SFWA President and author John Scalzi slammed them and threatened to revoke their status as a recognized publisher. I’ve read as one author after another either chose to sell their self published work to a major publisher, or chose to take their work from big publishers and do it themselves. I read James Patterson’s full page ad requesting the government bail out the publishing industry.
These events made me think hard about the publishing path I choose in the future. I work for a multibillion dollar corporation. The reason? Security. No company is invincible, but mine has a good reputation and knows how to survive. Choosing a publishing path has the same decisions. Simply put, (and this is a generalization) you can work for a major company, work for a smaller company, or start your own business. There is risk with the latter and lack of control with the former.
Similar with publishing.
There are numerous advantages and disadvantages and every single case I’ve linked to above, mentioned, thought about, imagined, dreamed, feared, or fantasized has different variables. The author, their work, their genre, their platform, their publisher, their publisher’s other endeavors, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders (Ouch, too soon?), and a thousand others.
The point is, you are seeing norms change. Authors publishers wouldn’t have touched are getting six or seven figure advances. Contracts that were concrete are negotiable. Authors who have made fortunes with major publishers are striking out on their own. Authors who have made nothing with publishers are striking out on their own, and making a living.
That last point is probably the most important, because I feel that’s the where most aspiring authors find themselves. Maybe you can get a book deal, but after that who knows what will happen? The only thing anyone can agree on is that there is absolutely no way to predict the next bestseller. The middle is where most books fall, and those are the books getting the least attention from Big Publishing, and yet finding the most success in self publishing. They already have an audience to promote too, but every audience has to start somewhere.
I’m not published, and as I have stated above, I’m an outsider trying to get a better picture as I make the transition to insider. This is simply my analysis based on the information I have gathered. If anyone has more info, supporting or contradicting, it is always appreciated.