I'm home sick from work today, seem to have caught a nasty stomach bug that has laid me low. It started last night and I was not in a condition to be delivering pizza this morning :( Luckily they found someone really quick, so I don't have to agonize over my decision, as I never, -never- call off if I can help it. I'm hoping I feel better by tomorrow.
First off, I'd like to give a shout to Megan Duncan because while reading her blog I saw a nifty little gadget (the word counter in my upper right hand corner) that she ganked from Melissa Shepard, that SHE ganked from here.
I have almost decided on naming the book "Chains of Memory", so that is the heading for it. It's a little satisfying to see the percentage complete, there. Between visits to the Porcelain Throne, I hope to get some writing done as I'm not good for much else today (well, sleeping, but that's probably even less productive). Hopefully I can bump it up off the 84% where it currently sits.
But, the title of this post starts with "Reflections" so I'd like to reflect a little today on the publishing industry as a whole. I have very mixed feelings when I read blogs like J. A. Konrath's and see the print publisher bashing that goes on, especially in the comments section. It's amazing to me how much shouting down is done to anyone trying to defend the traditional printers anymore.
When I first started reading it, I fell into the "Publishers must be wrong, Indie writers must be right, how could there be such a gap in royalties..." et cetera type of mindset. It is very easy to lay the blame for the "bad decision" of rejecting a manuscript and poor royalty rates on a failing by the industry as a whole.
In the end, I have a BBA and I came to my senses. It is true that, "All that glitters isn't gold"; that it is an irrefutable statement. Do I think selling 1,000 copies a month of Book A on your own is amazing? Yes. Do I think the industry made a horrible decision by bypassing your manuscript? Not necessarily.
I read an interesting article here today. I was looking for a tangible fact on the cost of printing a book so I wouldn't have to do the work myself, but I didn't really find that in so many words. My goal was to try and demonstrate why publishers seem to desperately seek out that 1 million plus blockbuster over your 12k/year book. Then I found **THIS**. Finally, someone who understands and speaks rationally and objectively!
It's not that they wouldn't love to publish your book and get it into people's hands, it's simply the economics of the business. Once you parcel out the money to printing presses, editors, cover artists, discounts to get your books on the shelves of major retailers... the publisher doesn't actually get to keep so much of that 85% cut. In some cases (especially cases where the author doesn't earn out their advance), the author makes more than the publisher, in the end.
In order for publishers to keep taking on new authors they MUST be making a profit that allows them to do that! If a publisher offers up an advance that is NOT earned out, they are losing money. If they do that again, and again, and again... they will go belly-up, no questions asked. (You cannot keep drinking from a container and expect it never to go empty - you MUST refill!) The publishing industry is like a sieve. They want to put out new books, but they have to spend money to do it. Sometimes, the money they put out is more than the final product gives back, so the money trickles through the bottom of the sieve. So they work harder and faster, all the while trying to stay high enough that the sieve won't be completely empty, leaving them with nothing.
In e-publishing, the costs are lower than traditional print books. Yes, that's true. But, there is still a significant cost to getting that book up for sale. It is also a truism of business that if you want to continue with one thing that does not earn well enough to support itself (read: lowering print book sales), you use your "cash cow" (in this case, the slightly extra profit from e-books) to fund that other side of your business.
I keep hearing that the traditional publishers are floundering, that eventually they will be gone - bookstores all over the nation will close and we'll be left with no outlet for the "dead-tree model". I absolutely don't believe that is true. Yes, bookstores are closing. The Borders near me closed because of poor management by Borders. (You don't get into debt to publishers because people aren't buying a product from you that they buy elsewhere - you get there because you have screwed up.) The Barnes and Noble in the area stripped it clean of customers by its better selection, prices, and over-all functionality of the store... exactly like Best Buy did to Circuit City in the same area only a few years earlier. It is the nature of capitalism.
I think that publishers are holding on and riding it out. Yes, many publishers and editors seem to be giving out information and quotes that puts them drastically behind the times. It's not impossible or even particularly difficult to do that - witness Richard Curtis' blunder. (Sorry Konrath, I'm not trying to pick on you, here.) The fact is, when people are trying to prove a point, they will print information that puts their hypothesis in the correct light.
I personally believe that publishers are turning around the higher profits on their e-book sales to keep print publishing alive. I applaud them for that! I will be truly devastated if print books vanished, or became something for rich collector's to show off to their fancy friends. When I was a child, I dreamed, dreamed of the day I would have enough money to have a library IN MY HOUSE. A room, completely full of precious, delicious, well-written literature! I love my Kindle to death, and I will parade it around and show off it's fancy features and all the while, it will fill with books I couldn't find in bookstores... while my bookshelves at home fill with books that CAN BE.
So publishers miss out on a few bestsellers - indie authors that go to e-book publishing and with a liberal dose of personal promotion and luck, become famous almost overnight. Who hasn't made a mistake? That time I drove that guy's car to pick him up for work and got hit by a truck gone left-of-center, doing $43,000 in damage? How about flying home from Japan on an overbooked flight and turning down a free flight to Hawaii, including overnight hotel stay? I've made mistakes, too. Everyone does. It's part of the human experience.
I have a sneaking suspicion that one day, publishers will turn the whole business on its head and indie authors will be left wondering what's happened, because they are becoming so smug and self-important that they believe they can never fail. I picture those publishers like jungle cats in the trees, indie authors sprawled fat and lazy in the shade with the profits they have garnered for themselves.
Are you not afraid of that image? I am.
What happens when publishers strike a deal with Amazon that, under their label, Amazon continues the 70% profits, but self-pubbed only get 35% at best? What if it's 20%? 5%?
I'm not saying it's a future that's chiseled in stone, I'm saying let's not throw our spears into the fire before the jungle cats are actually exterminated, yeah?