Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Future of Publishing

As an unpublished writer who works diligently to become published, I keep my ears open to any important things in the market. Having been working on writing and developing professionalism for over 5 years, I am fully aware that, at this point in the publishing industry, self-publishing is not a viable option for me, someone who wants to be a successful writer.

However, this article at Galley Cat is intriguing.

It's about how Sramana Mitra (what a great name!) believes that Amazon will shape the face of publishing. Basically, she says that the way publishing currently is, is unfair (i.e., the author does all the creating, but gets a small slice of the profit pie). Amazon, she believes, will change all that.
"Let's say, in the new world, Amazon becomes the retailer, marketer, publisher and agent combined and takes 65% of the revenues, offering 35% to the author--we end up with a much better, fairer world."
This interests me. It sounds great...but in the same way that communism sounds great (it's brilliant on paper but fails in real life). It would be wonderful if there truly was one source for publishing and publishing was streamlined enough to provide a direct connection between author creation to publishing to the consumer.

But that can't work. First, the entire reason why self-publishing fails as a viable market for novels that want to be a part of mainstream America is because there is no filter between author and publisher. As much as I hate to say it (because it's kept me out of publishing), there's a very important filter between the author and the published book: an editor. Even if Amazon were to take over the publishing world, all that would happen is either a) a massive number of crappy books flood the site, making it impossible for the reader to find anything worth reading except for the few books that Amazon marketing pushes on you, or b) Amazon will develop a system of acquisitions, editors, etc., that will make it essentially the same as current publishing.

The long and short of it is that there is a surplus of writers. Everyone and their momma wants to be a writer...and self-publishing means that once Joe Schmoe actually puts the words on paper, he can immediately put it in print. If I'd put my books into print before revisions, they'd be worse than they are now--and so would anyone else's. Revision is part of the business.

Here's another scary quote:
Over the next few years, Amazon likely will use its power to build direct relationships with authors and gradually phase out publishers and agents. It will first go after the independent print-on-demand self-publishers and get the best authors from that world. Amazon will then take on the large publishers.
Amazon has already done this by requiring any self-pubbed book to publish through their company, BookSurge. And Amazon's already taken the first steps in building "direct relationships with authors" in their ABNA contest...which heavily promoted the BookSurge company as well. Whether or not it Amazon really will try to paint the big-house publishing world a bright, shiny communist red, it does seem to be taking over the independent (read: vanity) publishing world quite efficiently.

Don't get me wrong: I love Amazon. I try to buy from my local book seller, but they close at 7 (who closes at 7?!) and their books are over-priced. Most of my purchases are from Amazon or Scholastic (I love being a teacher). But the idea that Amazon is trying to take over the publishing world is crazy, it just might happen.
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