Tuesday, March 22, 2011

THE SHOT HEARD AROUND THE LITERARY WORLD

I'm sure you've heard the big news, but in case you haven't...best selling author, Barry Eisler, turned down a 500k book deal yesterday so that he could self-publish.
Yes, you read that right.

*sigh*

I can see the negatives and positives from both sides of the debate: Traditional publishing vs. Self-pub. And I'm not saying Barry's decision is wrong or right. I believe every author has to make the decision that is best for them, and that decision is based on many factors.

Me personally, I'm old-fashioned. I'm always saying I wish I was born several decades earlier so I could live in slower-paced times when people spent more quality time with other people instead of dedicating the majority of their waking hours to technology. But that's a whole other rant. Back to my original thought...

I want my first novel to be published the old-fashioned way. I want a real book in my hands. I want to ooh and ahh (or hide all traces of disappointment from my face) at the pretty (or not-so-pretty) cover the publishing house and its designer and marketing team collaborated on. I want to see my book on a shelf in a bookstore so my mom can use her ninja skills to strategically move it to the MUST READ section. I want to picture my book, a hundred years from now, tattered, stained and packed away in a moving box full of other books and when the owner opens the lid, he/she inhales that first waft of old paper smell and thinks, "Ahh memories. I love the smell of my favorite books and--even though I have a computer chip embedded in my wrist that allows me to read any book at anytime instantly on a virtual reality screen embedded in my eyeballs--I will never ever throw these away because nothing will EVER replace the feel of a REAL book."

Yup, I'm a traditionalist at heart.

BUT, I'm also very adaptable. I want my agent to get me a good deal on E rights. I want my stories available at the touch of a button to Kindle, Nook, Sony (and any and all other EReader) lovers. I'm not stupid. I know the percentage an author can make on Ebooks vs. printed. Once I have some kind of following I might take the Ebook route for some of my stories.

But here's my main thing, call me sentimental, but I don't want to live in a world where publishing houses are obsolete. My heart aches and breaks when I picture a world without agents, editors, assistants, foreign rights managers, and all those other people who participate in creating and producing REAL books. That's a lot of passionate literary people no longer being able to do what they love because technology has eliminated the need for them. I hate that. The very thought of it bemoans my soul.

What will come next? Computers that create and write novels without the help or imagination of a real human being? Great, then authors won't even be needed. I know it's an extreme thought, but look how fast and drastically our world is changing--and not all of those changes are for the better (in my humble opinion).

*sigh*

If you want to read Jane Friedman's post, about Barry turning down the book deal, including a downloadable conversation between Barry and JA Konrath about the topic, click here.

31 comments:

  1. I'm with you. I love technology but I love books more. And I want to believe there is a place for both in this world.

    While I would still write without the hope of publication, I can't help but feel the pressure to get my book finished and get an agent while there is still time to get a printed book out of the deal.

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  2. I'm with you! And I love your description of all that would happen with your beloved book. :D Now I'm off to listen to that interview.
    My Blog

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  3. Right there with you, honey. Every time I read another article about the downturn in the print industry, it just makes me want to write faster.

    Here's hoping both of us get there sooner rather than later! :)

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  4. I'm with the opinion that we need both forms of publication and that their is a place for both. I have seen some SP books that are not ready. I also believe the traditional process of publishing offers many benefits besides just getting a book out there, including an adviser through the process.

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  5. Ditto! More than anything, I want my kids to be able to HOLD mom's book in their hands. *sigh*

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  6. Sigh, indeed. It's hard for me to comprehend turning down such a deal, but the world keeps changing so fast, it's confounding.
    I love your description of someone cherishing your book in the future. I'd love that, too, and I just can't imagine it being the same by calling it up on a screen.

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  7. Okay, I hadn't heard and I'm a dumbfounded. I'm off to read the interview.

    I loved your description of wanting a real book. I feel the exact same way.

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  8. Yes! I agree on all points. The dream is real book that was edited by a real editor. A self published eBook, even if it sold a million copies, wouldn't be the same.

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  9. I like the traditional system too, but I'm afraid it will not be sustainable in its current form, with all the inefficiencies in the system. What I *am* hoping though, is that publishing executives are listening to the news and trying to figure out ways to adapt to the new environment. I do think publishing houses have a lot to offer, and add a lot of quality to books that they publish. So in my perfect world, the publishing industry adjusts, and writers won't have to to make the gutwrenching decision between going traditional or self-publishing.
    But on the upside, there are lots of changes here that are very exciting. You no longer have to worry about having an excellent book that just won't get published because of the sales and marketing department. You can also publish books of every possible length, because it doesn't matter in digital. And as a writer, you have more control over your destiny thing you've ever had. (And remember, self-publishing doesn't mean the death of paper books, not with POD technology)

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  10. I agree with you. I want REAL books, not just e-copies. Of course, that's also possible with self-publishing.

    I'm wondering if the self-publishing system is going to have to adapt, though, with like editors and other people to work on the books. Because as it is now, you have really great books on the Kindle list right next to stuff that's been through one draft and still has typos and grammar mistakes. I'm still wary about buying self-published books because I don't want to get something that's total crap.

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  11. Quite frankly, he will make a lot more money self-publishing (in this e-book revolution) than he will with the traditional route. Read Nathan Bransford's Blog for more info on the matter.

    You cannot hope or wish for things to return to what they once were - that is a very backward approach to evolution. Instead, you should learn to accept that we are evolving for the better and that the prospects of getting your tale to the masses is growing exponentially.

    I must admit, I enjoy the feel of a book and I also prefer the route of traditional publishing. It is understood this aspect will never go away, and that is a wonderful thing. :D

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  12. We will always need publishing houses as a sort of clearinghouse. I am not going to buy a self-published book unless I know the author or someone tells me about it. When I look for something to read, I go to something published by Random House or some other reputable, well-known publisher. In that sense, I think it's a bad idea but some people want control and I can respect that. It's a gamble...I just hope it pays off for him.

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  13. You're right: nothing can compare with a physical, paper and ink book, but eBooks are still books. What worries me is that there might come a time when words on a page aren't enough in our instant access, CGI, video cameras everywhere world. I hope the day never comes when books (in any form) become obsolete.

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  14. This scares the shit out of me. I'm sure that once you're established as a successful writer, going self/e-publish may be the thing to do. It certainly seems like people are making money doing it, but I don't want to start out that way.

    I want to be published traditionally because I believe that is the way to produce the very best product, and ultimately all I care about is having a cool book that readers will love.

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  15. Fascinating debate.

    I'm a bibliophile.

    Fear ye not, gentle writers. I don't believe books will ever go extinct, so long as we do all that we can to keep them alive. Buy them, read them, pass them on, talk about them, read aloud from them, leave them on park benches. Show some love to the printed word.

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  16. Wow. This is so so SO interesting. I'm with you on wanting the traditional publishing route--but I can absolutely see the appeal if you've published for years and have a huge fan base (as I'm assuming Barry does, based on his website and how many books he has out) of cutting out the middleman and keeping more of the proceeds for yourself. At the same time, that's not the only reason people self-publish. Some do it because they haven't been able to go the traditional route, and there are lots of different reasons--but those are different stories (IMO)

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  17. I love all the friendly debating! Such valid points for both sides. And I agree with so much you guys have said, I just can't comment on everything or this comment world be a novella.

    Carry on! I'm loving your thoughts and opinions. :)

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  18. Wow, you must have some fancy pants stuff going on for you when you can turn down a 500k book deal. I'm stunned.

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  19. That's very interesting. I've considered (in the planning way too far ahead plotting brain we writers sometimes have) self publishing after I have established a loyal audience via traditional publishing but it was for the exact opposite reason. I don't particularly want my books in e-book form. If I'm working with a traditional publisher I know that's not really an option but if I were in charge of all creative decisions myself --ah, the power. I feel the power --I could have only paper copies and keep a little part of the old book scene alive. Or you know, go broke for my archaic ways.

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  20. Good luck with your book enedeavours:)

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  21. I want to continue publishing traditionally , because I worry that self-publishing would take time away from actually writing. I like to write the story then send it off.

    If I wanted to be a salesman, that would be a different matter.

    But I want to be a writer.

    Shelley

    P.S. yeah, I know, every author has to market, market, market these days anyway, but still.

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  22. I've written a blog about this very topic myself.

    I'm probably the devil's advocate here but for me I'm going the self-published route. It has nothing to do with money or the recent success stories of Amanda Hocking or any of the others; I wanted to self publish since I first learned it was possible. The idea of having more control, receiving fair pay for my labors and trailblazing down a forward-moving road, amongst other advantages, is just too appealing to me.

    That's not to say I would turn down a publishing deal if one happened by-I definitely would not. But thought of querying agents, waiting, getting rejected, querying more, waiting, getting rejected, etc...tires me out.

    Traditional publishing and paper books aren't going to go anywhere. However with time, enough time, it's going to become the smaller market and e-books will take over.

    My only hope is that traditionally published authors and those that choose to self-pub on their own will all support one another-neither are easy roads to take. It's a ton of hard work and dedication either way.

    Great blog!

    Oh and by the way-you'll be published one day and I'll cherish that book forever.

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  23. I had not heard about this. I am similar to you in the old-fashioned thing. I long for the olden days with a book in my hands not an electronic device. :O)

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  24. This makes me very sad. This debate is going to go on for a long time. But I'm with you. I like traditional publishing and actual books you can hold in your hands. Thanks for the info.

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  25. Yes, yes, and yes!

    I wonder how he even got offered the deal in the first place - it must have been submitted. In which case, why sub if you're intending to self-pub?

    The thing that keeps me away from self-publishing in any form - apart from the amount of work involved, and the fact that I don't want to have to deal with cover art and the like - is that every time an editor sees my work, they see a way that I can improve it. Why would I skip that step?

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  26. I love a real book. I grew up with books. Books were and are my refuge. BUT... ebooks are the wave of the future. As an author, what I want most is for readers to have an awesome experience. If it's via paper book or pda doesn't matter. So while the reader in me will always love paper books first, the author in me wishes to give readers a positive, fun experience in whatever format they enjoy.

    -E

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  27. I am a book slut. I buy books, read them, and then keep them as momentos of my conquest. I put them in a book shelf where everyone can see. Ilove the cover art, I love the feel, i love that i can take a peak at the end. (naughty) But with my kindle I read them and they sit there, and well.. sit there. I concurr.

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  28. I love holding books in my hand. But I guess we can't prevent the inevitable. Mr Eisler is lucky in that he already has a following. E-pubbing makes more sense for him, money wise. Let's hope someday we all have the luxury of that choice!

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  29. Very interesting! What a tough choice.

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