Up the Workers

Another inter­est­ing piece in The Guardian about self pub­lish­ing (this is the term they’re apply­ing to inde­pend­ent ebook pub­lic­a­tion) by Alison Flood.

This caught my eye:

Publishing has always been a quasi-monopoly built on the lock pub­lish­ers had on paper dis­tri­bu­tion. Digital dis­tri­bu­tion has broken that lock, but leg­acy pub­lish­ers are still behav­ing as though they have mono­poly power,” believes Eisler. “They’re run­ning their busi­ness with two gen­eral imper­at­ives in mind: (i) main­tain the primacy of paper (in sig­ni­fic­ant part, by delay­ing the release of digital books and pri­cing them too high); and (ii) offer pun­it­ive fin­an­cial, cre­at­ive, and other terms to authors. Or, to put it another way, pub­lish­ers are cur­rently run­ning their busi­ness in a way that pun­ishes both their end-user cus­tom­ers (read­ers) and their pro­viders (authors). This was sus­tain­able when pub­lish­ers faced no mean­ing­ful com­pet­i­tion. They do now, and will have to adapt or die, because yes, more and more authors are eschew­ing the leg­acy model in favour of self-publishing and in favour of the emer­ging Amazon hybrid model.”

I, and many oth­ers, have com­men­ted on the art­icle. Brace your­self for the some­what arrog­ant mode, but I’m respond­ing to some counter-independent com­ments. It runs:

Interesting art­icle. I like the data (indeed, I’ve blogged on Scott Pack’s blog ‘Me and My Big Mouth’ a couple of times about my own ebook pub­lish­ing exper­i­ences, where I’ve tried to be trans­par­ent about my sales).

Whether ebooks will be good for the pub­lish­ing industry is a moot point. It is cer­tainly good for me. In my case, my first book was pub­lished by a small press and went nowhere because, back then (in 2005!), you had to get your book into a high­street book­seller or oth­er­wise die on your arse. Over the years since then, I’ve had count­less agents and pub­lish­ers rave about my work and then mut­ter some­thing about marketing/categorisation/effort and not pub­lish it. Clearly they thought it was not the bother. I dis­agree, and I’ve now sold more than three thou­sand cop­ies since March.

Again, it’s a moot point whether this is good for pub­lish­ing. I will be forever indebted to Amazon, who man­u­fac­tured and pushed the Kindle when every­one (includ­ing me, at first) was pour­ing scorn on it. They’ve given me the chance to have people read my work. That was never going to hap­pen with UK publishers.

Are my self pub­lished books crap? Quite pos­sibly, but I don’t think so. Both were pro­fes­sion­ally edited and both have good cov­ers (the first my own, the second pro­duced by a pro­fes­sional). Both books have mean rat­ings greater than 4 on Amazon. But, more than this, dozens of people a day are down­load­ing my books; a large per­cent­age of them will be read­ing them.

That’s the revolu­tion: being able, as an artist, to reach the end point of the cre­at­ive process.

Up the workers.

The Guardian on Two Self-Publishing Successes

Worth a com­plete read, I think. But this para­graph struck me as interesting:

Ask your­self this. If someone offered you a half-million dol­lars today as a one-time pay­ment, or $50,000 a year for the rest of your life, which would you take? Assuming you weren’t in the middle of a fin­an­cial emer­gency and expec­ted to live longer than a dec­ade, you’d be bet­ter off with the annu­ity. And that’s the dif­fer­ence between leg­acy pub­lish­ing and indie.

Here’s the art­icle.

★ More Pottermore

You’ve prob­ably noticed that J K Rowling has announced a new web­site called Pottermore. As far as I can make out from the video embed­ded on that site, it’s some­what in the Star Wars: Galaxies mould. I got a whiff of Willy Wonka from the video, but that might be my office need­ing a clean.

Rather more inter­est­ing for me, with my ‘inde­pend­ent writer’ hat on, are the com­ments gen­er­ated by an art­icle in the Bookseller, J K Rowling to take Potter digital.

What is clear…is that the digital con­tent will be pub­lished under the imprint Pottermore Publishing, rather than by her print pub­lisher Bloomsbury, which does not own the digital rights.

Actually, I’m not sure this is clear. As com­ment Peter Cox points out:

JK Rowling has con­firmed that she will release paid-for e-book ver­sions of her incred­ibly suc­cess­ful Harry Potter books from her new web­site Pottermore “in part­ner­ship with J K Rowling’s pub­lish­ers worldwide”.

Whether the ebooks will, or will not, involve her physical-book pub­lish­ers, my eye is drawn to those com­menters who believe that when digital rights revert to the author (or stay with them because they are unsold), the pub­lisher should retain a per­cent­age of the sales because the pub­lisher helped to edit the book.

Both view­points are jus­ti­fi­able: The author can reas­on­ably claim that if the pub­lisher wants the digital rights, they can pay for them. The pub­lisher, by con­trast, might argue that the text of the fin­ished product is a com­pos­ite of the author’s work and the edit­ors who helped her render it.

Morally, should Bloomsbury be rewar­ded to help­ing to edit the book?

Commenter Peter Cox writes:

Without [Bloomsbury’s] clever mar­ket­ing there would be no Pottermore launch today; it stands on their shoulders.

That’s a strong claim. I don’t think there’s any evid­ence that Bloomsbury sig­ni­fic­antly con­trib­uted bey­ond the usual ‘back­ground noise’ pub­li­city that minor, new books get.

I do won­der how much one would credit an editor in a work of prose. I cer­tainly include the names of my two edit­ors — Aliya Whiteley and Clare Christian — prom­in­ently in my books. The idea that they are co-writing the book is a tricky one. Let’s say I sug­gest to a painter that a par­tic­u­lar view­point might make a nice sketch. Did I pro­duce the sketch? Hardly.

This does make me won­der, how­ever. I think you’d see some com­mon­al­it­ies between books that have been edited by a par­tic­u­lar indi­vidual, much as you’d see com­mon­al­it­ies between music albums and their pro­du­cers. But pro­du­cers aren’t in the band. Only the band are in the band.

Jesus, I hate Dobby.

Just sayin’.