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’.