Battlelines in publishing

Comments on recent developments in the publishing industry (primarily in the USA)

Across the early months of 2012 there has been a concerted and coordinated program of public statements from various sources within traditional publishing that are a clear push-back against the momentum of digital/independent publishing. 2011 has been the year of the Great Change as ebook growth & digital publishing have achieved critical mass. The independent movement has also found its voice in both sophistication and volume.

Clearly the holders of the status quo have finally figured out their existence is at risk. And in typically conservative fashion they have selected someone to blame. There is an obvious and large target and 2012 has also become the year to hate Amazon. Numerous articles from The Guardian (UK), Scott Turow (the sock puppet of his publisher, not the Authors Guild) and various mainstream regurgitating hacks have regaled us with the evils of Amazon, from its temerity to be successful and sell more books to its work practices that while legal in its various jurisdictions are just too sharp, efficient and profitable to be kosher (in case you didn’t notice, my tongue is sticking out the side of my cheek there!). In addition the anti-trust investigation by the Department of Justice of the’ agency model’ has been cast in the light of some dark conspiracy. Funny that, eh … price fixing and free markets aren’t actually compatible but you wouldn’t know it listening to Turow et al.

Late last year, someone (I think it was Michael Stackpole but could have been Joe Konrath) mused that as a system (traditional publishing) nears its terminus the death throes will get louder and more vicious.

Well people, it looks like we’re there if the last few months are any indication and I quite obviously do think that. Christmas 2012 is going to have some interesting eggnog conversations (not just in the Hamptons).

The tragedy of all this us-and-them posturing is that it doesn’t have to be, but the aforementioned conservative mind cannot see grey. And this is the gist of the matter. Writers, readers and Amazon will keep on going and changing to suit & make the new paradigm and commercial empires will fall and the only reason this will happen is because ego cannot admit defeat – all change is defeat by the way (if you have that mindset i.e. overly competitive &/ or privileged). And there has to be someone to blame.

So, shareholders (in publishing companies), take a good hard look at the men and women managing the money you’ve invested. Then sack them because the only thing that will survive their company’s demise will be their bonuses; certainly not your share price. If you act now and install people with some real brains you might survive. As an example you could look to Robin Sullivan at Ridan Publishing. Dean Wesley Smith and Bob Mayer run classes on how to prosper in this new climate.  Maybe some of your junior executives could take these tutorials before you move them up the line.

The rest of us, if we cared to notice, might have a bit of a laugh but would much rather keep getting on with business in an environment where there is the chance of much more success (& profit) than ever before.

My apologies for the trenchant cynicism here but it does make the blood boil to see all this crap foisted on us instead of celebrating the opportunities that almost monthly, unfold for ALL to use. As Stackpole and Konrath have said more than once, it is not an EITHER/OR situation but a BOTH/AND one that we are in right now and all avenues should be explored and exploited

Happy writing,


Published by iandavidmartin

Australian; Architect; Writer

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