Since I was on vacation without Internet for three weeks, some of these articles are from earlier than the past week.
“How I got a big advance from a big publisher and self-published anyway” (Penelope Trunk) is a blog post detailing Trunk’s experience with the marketing department of a major publishing firm. That experience was so bad, and the marketing people were apparently so incompetent, that she ended up self-publishing her book. Her post about this is worthwhile reading, because it points out some of the major problems the publishing industry is facing: they don’t always know how to sell books in the digital age; they don’t always know who their audience is or how to reach them efficiently; and many publishers haven’t truly grasped the fact that authors now have viable alternatives to traditional publishing.
I do believe the publishing industry adds value to a book — or rather, that good editing and good design add value to a book. (Not to mention good indexing, which rarely does get mentioned, but can make a huge difference in the usefulness and usability of a nonfiction book.) Each of those is increasingly available for hire outside the traditional publishing industry.
I really don’t want to see publishers disappear the way many bookstores have. Perhaps I’m biased; as a freelance indexer myself, I’m a small part of the publishing industry. I really do think the industry still has a lot to offer, particularly in terms of experienced editors and designers, and traditional publishers undoubtedly have significant market reach. But I do think many traditional publishers need to take a hard look at the reasons why so many authors are turning to self-publishing, and what they can do to become a more attractive and more viable option to authors.
Penguin has purchased Author Solutions Inc., a company which sells editing and production services to authors. However, ASI’s best-selling books don’t appear to be doing that well in the general marketplace, and they make 2/3 of their money from the authors themselves. That would make me leery of dealing with them, if I were an author interested in self-publishing.
In “The Stupendous Growth of E-Books in 2011; Will It Continue?”, Forbes speculates on the future of publishing and ebooks in light of 2011’s statistics, released recently by BookStats.
“Half of Bed-time Stories Now Read on e-Book” (Quentin Fottrell, SmartMoney). At least in the U.K.
“The Real Truth About Ebook Purchasing” (Christopher Harris, American Libraries) argues that not only can publishers not force customers to buy print by delaying the release of ebooks, many readers now have so many books on their readers and on their TBR list that they’re content to wait if a book isn’t available, or isn’t available at a price they are willing to pay. That’s a pretty fair description of my own situation, so I think he’s on to something.
Writing your own book? Alexis Grant has a list of “8 Tools to Create an Irresistible Ebook” on Mashable.
And speaking about tools and books for writers, The Enchanted Inkpot blog has posted an annotated list of books about writing fantasy. There are some very useful titles there. If you’re a fantasy or SF writer or aspiring writer, check it out.