...'cause this will be a longer post than usual.
I'm reading everywhere that the publishing industry is changing. This is no great surprise -- it's been in the process of changing since Urgh the Neanderthal first chiseled his name on a rock (don't worry, it's okay, he didn't get an advance either). What interests me is the speed at which change is happening; the anguish some folks seem to feel that their crystal ball won't tell them exactly where it's going; the all-of-a-sudden respect e-publishing has gained in some quarters; and the apparent desire of the print industry to either ignore it all or figure out how to keep the print market exactly as it is today.
Speed of change: it's mind-numbing. When I sold my first e-book in 2002, people asked me when it was going to be a "real" (i.e., print-and-paper) book. They also intimated that I should come back and talk about my writing when I'd made a real sale, that meaning a sale to a real, live publishing house with a New York City address. What could one do but grit the teeth and say something on the order of: "It's a real book because I have a real contract and they send me real royalty checks."
Fast forward 9 years. Now according to their own blogs, many established authors who've sold to the same real, live NYC publishing houses are embracing e-books: so much so that they're going direct-to-reader and e-publishing on their own. From one level of ignominy to another! What are they thinking?
Easy. Why let a publisher keep between 92% and 65% of the monies earned when you can keep a higher percentage yourself? Granted, these direct authors have costs: they must buy editing, cover design, and perhaps set-up. But once these costs are cleared, all the proceeds are the author's. Given the right kind of name out there with readers, why wouldn't they go this route?
Speed of change, yes.
Anguish? You betcha. It's out there. People who used to sniff at e-books are now having their stuff released that way. Sometimes the e-version releases simultaneously with the print version, sometimes not. I have resolved to be gracious and not ask any of these folks whether their e-version is a real book....
Scrambling: One author who recently signed a contract with an advance I wouldn't turn up my nose at, is now being told that since she went direct to readers and self-pubbed short stories that house had already rejected, she's in breach of her contract and must give the money back. I wouldn't want this kerfuffle for the biggest advance on the planet. I sense some frantic thinking on the part of this (unnamed) house: "Oh, no! We can't put a stranglehold on our authors' work anymore. What then must we do?" And some beancounter decides, "We won't let her get away with this! We'll yank her contract."
The truth is that nobody really knows how this is going to shake out. People who are taking their work direct to their readers are likely braver than I am.
But I find myself thinking about it.