WRITING ON THE ETHER: Publishing’s New Gospel

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital Census


Table of Contents

  1. Publishing’s New Gospel
  2. Heard On-High: Top Tin Ear
  3. Winter Wonderland: eBook Prices
  4. Penguin: OK, We’ll Settle
  5. Macmillan’s Sargent: ‘In the Land of Giants’
  6. Cutesy Name Alert: Bookateria
  7. Craft: ‘Segregation of the Fantastic’
  8. Craft: Tele-Communing
  9. Con­fer­ences in the New Year
  10. Books: Reading on the Ether
  11. Last Gas: What’s No Longer Useful

Publishing’s New Gospel

Not even the Angel of the Lord said “I bring you tidings that are the best ever.”

There he was, doing breaking news about the whole program going down in Bethlehem, with the glory of the Lord shining ’round about him, backed up by the Multitude of the Heavenly Host. And yet, he got the job done with the dignified “good tidings of great joy.”

I’m guessing that within hours, that show was coming out in somebody’s list: Top 10 Pasture Pageants of Year Zero.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital CensusDid you know that TIME has 55 of them? Fifty-five lists. In Top 10 Everything of 2012,   And boy, are they helpful. They cover such things as “fleeting celebrities,” “worst dressed,” and “campaign gaffes.”

I’m guessing that the top three entries in every one of those 55 lists are the Fifty Shades of Grey books.

And when it comes to getting through this annual Valley of the Shadow of Top 10 lists, my advice: Take along somebody smart like Michael Cader at Publishers Lunch.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital CensusThe good Cader is a Twitter refusenik, by the way, that’s why I never link his name for you, I’m not being mean. And he’s handy with the lists.

For example, in Amazon’s Many 2012 Bestseller Lists this week, he writes, “Leaving aside E.L. James” (there’s a relief):

By our count the top 100 Kindle list [of books published in 2012] includes 16 titles that were originally self-published. But only five of those books are still self-published.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital CensusGot that? For unto us a new route to publication is made straight in the desert.

However glibly self-publishing authors might trash-talk “the damned publishers” and crow about how “all my money comes to me, no middlemen,” lo, the same gatekeepers those authors just tried to run down in the parking lot sure look like wise men when they turn up bearing contracts.

“All is forgiven,” pa-rum-pa-pum pum.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital CensusSo perhaps in the coming year, the self-publishing community can make tempering the anti-industry rhetoric one of its Top 10 Things To Work On.

What won’t be a surprise is the disappointment factor: As we saw with Amanda Hocking (remember her?), not all that many angels can dance on the head of this pin.

And you can bet your Prime membership that all the scribes and pharisees this week think they’re Hugh Howey.

 

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital CensusOne thing is certain: after the big, noisy exit so many self-publishers made from the Egypt of Oppressive Publishers, the last thing some observers expected to see was a camel path leading directly around to the back door. But self-publishing is beginning to look like more than the “digital slush pile” you hear about — it’s an audition for prime time.

That cloud of dust you see is Bob Mayer headed over here to tell me that there aren’t enough contracts in the world to woo him back to a publisher and that he and Cool Gus are in the self-publishing biz for good. Which is fine, there are some folks, yes, just that dedicated to the DIY way or the highway, and I’ll see you in the comments, Bob.

 

Meanwhile, Cader lists these as those five still self-published titles from the Kindle Top 100:

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital CensusAnd what nourishing literature it all is, huh?

Cader goes on:

And of those five, Leighton’s two books are also moving to Penguin Group’s Berkley–and Berkley/NAL now publishes seven more of those originally self-published books on the Kindle bestseller list

Just How Far We’ve Come From “Vanity Publishing,” in fact, was heralded this week by Jeremy Greenfield at Digital Book World, his story including this phrase about two self-to-traddies: “more traditionally self-published.”

Don’t rush by that. Savor it: A couple of books, he wrote, were more traditionally self-published than others.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital CensusSo now we have such a thing as self-publishing in a traditional way.

And self-publishing in a less traditional way.

What fun.

Greenfield is drawing a distinction between the fanny-fiction of E.L. James’ original necktier-upper on one hand, and other self-published work that does not begin life as a derivative of someone else’s work.

But I can foresee raging, entertaining battles among the self-publishers ahead, can’t you? All about who’s the most “pure” of the self-publishing camp.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital CensusAgent Clare Alexander said in London at FutureBook 2012 that, one of these days, we’ll have to invent publishing so we can tell good work from bad work.

So as you head back to your fields, praising all the things you’ve heard and seen in 2012, consider the approach described in one of the tenderest lines of the scriptures: Keep all these things close, and ponder them in your heart.

Not in a Top 10 list.

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Heard On-High: Top Tin Ear

Even as The Times’ Michiko Kakutani puts a self-published book into her Top 10 list — although it’s limned with references to the television machine — the concept of self-publishing as being newly OK continues to work itself farther out into the lay culture.

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Alan Sepinwall

Kakutani’s selfer-among-the-Top-10 is the long-winded title The Revolution was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers, and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever by Alan Sepinwall. (Add 15-word titles to that Top 10 List of Things We Could Really Do Without.)

Sepinwall is interviewed in Lynn Neary’s NPR Morning Edition piece, Self-Publishing: No Longer Just a Vanity Project.

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Lynn Neary

In her package, Neary does say:

It may seem that self-publishing companies are taking advantage of writers with little hope of making their money back. But even a writer with a fighting chance of success — like Alan Sepinwall — needs some help. Sepinwall hired a professional editor and used his blog as a publicity platform. But he wasn’t so sure about designing and formatting the book himself.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital CensusAnd Neary includes Simon & Schuster’s Archway alliance with Author Solutions, but without a word as to how vehemently many in the writing community have condemned that association. (Here is our Ether coverage of the Archway story — Writing on the Ether: Vanity Pressed.)

Instead, Neary comes in with tape of Carolyn Reidy, the S&S CEO, who justifies the move this way, talking about self-publishing;

We actually understand that it is a different world than what we do. We want to understand it, and if it is going to … be a threat to our business, we definitely want to understand it and also see how we can turn that to our advantage. And one of the advantages is, it is a great way to find authors, also new genres and new audiences.

It’s baffling, really, to hear Reidy describe self-publishing as something “we want to understand” and “a different world than what we do.” Aliens among us.

And keep in mind that S&S is the house now in a deal to do print — no ebooks, only print — on  Hugh Howey‘s,WOOL books. You can find that one, in case you’ve missed it, Etherized here: Hugh Howey’s WOOL: He Holds Digital Rights.

In the Howey deal, Reidy’s people at Simon & Schuster have accommodated a strong self-publisher whose ebooks have real track record.

One of the hardest gets so far has been a deal with a big publisher in which an author keeps his electronic rights. Howey wanted just that deal, and he and his agent, Kristin Nelson held out for it. They won. S&S has only the print rights.

Some have tried to spin this other ways. But the truth is this: S&S blinked.

And to the self-publishing camp, this is comfort and joy.

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In related reading: See Deirdre Donahue’s E.L. James is USA TODAY’s author of the year. More nourishing literary news.

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Winter Wonderland: eBook Prices

It’s the second week in a row the list hit a low. The average price of a best-selling ebook for the week ending on Saturday, Dec. 15 was $8.84, down from $9.06 the week prior.

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Jeremy Greenfield

By special request of Mr. Greenfield, the Ether calls your attention to the ongoing flight pattern of ebook prices. Greenfield is working Digital Book World’s (DBW) weekly Top 25 eBook Best-Seller Lists, of course.

More lists, Jeanette, Isabelle.

As retailers have gained control over pricing for ebooks from major publishers, they’ve wasted no time in discounting those titles. That discounting, combined with the success of lower-priced ebooks has pushed the average price of an ebook best-seller down to its lowest point since we started measuring it.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital CensusNow, that’s right, of course. But Greenfield also points out that this latest drop in average pricing, as interpreted by DBW’s and Dan Lubart’s methodology, is “attributable mostly to one ebook, HarperCollins’ To Have and To Kill: A Wedding Cake Mystery by Mary Jane Clark.

The book came out in Dec. 2010. Until Oct. 2011, it was priced at $11.99. As the book ceased to be a front-list seller, HarperCollins lowered the price to $9.99. The publisher lowered the price again to $7.99 in April 2012. Retailers gained control of HarperCollins pricing in Sept. 2012 but didn’t lower its price until Nov. On Nov. 29, the price of the book was lowered to $0.99 and it immediately shot up best-seller lists.

And, sooner than expected, another enabler of discounting retailers has arrived. More on that in our next section.

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Penguin: OK, We’ll Settle

On Tuesday afternoon, the Department of Justice announced it had reached a settlement with Penguin, “one of the largest book publishers in the United States,” of the ebook pricing lawsuit that Penguin had previously vowed to litigate in court.

http://lunch.publishersmarketplace.com/2012/12/penguin-settles-with-the-doj-removing-one-hurdle-to-random-house-merger/

Sarah Weinman

With her customary deft touch, Sarah Weinman at Publishers Lunch turns immediately to the irony of this fourth shoe falling:

Indeed, in April, Penguin Group CEO John Makinson had defiantly underscored that “alone among the publishers party to the investigations that resulted in today’s announcements, we have held no settlement discussions with the DOJ or the states.”

Yes, well, not so much now.

As Weinman points out in her report, Penguin Settles with the DOJ, Removing A Merger Hurdle and Answering A Merger Question, there’s been an expectation that Penguin would have to settle with the Department of Justice in the anti-trust case before it could pursue its proposed merger with Random House. As she writes:

Now we have that answer. In a statement, Penguin noted “it is also in everyone’s interests that the proposed Penguin Random House company should begin life with a clean sheet of paper.” At the same time they reiterate their belief (that) Penguin “has done nothing wrong and has no case to answer.”

Laura Hazard Owen

This is corporate custom, of course, even without such complications as pending mergers, the settling of cases with an emphatic absence of any admission of guilt.

As Laura Hazard Owen writes in her coverage at paidContent, Penguin settles with Department of Justice in ebook pricing case:

If and when the settlement is approved by Judge Denise Cote of the New York federal court, Random House will be subject to the same terms and will also have to negotiate new retailer contracts.

And that, of course, is the most interesting part of the settlement news. Random House was the only one of the Big Six not involved in the DoJ’s anti-trust action because it adopted agency pricing more than a year later than the other five, thus standing outside the collusion alleged to have occurred among the five publisher-defendants. But now, because of its proposed merger with one of the five involved in the suit, Random House will, it appears, be subject to the effects and obligations of the action.

Weinman:

The implication is that if the merger is approved, Penguin Random House as a whole would have to follow the same operating conditions with respect to ebook sales terms that Penguin alone will follow once the settlement is approved. So you can see why the parties would want to get started–and finished–with the two-year period of Agency Lite as quickly as possible.

And, still left to fight it out in court next summer? Macmillan. From which we hear now.

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Macmillan’s Sargent: ‘In the Land of Giants’

The legal bills look like the unit sales numbers for 50 Shades of Grey.

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John Sargent

But despite the fact that his company will not be settling with the Department of Justice,  Macmillan CEO John Sargent in A Message from John Sargent writes to agent and authors:

We decided shortly after the suit was filed that we would cancel all our retailer e-book contracts and negotiate new ones…All the new contracts are compliant with the government’s requests in their complaint. They contain no most-favored nations clauses and no price limits. They also allow 10 percent discounting on individual books priced at $13.99 and above. In short, we complied with the demands of the complaint the DOJ filed.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital CensusMichael Cader at Publishers Lunch sees this as something less, writing in Macmillan Voluntarily Adopts Their Version of Agency Lite, But Declines to Settle; Library eBooks Are Coming Soon:

While the new agreements do not allow discounting of ebooks to the extent required of the Settlers…It does appear to limit what the government might expect or require of Macmillan if they prevail in their lawsuit.

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During NaNoWriMo, RescueTime.com — the time-management system — worked with more than 100 writers to study their work patterns and guage productivity. This infographic has some of the details of what they learned. Special thanks, Robby Macdonell at @RescueTime.

Sargent, meanwhile, describes a near state of siege.

We have also been pursued by 33 states, by a large combined class, by the EU, and now even our friends in Canada are taking a look.

In the most interesting passage of his piece, Sargent explains Macmillan’s no-settlement position as a protective move for retailers.

The DoJ settlement’s mandate of two years’ discounting — and the presumed need for other retailers to match Amazon’s anticipated use of that period — could mean, he writes, that “few retailers could survive this or would choose to survive this…As we heard of each successive publisher settling, the need to support retailers, both digital and bricks and mortar, became more important.”

This white-knight stance is the kind of positioning that makes Sargent so popular in the core industry, of course, and it extends to his calm, thoughtful view of mergers.

I do know that we are not in discussions, with anyone. This will leave us where we have always been, the smallest of the big publishers. It has never hurt us in the past, and I expect it will not hurt us in the future…We will be more than fine in the land of the giants. I expect we will continue to grow and prosper.

He also offers the standing assessment of the TOR DRM-free move: “It is still too early to tell the outcome, but initial results suggest there was no increase in piracy.”

And he adds a tantalizing note regarding libraries:

In early 2013 we will launch library lending of e-books…We have found a model we believe works for a limited part of our list, so we will now move forward.

 

If there’s any reason for one of his many admirers to feel a qualm in Sargent’s missive, it comes only in his references to how “consumers continue to value and buy real books,” emphasis mine. He’s writing that “independent booksellers have had a good year,” which, of course, is good news among booksellers who indeed have had that good year.

He reveals:

At this writing, 26% of our total sales this year have been digital. It is good to remember that means 74% of Macmillan’s total sales are ink on paper books.

And these small comments add up to a quiet, possible implication that ebooks are not quite “real” books, coupled with what Sargent describes as a recent-weeks’ softness in ebook sales. It all may be unintentional, merely a semantic choice of “real” where “print” could have been less loaded, followed by simple revenue distribution metrics. But Sargent is a careful man whose language seems rarely left to chance.

 

He notes: “We continue to invest heavily in the digital side of the business” by way of finding “maximum possible distribution of your work in all formats.” Right noises there, of course, though it’s worth remembering that many observers in the business now feel that even to maintain digital as a “side” of the work, not fully integral to a corporation, may be indicative of an operation perhaps not yet fully free of an older perspective.

But here is a major publisher who at least goes to the trouble to address authors and agents in such open letters as this. And that is to be commended, without reservation. We complain a lot — and rightly — that the Big Six-becoming-Five play too much too close to their chests, rarely joining the dialogue. Sargent is an exception. And to good effect.

 

Many industry figures are readily and deeply charmed — even disarmed — by Sargent’s tone and bearing. He writes with an air of pride that inevitably wins him such compliments as “courageous.” This, even as Cader identifies what Sargent is offering to be “their version of agency lite.”

I take nothing from Sargent in this. Instead, I point out his success in casting himself in a heroic role. It plays. This makes it all the more perplexing that other major houses’ leaders don’t communicate more, themselves. The good will Sargent generates for himself, surely, can’t be missed by his counterparts.

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In related reading: Laura Hazard Owen covers his letter in Macmillan CEO: No, we won’t settle with the DoJ in the ebooks case.

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Cutesy Name Alert: Bookateria

Even our great friends at Publishers Lunch seem convinced that the reading public — let alone members of the industry! the industry! — like to experience efforts in discoverability of books in corporate-cutesy terms.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital CensusHave I ever mentioned that I don’t care for cutesy names on publishing-related companies? Oh, I have? OK, then.

No need for me to drag out the cutesy startup names I usually flog at this point. You’re welcome, Andrew Rhomberg.

 

Let me just call to your attention the otherwise welcome arrival of Publishers Lunch’s own new book-discovery-and-almost-selling-thing, Bookateria. It relates books to news of the day, which is a sweet idea, and then offers them to you for sale, but not through its own coffers. Instead, it provides you with links to buy those books elsewhere, and it collects affiliate fees for sending you to those retailers.

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Edward Nawotka

Ed Nawotka at Publishing Perspectives, host of Ether for Authors, has a good handle on where the usefulness of the new feature lies, writing Publishers Lunch Opens “Bookateria” Book Discovery Site with Random House:

While its potential to become the “go-to” bookstore for a broad array of consumers looks to be limited, it appears to be a helpful tool for those in the industry as they seek out the titles they are reading about online.

 

Random House is “providing technology, staff, and support services.” The back end. And in the press release, which Nawotka carries in his report, PL’s Michael Cader is quoted saying:

“In today’s world, helping to drive the discovery and sale of books is the focus of anyone who cares about authors, and the publishing industry that supports them. Bookateria lets us connect our exhaustive 24/7 coverage of the publishing industry directly to the books themselves.”

 

All great. Especially in that you can visit it without the subscription you need to take advantage of the other great services of Publishers Marketplace. I always encourage people in publishing to subscribe to Publishers Marketplace (and Publishers Lunch, its news production). But if you don’t have that subscription, Bookateria is still available to you.

 

Its main draw is called Books in the News, a nice slider in the T1 position of the home page that shows you some books with links to related press stories about them. That’s cool.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital CensusAnd, hey, what’s wrong with the name “Books in the News?”

Bookateria. I almost dropped my Publishers Lunch tray.

At a time when our industry is fighting for some digital dignity, getting so clever every time we name something just isn’t helpful.

What is it with publishing people and cute? Can somebody answer that for me?

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Craft: ‘Segregation of the Fantastic’

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Tobias Buckell / Photo: Jamie Nygaard

There is also a form of thinking about the market that assumes diverse people read diverse stuff, and white people read white stuff. The segregation of the fantastic, so to speak. It’s an assumption that seeps in everywhere and that has bedeviled me in some ways…Yet, and this is what heartens me, most of my readership is white and happily reading about diverse characters. And no less awesome for it.

This is hybrid science fiction author Tobias Buckell in an interview with Ether sponsor Guy LeCharles Gonzalez6Qs: Tobias Buckell, Traversing Publishing’s Diverse Fantastic.

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Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

Gonzalez asks Buckell, “How has being ‘light but not quite white’ influenced your writing, and external perceptions of it?”

Buckell:

A sort of ‘little guy playing against the dominant forces’ aesthetic seeps into my stuff. I’m interested in power dynamics, having grown up in a small nation that was buffeted by global forces and policies set by larger nations. As to how I’m perceived from the outside…In the beginning, when I was trying to sell my first novel, I had a weird experience of editors really wanting me to write, sort of magic realism set in the Caribbean…There was a strong sense that, hey, this is how you can be marketed as a Caribbean novelist.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital CensusAnd when asked by Gonzalez how he’s been affected by the last five years of so many changes in an author’s process and position, Buckell echoes what many writers are coping with — “new stuff to learn”:

I have to say, making sure my manuscript was really well copy edited, had a cover, interior design, was printed, and then shipped, meant keeping track of a lot of variables and schedules…Uploading digital books, testing out ereaders. More stuff. Filtering out messianic personalities who claim to have The One True Way and spread a lot of Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt on all sides, that takes work. A lot of egos are bound up in this transition…But I think cool-headed folks who diversify, roll with it, they’ll be fine. They usually are. I like my hybrid career.

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Craft: Tele-Communing

Here’s something about the user experience of online communities that you’ve probably never considered: everyone in an online community is having a unique, individualized experience, even though they’re all doing it together.

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Travis Alber

In The 7 key features of an online community, Travis Alber (founder of ReadSocial.net and BookGlutton.com) does you the service of sorting out some of the main bookish communities out there — and why they’re not as distinctive as they’d like you to believe they are.

All book communities strive to seem unique, from branding to features. But they’re all still made of the same community building blocks. There are key concepts and design practices that show up everywhere in digital book communities.

 

Alber’s list of fundamentals comprises:

  • The Activity Feed
  • Contributions
  • Content
  • Discovery and Browsing
  • Identity and Social Connections
  • Involvement with Other Networks and the Larger Web
  • Simplicity

 

And she includes a mercifully succinct look at some communities you come across all the time but may not have been able to sort for yourself, breaking them into four groups:

One of the best takeaways from her write is about the role of simplicity in good community design and practice:

The Paradox of Choice tells us that people are less likely to interact if there are too many choices, so it’s important not to overwhelm users with every possible option. Communities can continue to be complex, they just shouldn’t feel that way to their members.

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Alber’s post is in the O’Reilly Tools of Change blogs and she’ll be speaking at TOC 2013 on Valentine’s Day panel in New York on The Elusive “Netflix of eBooks.” More information about TOC is in our Conferences section today.

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Con­fer­ences in the New Year

If you have a publishing conference event coming, please notify me through the contact page at porteranderson.com, and I’ll be happy to consider listing it.

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Registration continues for Digital Book World (#DBW13) (January 15-17) — and the associated Children’s Publishing Goes Digital (January 15) and Authors Launch (January 18, see below). Substantial savings are available, and you’re welcome to use my affiliate link to trigger them as you register. You can also use code PORTER at registration.

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Zola Books’ Mary Ann Naples

Joining a panel on “The Changing Role of Editors,Mary Ann Naples of Zola Books is featured with Peter Ginna, Katie Adams, and Ben Sevier.

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Agent Kristin Nelson

Also scheduled for this one is Kristin Nelson, agent to Hugh Howey, WOOL author. They’ll talk in an onstage conversation with Mike Shatzkin about their new arrangement with Simon & Schuster.

 

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agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBookA 25-percent discount has been offered on registration — use code AL375 — for the all-new January 18 Authors Launch one-day conference.

It’s being produced by the Publishers Launch team of Mike Shatzkin and Michael Cader.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital Census

McCarthy Digital’s Peter McCarthy

This is the daylong series of specialized presentations from a roster including Peter McCarthy, Dan Blank, MJ Rose, Randy Susan Meyers, Jason Ashlock, Meryl Moss, Ether host Jane Friedman, David Wilk and more.

My own session in this one is In the Public Eye: Media training for authors.

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agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital CensusThe 14th Annual Winter Conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators is set for February 1-3 in New York.

“This year’s conference features two jam-packed days of inspiration and the latest on what’s happening in the field of children’s literature from top editors, agents, art directors, authors, and illustrators. Make sure you look at the detailed description of each workshop on the Schedule before you select your breakouts.”

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Author Revolution Day with change + TOC added TREATEDAuthor (R)evolution Day (#TOCcon) (February 12) from O’Reilly Tools of Change and Publishers Weekly.

You’re welcome to use my code AFFILIATEPA for a discount of $350 on your registration.

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Grub Street’s Eve Bridburg

I’ll be doing an onstage conversation with Grub Street’s Eve Bridburg on The Author Blueprint for Success as part of this program, looking forward to it.

Lau, Allen @allenlau of @wattpad

Wattpad’s Allen Lau

Among other featured presenters: Cory Doctorow, Laura Dawson, Allen Lau, Jesse Potash, Dana Newman, Kristen McLean, Peter Armstrong, Tim Sanders, Michael Tamblyn, Rob Eagar, Kate Pullinger, Kat Meyer, and Joe Wikert.

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agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital CensusO’Reilly Media’s Tools of Change (#TOCcon) Conference  (February 12-14) in New York City.

Use my code AFFILIATEPA for an immediate discount of $350 on any registration package.

#TOCcon 2013 includes a major brace of workshops for industry professionals during Author (R)evolution Day (your pass must include Tuesday), plus two days of keynotes, events and multi-tracked offerings running up to five sessions simultaneously.

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Brainpicker’s Maria Popova

Among highlighted sessions: A keynote address with Maria Popova.

I heard Popova — you may know her better from Brain Pickings — speak recently at the Museum of Modern Art about current concepts of curation. Well worth hearing.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital Census

Goodreads’ Otis Chandler

And check out What Readers Want: GoodReads Answers Your Questions with Otis Chandler.

 

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For an updated list of planned confabs, please see the Publishing Conferences page at porteranderson.com.

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Books: Reading on the Ether

As each week, the books you see here have been referenced recently in Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, or in tweets.

I’m bringing them together in one spot each week, to help you recall and locate them, not as an endorsement. And, needless to say, we lead our list weekly with our Writing on the Ether Sponsors, in gratitude for their support.


Writing on the Ether Sponsors

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital CensusMarilyn Dahl at Shelf Awareness has mentioned Ether sponsor Darrelyn Saloom and Deirdre Gogarty’s My Call to the Ring: A Memoir of a Girl Who Yearns to Box, writing:

This story of an Irish girl determined to become a pro boxer is absolutely captivating, even for someone (like me) who’s not a fan of the sport.

And at Boxing.com, a review from Cheekay Brandon, Boxing by the Book: Deirdre Gogarty’s Call to the Ring:

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Deirdre Gogarty, co-author of My Call to the Ring

My Call to the Ring is …a coming-of-age story of the highest order, a tale of perseverance and purpose….And the most powerful, perhaps unintended consequence of the memoir: boxing as a sport is humanized just as much as Deirdre Gogarty is. That boxing can provide refuge for such a delicate spirit gives us another reason to love the sport—at the proverbial “end of the day,” boxing really is about the bonds that are formed and relationships cultivated, the kind that bring many troubled souls out of the darkness.

And Saloom tells us that New Orleans’ Garden District Book Shop will have her and Gogarty as guests at an event celebrating the book on March 1.

 

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Last Gas: What’s No Longer Useful

What is feminism? This is no longer a useful question in American discourse.

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Monica Byrne

In a curious parallel to a publishing discussion of the week, the writer and playwright Monica Byrne makes her point at Virginia Quarterly Review — with real eloquence and grace. As Jane Friedman, host of the Ether here and VQR’s digital editor explains in an editor’s note, Byrne was asked to explain her objection to the premise of VQR’s fall-edition series, What Is Feminism? Byrne’s answer — What Is Feminism? It’s No Longer a Useful Question — is compelling, cleanly delivered, and focused.

Here’s a more useful question: Why are American media still posing questions that ask women to qualify their participation in the human race?

And moreover: Why do women still rush to answer them, as if they do?

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Therese Walsh

Just before reading Byrne’s piece, I was over at Publishing Perspectives, putting together an item in Ether for Authors. The section, Genre: One Group Opts for More, is about the decision by a chapter of the Romance Writers of America to pull out of the national organization. The RWA has adjusted its regulations, requiring all its members and associates be dedicated to romance, while the chapter, which generally refers to itself as “Women’s Fiction,” is made of a diverse group of authors, for some of whom romance is not at all the point.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital CensusAs I exchanged comments online with the chapter’s founder, The Last Will of Moira Leahy author Therese Walsh (co-founder with Kathleen Bolton of Writer Unboxed) and several others, I found myself wondering aloud (digitally aloud, that is) about even the phrase “women’s fiction.” To my ears, the idea of women using such a term for their art is a self-ghettoizing act, perhaps unintentional but nonetheless palpable.

And just last week in the Ether I’d found myself asking women writers who publish under their initials — J.K. Rowling style — to tell me why they use their initials instead of their names. To a person, the responding authors told me they use their initials in hopes of “not putting off a guy who might otherwise read my book.” The concept there is that men will not read books, at least happily, if they’re written by women. (The irony is that everyone I see using initials instead of a name is a woman. And hey, that picture on the back cover and on your Amazon author’s page is none too boyish, either.)

I can dispel that one instantly (Jo Rowling, it’s all OK now). Men do read books by women. The boys read Potter and they do know that J.K. is Joanne. It’s cool. Ease up. Hell, as I’ve said before, if I could become Joan Didion tomorrow, I’d be the happiest former man alive.

I see this pathway back to where we started:

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Bethanne Patrick

(1) I fear that women are operating — for all the right and earnest reasons, mind you, nobody’s fault — on some misguided, at least outdated, principles in publishing. Men will read women. They’ll also read fiction, something touched on in an earlier Ether with Bethanne Patrick. Remember: On an ereader, nobody knows what you’re reading. Vast sectors of the canon have been opened to men whose main difference with women as readers may simply be that they don’t discuss their reading as much. But more important than deus-ex-gadgetry, the purview of men in culture has widened dramatically. And hanging on to stereotypical concepts of what men will and won’t read only reinforces those outmoded assumptions. You just put a book into a guy’s hand and tell him to try it. Then go away. He’ll try it, believe me. Guys are curious.

Next level out of this rabbit hole:

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital Census

Lydia Sharp

(2) When women use terms like “Women’s Fiction” for their work, they can hardly be helping to break down barriers to male readership, can they? Author Lydia Sharp, in talking about this with us online, made a great point: genre labels, she said, are best when they don’t name the readership for a kind of work. Name the work, not the audience.

And this is a recommendation I’d pass on to Walsh and Laura Drake, who lead the former RWA chapter now pushing off like an ice floe in choppy water.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital CensusIf there’s a way to reconsider what the newly reconstituted post-RWA chapter calls itself, maybe it’s a chance to get away from “Women’s Fiction,” which really does make it sound as if it’s strictly for women. If that’s the intent, no problem, so be it, of course. But if not, there might be alternatives to pink-painting yourselves into a corner.

(3) And here’s Byrne, just waiting for us. In the course of all this, I had tweeted at one point, “Doesn’t have to be ‘Women’s fiction.’ Women can write human fiction. And stop ghetto-izing themselves.”  So much more easily tweeted than done, I know, I know.

And that’s why I warmed so readily to Byrne’s forceful evocation at VQR of how binding old terms and concepts can be. She does it much better than I do, and she gets at the exhaustion on this topic that I can only glimpse at times in friends and colleagues struggling to find themselves in the confetti of old labels. Byrne:

Women are human. That means there is nothing in the spectrum of human identity and behavior that we are not. And I’m hardly the first person to make this point. I’m tired of making it. I’m tired of having this conversation. I’m tired of seeing exclusive language in American media that should know better, let alone questions like “Why Are Women Important in X,” which proceed from the assumption that females must justify their humanity. We don’t have to justify. We just are. And as for the question “What Is Feminism?”, that question has been answered beyond the point of meaning in America this past century.

I want to say to our good colleagues in the former RWA chapter of writers, look, this is a new year. Think widely, look for a new way to describe what you do together and what you want to be as a group and as individuals. You tell us what to call you. We’ll take your lead. It’s OK if it’s still “Women’s Fiction,” but give yourselves a chance to review it, don’t just default to that.

And here’s Byrne, making the case, so well, her way:

This is a new century. We deserve better questions.

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Porter Anderson (Find him on Twitter / Find him at Google+) is a Fellow with the National Critics Institute. As a journalist, he has worked with three networks of CNN, The Village Voice, Dallas Times Herald, D Magazine, and other outlets. He contributes to Digital Book World’s Expert Publishing Blog and to Writer Unboxed, and has been posted by the United Nations to Rome (P-5, laissez-passer) for the World Food Programme. He is based in Tampa. His companion to this column, Issues on the Ether Issues on the Ether, appears on Tuesdays at PublishingPerspectives.com, and is followed by a live chat on Twitter each Wednesday, hashtagged #EtherIssue. His Porter Anderson Meets series of interviews for London's The Bookseller features a live Twitter interview each Monday hashtagged #PorterMeets, followed by a write-up in the magazine on the stands each Friday. More at PorterAndersonMedia.com.

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Posted in Writing on the Ether.

13 Comments

  1. What an interesting brouhaha about self-publishing. And how depressing it is when we look at the books that are being picked for deals – just commercial genre fiction. Good luck to the authors, of course; we all write what we feel comfortable with and they deserve their success.

    But where is the more original work? While genre self-publishers graduate to big school, plenty of literary writers who are just as accomplished and readable are being left behind. Here’s the worrying part – this may bring us to a point where self-publishers will automatically be dismissed as slush if they haven’t been nabbed by a commercial publisher.

    To combat this, we’ll probably see more author collectives. Perhaps we’ll see a change in emphasis. At the moment, authors mainly front their own work, while citing membership of a collective to help prove they’re worth taking seriously. If we once again have to prove we’re credible writers, will the groups have to be more prominent? Will we see fewer self-published authors able to battle the market alone?

    • @twitter-329334210:disqus
      Hey, Roz,

      I think you’re asking all the right questions here — and mercifully NOT predicting, lol — and yes, I think that what’s forming now is a pretty clear picture that the idea of a maverick as self-publisher is getting harder to sustain. If not plucked from the lonesome prairie by a publisher, then herding is next, the collectives we’ve been talking about. And, as you surmise, not collectives in the sense of groups you belong to as a seal of approval, but collectives that will have to do the actual work of publishing, publicizing, promoting, making visible.

      The idea of the completely single-agent self-publisher probably has never made as much sense as some of us might have liked. Withstanding the forces of mass media is too hard for an individual, at least until they have a huge head of steam built up from, say, a mighty backlist or a big boost in visibility from a traditional career. (I’m saying that a Rowling can do it as an individual, those without that kind of rare Olympian status to start with don’t have much hope, at least within a normal lifespan.)

      But the biggest worry in all this year-end list-mongering I’m so sick of is how clear it makes it that we’re facing an AUDIENCE we may not love. We may love it even less than we love our community of “buy my book” writers. Something out there is buying and buying and buying almost nothing but erotica and erotica and erotica. Something adult with a very adolescent libido is driving some grotesque wave of prurient taste that I’m not sure is going to support genuine literature (remember literature?).

      Maybe it’s a sector of the population. Well, it was a big sector for the fanny-fiction of Eel James. I’m worried about what this means. If what the establishment chooses to promote to legitimacy by their choices from the self-publishing world is soft porn, then what have we got? (I would rather call it soft porn than erotica, when I remember that Anais Nin would likely not recognize this rubbish as something remotely like her own work.) Well, we have a soft porn self-publishing community on one hand and we have a traditional industry becoming the same sickly pink color and channeling that soft porn into wider and wider venues…which then understand it to be legit because it came from our mansions of culture, the established publishers. And that’s our audience. Happy with self-published porn, happy with traditional publishing’s imprimatur.

      This is not looking good, is it?

      -p.

      • Eel James and fannyfic – lol-ling so hard I can’t sit up.

        Here’s a tiny ray of light. Yesterday I wandered into an old-fashioned, creaky bookshop to do Christmas shopping. Got chatting to the owner and asked what writing books he had. I wasn’t intending to mention I write, but it came out because I had to explain why I’d already read all the books he’d got.

        So he then looked me up on the wholesaler and got excited, just for the pleasure of having an author in the house.

        He didn’t ask what I wrote, but what I liked to read. I said I’d just started Ingenious Pain, by our lovely Andrew Miller. There then followed a mad ten minutes as we zipped around the shelves. He pulled out titles saying ‘this is brilliant’ and I’d say I’d already read it, or I’d pull one out and say ‘what did you think of this’. We had a good-natured disagreement about Cloud Atlas. He said he didn’t bother with most of the blockbusters but tried to stock anything that was offbeat and intelligent. After a while he said ‘you should come in and do a signing’. He still didn’t know anything about my book, and never even asked who’d published it.
        How refreshing to find a book professional who is still championing genuine literature – and has the gumption to stake his living on it.

        • @twitter-329334210:disqus

          INGENIOUS PAIN! My all-time favorite, the top of the pile, by our Andrew Miller. If I could bear to do a Top 10 list, Ingenious Pain would be right up there, probably numero uno. Good for you for reading it, you must tell me what you think. :)

          And what a fascinating store you’ve found — it would seem to hold all the advantages for which we want old-fashioned, creaky bookshops to survive. And what a perfect place for your book, too, you’ll have to be sure to follow up with him and do that signing, he sounds like the type who’d be an avid hand-seller of “Future Life” to everybody who walked in, and likely would carry Nail Your Novel, as well, don’t you think? Since he has writing books already.

          I’m all admiration for him, managing to keep that thing going on real literature. If you’d found that store in the States, I’d be flat-out shocked. Since you’ve found it in the UK, I’m not quite as stunned, in that there’s still a much deeper current of appreciate there for genuine art than there is (and maybe ever was) here. I’m guarded with all that, though, having lived enough years in various cultures of Europe, including in England, to know that our American idea of you guys’ sensitivity to the better stuff is limned (just to get Grisha going in the comment below) with our romanticized idea of Things European. Still, for Miller it’s just as well he was born there instead of here, he’d have had a harder time being the writer he is and selling his work here than there. And it should be a very good thing for him, indeed, that your bookshop discovery is there and kicking for all of us who aren’t yet ready to hand it all over to the housewife hustlers and fanny fiction flame-fanners.

          I’m afraid I feel an Extra Ether coming on. Alas, the poor Ethernauts.

          -p.

          • Thanks for mentioning Ingenious Pain, got it for my Kindle, it’s in my Babel tower of the reading list ))
            Btw, I have yet to meet an intelligent person who liked 50shadesofgrey. I skimmed through it for several minutes, but never bothered to read it, so I can’t really say how aweful it is.
            I’m not really into genre fiction.
            I read and enjoyed books like Bridget Jones Diary though. But there are not literature either, more a borderliner.

  2. “However glibly self-publishing authors might trash-talk “the damned publishers” and crow about how “all my money comes to me, no middlemen,” lo, the same gatekeepers those authors just tried to run down in the parking lot sure look like wise men when they turn up bearing contracts.”
    I think those struggling writers who damn tradpub remain struggling because they have no idea how hard it is to market and make money on even bloody good books. Any selfpub author sufficiently experienced in marketting will have no hard feelings about tradpub, since he/she would understand how much tradpub gambles in terms of time/money by pickng a new author. Publishing is not a charity, it’s more a casino-type business unfortunately

    • @GrigoryRyzhakov:disqus

      Alas, Grisha, you’re right —

      And something about the online world makes that even clearer. There’s this very difficult element of chance which, like so much on the Ether, is magnified to the role of a major player in how things go once they doing their going online. Luck has always played a part, in other words — but now, “viral” luck can seem to be so much more capricious even than older-world luck. “Virality” is such a complete mystery and usually favors the trashier things, not quality.

      It’s a tough time and you’re right that many self-publishers, especially the loudest complainers, are among the least experienced, insightful and — in many cases — talented of the whole community.

      Eventually, there will be needed divisions within this still-reconfiguring corps of worldwide writers, the stronger people with real gifts and power will have to begin divorcing themselves from the rabble brought in by the Internet’s lie that writing is easy. I’m uncomfortable, even now, with some of the people I find us all junked in together with, people who clearly have no idea what they’re doing or what we’re doing and, frankly, have no business in this business. But these issues, even more in American society than in your Russian and English societies, are very hard for us to deal with. Our love for egalitarianism and for the illusion of “classless” citizenship makes us loathe to draw the lines we need to begin helping a thoroughly boggled audience start separating the asses from the promising among us.

      Somehow, lines will eventually need to be drawn. This will be painful. We’re not done yet. :)

      -p.

      • I think it’s obvious that different people like different books. Just because the audience preferring an easy read is large, it doesn’t meant we should give up on literature as an art form. We should care about intelligent audiences too, otherwise, we’ll degrade back to the animal state.

        So, in the end it boils down to creating a system in which the audiences know where to look for their type of book and not just general highly misleading best-seller lists.

        Current categorization helps, but it doesn’t reflect the type of writing – a soft porn book and a Jane Austen book may be both romance but they cater for slightly different audiences. We need a good system to make people read more and love books

        • @GrigoryRyzhakov:disqus

          We do need that better system, Grisha, and you’ll let us know when you’ve perfected it, right?

          It’s seriously a problem. It has always been a problem, sure (not for nothing did the penny dreadfuls of old England sell through the roof), but we have to keep reminding ourselves that this is the first time in history that literature — or any other more serious form of artwork — has had to battle such a thing as the electronic entertainment industry. The seductive appeal of that force (up to and including the passivity with which much of its wares can be consumed — you don’t have to think to watch bad TV all night) is truly devastating to serious creative work, legitimate culture.

          Technically, everything should be reversed. It’s the more profound work that should be the most popular, the smartest work should be the best read, the most mind-opening work should be the most heavily followed. Instead, it’s the least demanding, least artful, most derivative work that draws the big audiences. And we keep shrugging about this. Part of the problem being the great, great taboo in talking about intelligence, of course. That component of the equation is unmentionable, someone’s feelings might be hurt.

          All of which makes us smaller as populations and as people. If we brought more intelligence to this table, we’d never allow Jane Austen and soft porn to be sold under the same header, as you point out. It’s one of the many ways we’ve let ourselves down by allowing the dummies — with their dollars — to inherit our earth.

          -p.

          • Totally agree with you, Porter. We live in a success- and celebrity-hype culture. Perhaps, slowly changing our education system towards appreciating intelligence would be the way to go.

            Over the last two decades in Russia there’s been a decline in the reading taste, so this year the major bestseller books are: 1. Tales of an Orthodox Christian priest (people becoming more religious) 2. 50ShadesofGrey (chuckle) – so we’re going downhill too.The reason is the decline in education and degradation of the TV culture.

            One thing is to cater for the under-educated audience and the other is deliberate mass media -induced primitivisation (if there’s such a word) of people.

            Last century in the Soviet Russia a bunch of peasants became the most educated society in the world, it took just few decades. I believe the good taste in culture is something that can be brought up.

  3. Pingback: The path to traditional publishing today may be non-traditional. | Human Writes | Scoop.it

  4. Thanks for putting my cover on your blog and the links.

    I have never said that trad publishing is off the table. I think what Bella Andre and Hugh Howey have done are brilliant. There is no doubt that the Big 5 can do distribution of print that can’t be matched. They also have a lot of smart people working there who know books. They also have more muscle when it comes to promoting eBooks. So there are definite upsides to traditional publishing. I owe my career to it and would go back to it if the right deal was put on the table.

    I’ve always said I’ll do whatever is the smartest business decision and the great thing is we have so many options now. I just had a book released by 47North, which isn’t traditional, but isn’t Cool Gus either. That was a strategic move that is paying dividends as I’m now ranked in the top 10 science fiction authors on Amazon with the release of Area 51 Nightstalkers. And top 10 action-adventure, sandwiched between Clive Cussler and James Rollins.

    The authors who are going to be around are going to do a mixture: self, hybrid, Amazon, trad– whatever works best for their own situations.

    I watched a special on David Geffen the other day. He was there when the music business went through great changes. He was smart enough to contact Yoko Ono instead of John Lennon to rep him. He also didn’t lock his clients into contracts for a while– he felt he either gave value or he didn’t. That’s the business model we’re pursuing at Cool Gus. Looking for authors who are uncertain and a bit scared about all the changes, but want to get their ebooks out there and know they can’t do it on their own. Who want top royalty rates and personal attention. But who also want the freedom to pursue a better deal if one arises. We want happy authors with us, as we close in on 100 titles published. As Jon Fine at Amazon says: who wants to work with an unhappy client?

    We just published Sam Horn’s classic Tongue Fu for the first time in eBook. I’ve known Sam since the Maui Writers Conference many years ago. I’m very happy we’re the ones to put her book out.

    And we’re going to have some big things coming in 2013.

    Nothing but good times ahead.

  5. What an interesting brouhaha about self-publishing. And how depressing it is when we look at the books that are being picked for deals – just commercial genre fiction. Good luck to the authors, of course; we all write what we feel comfortable with and they deserve their success.

    But where is the more original work? While genre self-publishers graduate to big school, plenty of literary writers who are just as accomplished and readable are being left behind. Here’s the worrying part – this may bring us to a point where self-publishers will automatically be dismissed as slush if they haven’t been nabbed by a commercial publisher.

    To combat this, we’ll probably see more author collectives. Perhaps we’ll see a change in emphasis. At the moment, authors mainly front their own work, while citing membership of a collective to help prove they’re worth taking seriously. If we once again have to prove we’re credible writers, will the groups have to be more prominent? Will we see fewer self-published authors able to battle the market alone?

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