NPR Interviews Barry Eisler

In case you missed it yesterday (or otherwise don’t listen to NPR), here’s an interview with Barry Eisler: he of the turning-down-a-half-million-dollar-traditional-publishing-advance-to-self-publish fame.

What was interesting to me, about this interview: I didn’t know that after Eisler had announced his intent to self-publish he was actually approached directly by Amazon and offered what he calls a “hybrid deal”.  In this hybrid deal, Amazon has become, in truth, the actual publisher of the book (as well as distributor and retailer) offering marketing support, while still leaving all the book production details (editing, cover art, etc.) to Eisler.

The result?  Amazon gets an exclusive title.

In light of my recent articles about Amazon and the changes in the publishing model… this is definitely something that makes me go “hmm”.

I find it interesting that Eisler is being unashamedly mercenary about this – and I find I respect that.  It suggests to me that he’s doing what he’s doing not out of some anti-traditional-publishing principle, but because he is truly looking for what he believes to be the best deal, financially.  I can’t begrudge someone finding a good deal.  But if he was just carrying some anti-traditional-publishing chip on his shoulder (like some self-publishing authors seem to), I’d probably think a lot less of him for it.

7 thoughts on “NPR Interviews Barry Eisler

  1. I’ve been quiet over here, but I *have* been paying attention to your articles about the changes in the publishing industry. And I completely second your “hmm.”

    The changes themselves make me leery while at the same time I appreciate how it has transformed “being published” into something more tangible for those struggling to break into traditional publishing. Yet I get squicky over the thought of just “anybody” tossing out a book willy-nilly… (Smashwords, specifically makes my stomach lurch, and all that’s *before* I think about self-pubbing possibly ruining chances of being traditionally published…)

    The good news, I suppose, is that self-published authors will have to back their books with quality of product. But then I wonder if a few bad apples will spoil the bunch and the entire self-publishing industry will either collapse, or become a wasteland untrusted by readers…

    And then there’s Amazon, who seems to want to capitalize on the desperation of unpublished authors…

    I just… yeah… completely second the “hmm.” :S

    • Yeah, I’ve read several places that Smashwords makes a horrible hash of any formatting you may want. In that sense, I suppose, “Smashwords” is perhaps a highly appropriate moniker. Most of those self-publishing authors that I’ve read about who are doing so successfully always make the point that you have to build the documents for each of the different ebook formats yourself – or else hire someone who knows what they’re doing – rather than use an aggregator. The downside to that, I guess: you’d need one of each of the major ereaders in order to test your formatting to make sure everything actually came through cleanly. An expensive proposition.

      Your penultimate statement, though: Yes. I think largely that’s what gives me the willies about Amazon. Fundamentally, how is their business model different from that of vanity publishers and others that leech off the dream of many frustrated and unpublished authors? Only in that Amazon doesn’t charge those authors directly. They’re still trading on the dreams and hopes of those frustrated authors to get published and be successful. And that feels… ghoulish to me.

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