Not Exactly the Apple Of My Eye

I’ve talked a lot about Amazon on this blog.  I haven’t said much about Apple.  Mostly, that’s because the subjects of “Apple” and “Writing” rarely cross paths in the news.

But they’ve crossed paths, recently, with the reveal of the new EULA for Apple’s iBooks Author platform.  And the early reviews are, shall we say, not stellar.  Says techie guru Ed Bott from ZDNet (a prominent tech industry web-zine), this EULA is “mind-bogglingly greedy” – effectively forcing the users of Apple’s iBooks Author platform to sell publications created in that platform exclusively through Apple’s iBooks/iTunes store. 

To follow that up, they appear to be taking aim at ebook publishing standards with the probable goal of removing the open standard EPUB version from competition with their new iBooks format.

And of course… you’ll need a $500 iPad to buy those fancy new iBooks.  Because, hey, cool, interactive books!  Who doesn’t have half-a-grand to drop just for the right to maybe purchase interactive books sold exclusively by Apple?  (Answer: I, for one, do not yet own an iPad, nor any other variety of tablet/slate computer.  So do a lot of other people.  And I’m not exactly on the “poor” end of the rich-poor spectrum.  I’m not on the “rich” end, either, but I’m still on the “can’t afford to spend frivolously on an iPad” end.) 

So lest it be said that I’m simply an Amazon-hater because of the many posts that I’ve written about Amazon that are potentially read as negative, let it therefore be shown that it’s not Amazon, per se, that get’s me: it’s anything that hurts writers and/or readers and favors corporations who have nothing to do with either and/or which is anticompetitive.  Those sorts of things?  I’m not a fan of them.  I’m a really huge un-fan of them.

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Clearing the Waters: Marketing with Traditional Publishers vs. Digital Self-Publishing

I was reading an interview of a digitally self-published author the other day when I ran across a line about marketing that sounded an awful lot like something I’d heard before:

Two key factors made me decide to self publish. One was realizing that even with a traditional publishing contract, I would have to market my books myself. Marketing is the one thing I don’t enjoy about being a writer, and if traditional publishing could no longer offer that to new authors, what was the point?

I’ve heard that claim before, but this time it struck a chord with me.  But it wasn’t the chord that was meant to be struck.

Well yes, I thought, it would make sense to digitally self-publish if you were going to have to do all the work of marketing yourself.  Except, my thought continued, that’s not true in the least

What I realized, as I read this statement, was that while it sounded true and it jives with the rumors that swirl around the internet and are continually propagated by various self-publishing cheerleaders, the claim that traditionally published authors have to do all their own marketing is based at least in part on a fundamental misapprehension of what “marketing” is.  If you’re a writer who’s trying to decide whether to digitally self-publish or to pursue traditional publication, and you’re leaning toward the former because you think you’d have to market the book yourself anyway, whether you published traditionally or otherwise, so why not cut out the hassle of the middle man – please disabuse yourself of that notion.  This isn’t an anti-self-publishing screed.  There are a lot of good, solid, logical and economically- or artistically-self-interested reasons to go with self-publication over traditional publication.  But the idea that traditional publishers will not do any marketing on your behalf is not one of them.  And I can say this, yes, without even ever having been traditionally published.

I’ve pointed out before, here on my blog, that I’m fortunate enough to be possessed of a fairly decent education with regards to Business, and as part of that education I’ve become fairly well-acquainted with the specifics of Marketing.  I recently wrote about the subject of author self-branding, for instance, for those who might be interested.  My qualifications on the subject, again: I started with a Bachelor’s degree in Business which included a small number of classes on Marketing fundamentals and International Marketing.  More recently, I completed an MBA from a nationally ranked institution (not Harvard or Wharton or Stanford level, but not too far down the rankings from them), wherein I focused my studies in two main areas, one of which was Marketing. 

Okay, so my credentials are out of the way.  Why then, is it wrong to say that traditionally published authors have to do it all their own Marketing?  What can you expect a traditional publisher to do for you, marketing-wise?  Read on, ye weary and wary writers, and let’s talk about a little something that keeps writers up at night, in a cold sweat. Continue reading

The Self-Aggrandizing Self-Publishing Kings: Extreme Rhetoric, Inflammatory Language and Ulterior Motives

A few weeks ago, author Tobias Buckell spoke out on his blog about the extreme rhetoric and inflammatory language used by those who… let’s say they “advocate” for self-publishing and the end of the old publishing paradigm.

A lot of people blasted Buckell – well, a lot of people who already buy into the rhetoric of the self-crowned self-publishing Kings.  But I saw in his post a reflection of my own discomfort with the rhetoric and language of these self-publishing cheerleaders.

While Buckell’s comments, itself, lead off with some pretty strong – one might even say inflammatory – language, the point he was making, the point that struck home for me, was that many of these self-crowned self-publishing Kings make a habit of using some pretty offensive language and imagery in their anti-traditional-publishing diatribes. 

A good run-down of the issues Buckell inveighed against are given on writer S. V. Rowle’s blog.  The basic argument goes thusly: if you’re using extreme, inflammatory, insensitive, and offensive language in the main thrust of your argument, then it doesn’t really matter whether your argument has merits; you’ve basically set yourself up as a jack-ass that can safely be ignored. 

This is a big driver of what makes me uncomfortable with these supposed self-publishing cheer-leaders, though it’s not the only one.  What sorts of things are they saying, that bothered Tobias – and myself – so much? Continue reading

“A Novel Venture” Revisited: Kickstarting a Writing Career

Quite a good long time ago, I wrote a post about one possible future publishing model that might rise up and replace (or co-exist with) the current traditional model.

I wrote about this before the real explosion in e-books that first started attracting attention sometime in November of 2010 – it’s here, all the way back in February 2010.  This was in the early days of my blog, before I had regular readers, so most of you will likely not have seen this post.

I called my idea the “Novel Venture Capital Model”, and the gist was that authors would somehow be able to tap into a network of “angel investors” or “venture capitalists” who were interested in finding and funding successful novelists.   The theory was that some authors would abandon traditional publishers because of crazy rights-grabs and depressed royalty rates – but they wouldn’t be able to fund the development, editing, cover art, printing and distribution of books themselves.  All of that costs money.  Traditionally, publishers fund all that, but the concept of this hypothetical model was to decouple the financing of book production from the physical process, allowing the authors themselves to be the business-people calling the shots.

And then, of course, the e-book revolution began.  And part of my hypothetical model actually started coming true.  Now, it wasn’t really a prediction – I included in my original post both a pro and a con for why it would succeed and why it would fail.  And I’m not interested in having been “right”.  What I am interested in is how reality is catching up to those proposals, and my own evolving thoughts on where the world of publishing is going, and what role I will be able to play in that future. Continue reading

Stuart Jaffe on “Lines in the Sand”

Author Stuart Jaffe, late of the multi-author writing blog “Magical Words” and now solo blogger straddling the self-publishing and traditional publishing worlds has an interesting blog post up.

As part of my apparently ongoing committment to bringing you the latest news and views that I read or find that touch on these subjects, here’s a link to Stuart’s post: “Lines in the Sand”, in which Stuart stakes the following position: Traditional Publishing is here to stay.  So is the new paradigm of self-publishing.  Other than that… figuring out what the future looks like is essentially a fool’s errand.

I really get behind this sentiment, especially his opener.

There are just so many variables — almost all of which comprise some human element — that to attempt a serious prognostication is to make gods laugh and mathematicians weep.

The world of publishing is changing, that’s for sure.  But whither the change leadeth, no man knoweth.

Er.  Pardon the faux King James English.

But seriously… I appreciate Stuart’s appeal to tone down the apocalyptic rhetoric about THE END OF PUBLISHING AS WE KNOW IT!

I don’t think I’ve been guilty, these past few weeks, of being rhetorically aggressive – except perhaps as concern Amazon in the specific.  I have concerns, it is true, about the new paradigm – but I tried to be careful to point out that I found the new options to be a mostly positive development, despite those significant concerns.

I can even imagine myself, at some future point, deciding that my current goal of attempting to publish through the traditional model is not achievable, and instead switch to a self-publishing model, if the conditions were right.  I don’t know what those conditions would be, yet.  But it’s an option and route I reserve for the future.

Anyway, Stuart’s take – as an author who has published some traditionally before, and now is self-publishing – was refreshing.

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.

The Seedy Underbelly of the Digital Self-publishing Revolution Part 2

Last time I started talking about what I called “the seedy underbelly of the digital self-publishing revolution”, by which I mean all the things I’ve been learning about it that leave me feeling uneasy.  Specifically, last time, I talked about Amazon’s proposed e-book subscription service, and my general unease with Amazon’s hegemony in the digitial self-publishing world.  But that’s not the only part about this whole thing that makes me worry about it.  Here are a few more posts that gave me further pause.

When one traditionally-published author decided to digitally self-pub some short stories her publisher decided she’s in breach of contract.  The Passive Guy relates the tale here and here.  The long-story-short of this tale: making this move on her own spooked the publisher – rightly or wrongly is not the point – and apparently on some level the publisher was offended.  Many of the most prominent cheer-leaders of the digitial self-publishing revolution will take stories like this as further evidence of the EVIL nature of the traditional publishers – a point that must surely be bolstered by the fact that some agents have written in support of the publishers in this case, as opposed to the author.  I don’t take it that way.  I take it that publishers are human.  And that they’re beginning to buy into the rhettoric of the digital self-publishing cheerleaders that this is an existential dilemma for them. 

The story, itself, wasn’t the least surprising to me.  I’ve heard warnings from established, traditionally published authors warning of something like this well before I read this story.  Self-publishing, they have said, is the kiss-of-death in the traditional publishing world.

The real point, then, that I wanted to make was this: if in the long-term, traditional publishing is your goal, is now the time to rock the boat and go-it-alone, in the hopes that later the traditional publishers will overlook your self-published history? Continue reading