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Dorchester Publishing recently announced they were dropping their mass market line and moving to an e-book/print-on-demand model.  Dorchester’s president John Prebich describes his company as pioneers, boldly leading us into the electronic frontier.  This has led to a new round of “print is dying,” and e-books are the way of the future.  There’s an almost religious fervor to it.

J. A. Konrath suggests the end is nigh for commercial publishers, and self-publishing is the way to go.  His anonymous sources claim sell-through on printed books is as bad as 20%.  He describes a (hypothetical) commercially published author who gets a $50K advance and 30% sell-through, selling a mere 9000 print copies in the first year–

But wait, let’s back up and take another look at Dorchester, who’s been in trouble for a while.  “Dorchester had serious cash-flow problems throughout 2009.”  (Thanks to Nick Mamatas for that link.)  The move to e-books/PoD isn’t as much a dramatic step into the future as it is a desperate attempt by one publisher to stay in business.

As for Konrath, he’s done an excellent job positioning himself as a champion of self-publishing.  I have no doubt he talked to somebody, somewhere, who reported sell-through could be as bad as 20%.  But “as bad as” generally means the low edge of the bell curve.  Not the normal or the average, but the worst-case scenario.

To offer an alternate data point, my books have a sell-through around 80%.  I’m not aware of anyone whose sell-through is down at 20-30%.  I’m sure it happens, but to base an argument on those numbers is, in a word, silly.  As for the rest of the example, well, I sell more than 9000 print copies in a year, and my advances are far lower than $50K.

I’m not saying Konrath’s example couldn’t happen.  It’s possible.  It’s possible to be struck by lightning seven times, too.  But it ain’t the norm.

Wait, you say.  80% sell-through still means 20% returns, right?  Doesn’t it make more sense to go electronic/PoD, where there are no returns and you can get 100% sell-through?

That depends.  80% of what?  100% of what?  Konrath proposes that his hypothetical author will sell 5000 e-books in that first year.  I’m curious where that number comes from, particularly given a New York Times report in which “publishers point out that e-books still represent a small sliver of total sales, from 3 to 5 percent.”  If I had to choose, I’d take 80% of a 20K print run over 100% of the <1000 copies my books have sold electronically.

Konrath also argues that:

“The main reason we need publishers is for distribution. We can’t get into Wal-Mart or Borders on own own. They can. So we accept 8% royalties in order to sell a lot of books. But if publishers are no longer printing books, there is ZERO reason to sign with them, because they no longer have that advantage.”

Distribution is part of what my publisher does for me … but it’s not the only thing.  They pay professionals to create my cover art, and to edit, typeset, and proofread my book.  They do the work of converting my books into electronic formats.  They pay for advertising and promotion.  Basically, they do a ton of work to sell my books, which allows me to worry about writing them.

Publishing is changing.  My guess is that we’ll eventually hit a new equilibrium point between print and e-books, and I do think e-books will be a larger percentage of book sales than they are today.

I’m not bashing self-publishing, either.  For some people, it’s the right choice.  Konrath certainly makes it work.  My friend John Fitch V sold more than 100 books last month, which is damn good for the self-published route.

Both e-books and self-publishing have their strengths and advantages.  And I could be wrong — it’s possible print and/or commercial publishing are on the way out.  But I’ve been hearing about the imminent death of print and commercial publishing for more than a decade, and it’s getting a little old.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.



( 120 comments — Leave a comment )
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Aug. 9th, 2010 01:34 pm (UTC)
"the <1000 copies my books have sold electronically"

Hey, does that mean I own a collectors' edition? ;-)
Aug. 9th, 2010 01:37 pm (UTC)
Bring it to a convention, and I'll e-autograph it for you! Imagine how valuable that sucker will be in 50 years :-)
Aug. 9th, 2010 01:39 pm (UTC)
20% sell-through on a $50K advance means someone in marketing/editorial took a $500,000 gamble with the company's revenue stream and lost, big! (Assuming a $50K advance means a hardcover release and marketing promo, and assuming a royalty rate of 10%, that's roughly 0.5M in turnover. Right? Maybe a bit less once we take into account needing to sell less to break even than to earn out, but it's still not looking good.)

This happens from time to time. It's a career-killer if it's a new author, and it's bloody bad news even for an established pro with a track record. (I've heard of it being made to happen deliberately due to office politics where a publishing exec was looking for a pretext to fire a senior editor -- very rare, though.)

The ebook thing is, right now, a career-killer of a different colour. I have it on good authority (my editor's) that one of my recent novels sold, hmm, let's say 4.5 Units in hardcover, 9.5 Units in trade paperback, and 0.2 Units in ebook. When ebook sales begin to approach hardcover sales, switching might not be entirely suicidal -- but for now, it's lunacy.
Aug. 9th, 2010 01:46 pm (UTC)
That makes sense. I've heard of publishers betting big on titles they think are going to take off, and sometimes they fail big-time, too. Does it completely kill the career, or does it just mean a pseudonym for the author from that day forward?

Your numbers look fairly similar to mine in terms of the percentage that sell electronically.

I wonder if part of what happens is that this conversation tends to happen among those who are already online and more on the electronic cutting edge, meaning there's a perception that e-books and such are more popular than the numbers support...
(no subject) - autopope - Aug. 9th, 2010 02:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - barbarienne - Aug. 9th, 2010 02:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 9th, 2010 01:43 pm (UTC)
Great post. I agree with you - I've been seeing a lot of creative use of statistics to make ebooks newsworthy and to make self-publishing look a lot better than it really is.

I've even been seeing this on LinkedIn, where unscrupulous vanity presses try to get users through "statistics" that don't really seem all that solid to me.
Aug. 9th, 2010 01:46 pm (UTC)
::Shudder:: Some of the things vanity presses do to distort the success stories and the numbers should be criminal.
(no subject) - cepetit.myopenid.com - Aug. 9th, 2010 06:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Aug. 9th, 2010 07:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Aug. 9th, 2010 01:49 pm (UTC)
Let's add in the death of the newspaper. They're changing, but the news ain't never goin' away, much to the disappoint of some. Mediums change, but stories, news, music, entertainment - these are things that will always exist in human society.
Aug. 9th, 2010 01:59 pm (UTC)
Newspapers have been interesting to watch. They definitely seem to be hurting, and they've struggled with the emergence of the web, but I agree the news isn't just going to vanish. And blogs are nice, but there's a lot to be said for higher standards of research and reporting. (Not that all news outlets reach such standards, but at least in theory...)
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Aug. 9th, 2010 01:52 pm (UTC)
Hi Jim,

Wow, I just started reading Konrath's blog a few days ago. I read the post to which you refer here.

He does have some interesting insights and suggestions, but I'm so glad you posted a counter-point. So many people claim they KNOW exactly what's going to happen in the future of publishing, and my feeling is ... how can anyone truly know? I think at best we can make some good guesses.

My last mm paperback release had an 80% sell through too.
Aug. 9th, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC)
I find myself rolling my eyes at anyone who claims to *know* what's coming. If someone wants to present some evidence and build a case for what they think is going to happen, that's awesome. But the claims that "THIS IS WHAT SHALL COME TO PASS" just irritate me.

Konrath does have a lot of interesting ideas, and he's certainly made this work for himself. On the other hand, I think a lot of his success comes from his ability to use self-publishing as his platform. I realized that I hear his name all the time, not for his writing, but for the way he puts himself forward as a champion of self-publishing ... which then helps him to sell more books.

I'm not bashing him for this. I think it's brilliant. But it's also not something that will work for most people.
(no subject) - barbarienne - Aug. 9th, 2010 02:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 9th, 2010 01:52 pm (UTC)
This is a bit off-topic, sorry...
I'd be happy to boost your sales by a couple if I could find an Australian bookseller that stocked all your books! Last time I looked, I found...I think your final Goblin book, and your second Princess one? But I haven't read any of them, and I really want to start at the beginning. I'd really like to own paper copies of all of your books, because I like supporting authors I think are generally cool people (and hey, the covers are cool and would look good on my bookshelf :D), but that's proving hard - well nigh impossible, actually - to do.

I know you can't exactly wave a magic wand and have your books appear on Australian shelves - but just so you know, if there was a way of doing just that, you'd have at least two more dedicated readers in my partner and me.
Aug. 9th, 2010 01:56 pm (UTC)
Re: This is a bit off-topic, sorry...
Which part of Australia are you in? Someone mentioned an Australian store that stocked my stuff a while back, but I'd have to dig for it, and Australia's a big country...
Re: This is a bit off-topic, sorry... - beth_bernobich - Aug. 9th, 2010 02:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: This is a bit off-topic, sorry... - jimhines - Aug. 9th, 2010 02:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Re: This is a bit off-topic, sorry... - bewarethespork - Aug. 9th, 2010 02:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: This is a bit off-topic, sorry... - jimhines - Aug. 9th, 2010 02:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: This is a bit off-topic, sorry... - bewarethespork - Aug. 9th, 2010 02:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 9th, 2010 01:54 pm (UTC)
I'm very wary of Konrath's arguments. He got his start in print, had a decent following, and then moved into areas where he does some self publication.

It's like using Doctorow as your example of "giving everything away for free is the best strategy". Sure, if you're walking in the door with an audience built up of years of hard work, pounding the digital pavement, as he did, you can make that work.

Special cases make poor examples when trying to have these discussions. Because what often gets missed, especially by younger folks starting out in their career, is just how much hard work so many folks have had to put in before they got to the place where they currently are in publishing, and for them to be able to make these less traditional strategies work.
Aug. 9th, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC)
Heh. I'm gonna cheat and just copy my response to Barb up above :-)

Konrath does have a lot of interesting ideas, and he's certainly made this work for himself. On the other hand, I think a lot of his success comes from his ability to use self-publishing as his platform. I realized that I hear his name all the time, not for his writing, but for the way he puts himself forward as a champion of self-publishing ... which then helps him to sell more books.

I'm not bashing him for this. I think it's brilliant. But it's also not something that will work for most people.
(no subject) - temporus - Aug. 9th, 2010 03:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Aug. 9th, 2010 05:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Aug. 9th, 2010 02:18 pm (UTC)
I don't know ... I hear there are people doing pretty well with pro-queer fairy tale retellings ;-)

I was told humor wouldn't sell either, particularly sword and sorcery type humor. I'm not going to say what you should or shouldn't write, but I'd be careful about trying too hard to write what will sell vs. writing what you love.
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Aug. 9th, 2010 02:16 pm (UTC)
Part of the problem with the argument about advances is that different genres have different practices regarding advances. There's no accepted name for it, but books targeted for the front of the book store or Oprah Winfrey's show will generate much larger advances.

Even in science fiction, Jim Baen spent a whole heck of a lot of money on Newt Gingrich's alt-history book. Rumor has it Jim damn near went bankrupt over it.

Looking at advances without understanding the target market and genre conventions is a fool's game.
Aug. 9th, 2010 02:24 pm (UTC)
One of the things that Konrath overlooks is that a lot of writers (including him, though he vigorously denies it) are in need of editors. Another thing that publisher's pay for.
If you compare a Konrath book from when he was working with a publisher to his first self-published e-book, you'll see the latter was desperately in need of an editor.
Aug. 9th, 2010 02:28 pm (UTC)
Definitely. My editor has consistently caught problems with my books and helped me to make them stronger, and I don't want to imagine how many typos would have slipped through without those extra sets of eyes going through the book line by line...
(no subject) - stargatedragon - Aug. 9th, 2010 03:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 9th, 2010 02:30 pm (UTC)
Let's bring a little reality into this discussion...

First, 80% sell-through is AWESOME. You should be very proud, your editor should be very proud, and that is surely a significant part of why they so readily sign additional books from you.

90% sell-through is pretty much the top end. Even for big bestsellers with very predictable markets and preorders, there's going to be certain chunk of books that just don't sell for whatever reason and come wandering back (or, in the case of mass market, are stripped). There are damaged copies, copies unscrupulous people read and return, and the well known "I couldn't find it because there was only one copy left" phenomenon.

The reality is that booksellers (both brick-and-mortar and online) know that they can return the books with impunity, so even for really popular books they might over-order, since they don't want to be caught without. Do you want to be the guy in charge of the store that didn't get enough of the last Harry Potter book and caused potential customers to go down the street to your competitor?

20% sell-through is bad, yes, but sometimes it's deliberate.

Let me 'splain. Historically it has been very difficult to get paperback originals reviewed. (This is changing, but the majority of major review journals and sites are still for hardcovers.) So one of the ways publishers generate reviews for a book is to print a short run of hardcovers--maybe 2000 or 2500 copies--and send most of them out for review.

They're not expecting to sell many of them. They're expecting to generate reviews from which they can pluck quotes to put on the paperback cover. Or they're using the hardcover to show those venues that they're serious about this author, so when the next book comes out in hardcover at the same time as the first one gets a paperback life, the venues will be more likely to give it a boost.

My old employer used 55% sell-through to generate budgets and P&L projections. That may be a bit of an underestimation (better to err on the side of caution), but a 65% sell-through was respectable and typical for paperback.

Sometimes publishers mistake what the readers want, yeah, and a 20% sell-through happens because the book simply fails to go anywhere. But making a book electronic only won't help it sell more, and it still will cost all the editing, file prep, and marketing the publisher invests.
Aug. 9th, 2010 02:37 pm (UTC)
Reality? We don't need no stinkin' reality.

I hadn't heard of the short-run sell-through scenario you describe, but that makes sense.

From an authorial standpoint, I'd love to not have that reserve against returns, and to know exactly how many of my books sold without having to worry about whether a big chunk of those will be stripped and sent back. But I don't see it as a good argument for going to e-books.
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Aug. 9th, 2010 02:39 pm (UTC)
I've said before that every writer should self-publish at least one process, just to get an idea exactly how much work goes into a book *after* it's written. I've done it once, and it was quite the eye-opener.

I definitely think things will change. Evolution will wipe out some publishers (Dorchester?) and allow others to thrive.
(no subject) - barbarienne - Aug. 9th, 2010 02:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Aug. 9th, 2010 02:45 pm (UTC)
I would take anything Joe Konrath says with a giant grain of salt.

He did not make a very good impression on me at RT last April.
Aug. 9th, 2010 03:37 pm (UTC)
Hmm... do tell?

All I saw were the two pictures of him in the RT mag and he looked tired and ticked at the same time. I think he blogged that he was ignored by a few publishers and then adored by some authors.

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Aug. 9th, 2010 02:50 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this Jim. I'm tired of the "only this will work" attitude, and that the death of print and/or publishing is a black and white issue.

Just because something has worked for one person, it will not necessarily work for the next. Going the Konrath route could be fraught with as many difficulties and disappointments as the traditional route. Just difficulties of a different sort.
Aug. 9th, 2010 02:52 pm (UTC)
I'm tempted to do a post just on Konrath, and the way he's used self-publishing as the platform to promote his self-published work. He's done an incredibly good job of it ... but every time I see his name, it's about Konrath the self-published author. I almost never see anything about him that's just about his books or writing.

It reminds me of the folks who first put their novels online. If you're one of the first people to do it, and you can leverage that move, you'll be great. But if you tried it now, you'd be one of thousands, and it's probably not going to do much for you...
(no subject) - stargatedragon - Aug. 9th, 2010 03:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 9th, 2010 03:03 pm (UTC)
Sometimes self publishing is the answer but I think people are very easily mislead about when that is. If you've written a book of local bicycle tours within a mile of your house or a catalog of your art museum, Random House probably isn't going to be able to sell it better than you because you have access to (largely) your entire audience. If you're rock star with close ties to your fans or a blogger with 40,000 readers it can make sense to skip the middle man and sell 1,000 books with 4x the profit. But all too often people are lead to believe "oh, i'll just put my novel on lulu and it'll get discovered and sell lots of copies." It won't. If you've got a huge audience already self publishing gives you the opportunity to do projects that wouldn't get greenlighted by your traditional publisher but you also take the risks -- you're never going to make any money with the returns that POD publishers give you, which means you'll be front-ending the cost of 10,000 copies and then figuring how to get them from your garage into fans hands. I've done it, but it's a lot of work. I think most people that do it end up with furniture built out of unsold copies.

e-books on the other hand as the reading mechanisms get better, you may have more indie-success that way but having looked at slush, i'm hard pressed to think of a way to entice someone to go to a self-published-e-warehouse and read a whole book, let alone pay or one. most people's novel manuscripts are .... horrible.
Aug. 9th, 2010 05:00 pm (UTC)
Agreed, and I think part of that confusion comes from so many articles touting self-publishing as The Answer to all your writing dreams, when in reality it's a hell of a lot of work. That specialized niche market can be a good place for self-publishing, especially when you have a platform from which to do your sales. (One of the things that impresses me about Konrath is how he's used self-publishing as that platform to push his own career.)

I do think e-books will continue to grow, though I don't have a clue where the balance point will be. But yeah ... one way or another, I think there's going to need to be some sort of gatekeeper to filter through the 90% of everything that's crap. I've heard people say the Internet can work as that filter, and that this is already happening in fanfic communities. Don't know if it will work on the larger scale, but it will be interesting to see where things go.
Aug. 9th, 2010 03:43 pm (UTC)
Lol, first of all, I LOVE that cartoon. It's great and it encapsulates the argument to perfection.

You made some excellent points that needed to be said, Jim. My only point being I've also heard about the imminent death of print for a decade as well, except in the last year I've seen some real evidence pointing toward the possibility.

Not proof, mind you, but evidence that it might come to pass. I think those writers who adapt will be okay. Those who don't want to accept change...well, they may end up falling by the wayside. And that's too bad because I still like reading some of them.

I must say I am much less optimistic than you are about self-publishing, however. But I admit I could be wrong about this as well.

Hey, it's been know to happen. :P
Aug. 9th, 2010 03:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Of the whole thing, I'm proudest of the cartoon. Having learned this new trick in Photoshop, I'm hoping to do more of them in the future.

What sort of evidence have you seen? Part of what I run into is information that gets either slanted, stretched, or yanked so far out of context as to be meaningless, which is kind of how I felt about Konrath's post. On the other hand, e-books *are* selling more than they used to.

Re: self-publishing, it can be effective with an awful lot of work, in certain cirsumstances. But I also think a lot of people get a completely exaggerated sense of self-publishing as the future -- in part, I suspect, because that's exactly what the vanity presses you mentioned the other way *want* people to believe.
(no subject) - delkytlar - Aug. 9th, 2010 06:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Aug. 9th, 2010 03:50 pm (UTC)
I look at it the same way I look at when computers first came out - there was a HUGE outcry about how we were going to save the Amazon rain forests because paper would become obsolete, we'd all be using Star Trek-type of pads to conduct business and so forth.

Thirty-plus years later there's still plenty of paper around because everyone wants receipts and everyone still wants their info in printed form.

Aug. 9th, 2010 04:29 pm (UTC)
The reason is simple: pieces of paper don't crash and are still readable when the power goes out. Now that I do almost everything of consequence through my computer, it's made me realize how I've gone from multiple points of failure to one single big point of failure.
(no subject) - jimhines - Aug. 9th, 2010 04:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 9th, 2010 04:22 pm (UTC)
This stuff is getting old for people like me, too, the actual self-publishers.

See, I'm not on this gig because I think conventional publishing is dying. If anything, I think conventional publishers are going to become all the stronger and more important in the years to come, precisely because of self-publishing. Who else is going to do the largely thankless work of filtering through the stuff that people write and presenting the public with those few items that, based on their editorial experience, are actually worth reading in the first place? We need people like that, whether we like it or not, because the alternative is to drown in a sea of poorly-edited, unvetted, and largely unreadable junk.

When people ask me why I self-publish, I give them as honest an answer as I can: Because I feel the work I produce is of a marginal enough appeal that it makes more sense to approach my prospective audience directly. I don't believe for a second I'm going to become a one-man publishing juggernaut to rival [$NAME_OF_COMPANY]. I'm not that naïve. But I also know that at some point I'm going to have to demonstrate that I can go to one of the big publishers and offer them something on their level, because that's the only step up.
Aug. 9th, 2010 05:48 pm (UTC)
I'm with you. If I hear one more person say, "In ten years, no one will be reading printed books," I'm going to whack them with my autographed copy of Shakespeare's complete works.
Aug. 9th, 2010 06:55 pm (UTC)
I don't even mind those predictions; I just wish the people making them would back them up with real data. I don't think we can say what *will* happen, but we can make decent guesses. Often though, it seems to be either "This will happen because I want it to" or "This is what I like, so everyone else will like it too."
(no subject) - deborahblakehps - Aug. 9th, 2010 07:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 9th, 2010 05:48 pm (UTC)
BTW--I'm LOVING Red Hood's Revenge!
Aug. 9th, 2010 06:54 pm (UTC)
::Happy author bounce::
Aug. 9th, 2010 05:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you for providing another side of the argument. I have to admit that I prefer to hear a debate of both sides rather than just "This is what I'm doing, and you're blind if you don't jump on this gravy train right now."

Aug. 9th, 2010 07:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks. And like I said, it's possible I'm wrong. But if so, I'd like to be persuaded by facts and evidence, not by exaggerations and outliers and emotional slogans, you know?
(no subject) - irysangel - Aug. 9th, 2010 07:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 9th, 2010 06:21 pm (UTC)
I really don't associate the rise of ebooks and the fall of publishing houses. I know that's the kind of free anarchy some folks anticipate, but (for the reasons you've listed, and others) I just don't see that happening.
Aug. 9th, 2010 06:59 pm (UTC)
I was torn about lumping those together, but I've seen both messages trumpeted lately, so figured what the heck. But yeah. From the author's PoV, I don't have any interest in trying to do all of that work myself, or in hiring all of the experts I'd need. From a reader's perspective, I like knowing that the "90% of everything is crap" has at least gone through an initial filtering process by a publisher.
Aug. 9th, 2010 07:03 pm (UTC)
Good post.

You know, I work in scholarly journal publishing, where -- at least in some disciplines -- electronic really has taken over from print: there are online-only journals (some of them "open access", i.e., free to the reader), there are journals publishing both in print and online whose online revenues far outstrip their print revenues (indeed, that can only afford to continue publishing in print because of usage royalties received from the online version through partners such as Project MUSE), there are associations putting together working groups to study the question of when -- not whether -- they should move from print+online to online-only. A huge amount of my working life is taken up with online-publishing-related tasks and considerations. But I still don't believe that print is dead, and still less that publishing is dead.

Why? Well, for one thing, of course (full disclosure!), I work for a publisher. So part of my belief in the durability of publishing and publishers may be that I'm clinging to a sinking ship because I fear I won't be able to swim in the sea of non-publishing career options ;^).* But whether or not print is dead, or about to be dead -- and I don't believe that, either -- the more important point for me is that publishers would still have a role to play even if print were deader than the dodo.

Anyone who's ever tried to answer a medical question using Google (as opposed to, say, Medline or CINAHL), or who's bought a really crappy self-published (e)book on Amazon, knows this is true. The signal-to-noise ratio in both cases is incredibly low: there's no gatekeeping and no curation, and it shows in the result.

I work as an editor, and the heart of my job -- my core competency, if you will -- is making authors' work better. I catch their typos, I find the gaps in their documentation, I notice when they've used the wrong word and help them find the right one. The process isn't always fun for the authors, but are their arguments more convincing, their prose smoother, and their reference lists more accurate when I'm done? Absolutely. I don't believe the trickier parts of my job can be done well by a computer program (although I'm happy to admit that many of the deadly dull bits can, and I only wish I had the program on my computer right now. Nothing like spending a solid hour looking up article DOIs to make you long for some automation). And I don't believe that an un-reviewed, unedited, un-typeset, un-proofread article posted on somebody's faculty web page in HTML is as valuable or useful to that person's colleagues as the final published version (peer-reviewed, edited, copy-edited, typeset, proofread, and appropriately indexed), even if the final published version is also in HTML on a web page. Publishing houses are full of people like me, whose job it is (in various ways) to make authors look good and who take that job very, very seriously.

I do think e-books will continue to become more popular as the technology improves. (Of course, I may very well be wrong.) I love my paper books, but I've been known to cast a covetous glance at someone else's Kindle, thinking enviously of how many books you could store on it for a journey and how little they would all weigh; if I had a chunk of money to spend on such a thing, I would probably buy one, and the probability becomes greater every time the price goes down. There are probably lots of people like me out there, not willing and/or able to be early adopters but curious and interested in giving new formats a go. In some sectors -- textbooks, for example -- the really cool functionality made possible by certain e-readers may hasten the process. But even supposing that a complete transition to ebooks from print were to occur, nobody now living has enough information to predict the course of such a transition with any accuracy. Lots of publishing people talk a good line, but nobody really knows what's going to happen.

Also? People who lie with statistics for their own gain make me very stabby.

* Actually I have it all planned: when we get tired of editing and technical writing, respectively, my friend MJ and I are going to open a bakery. ;^)
Aug. 9th, 2010 07:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I got in a huge debate with someone over this the other day and they did their best to make me feel like I was an idiot for not going straight to self-pubbing because all the traditional publishers were dying.

When I wasn't getting really irritated, though, they actually made an interesting point that got me thinking about it in the opposite way they intended. I brought up my total lack of art skills (meaning I couldn't make my own cover art), and their response was that a good freelance cover artist only ran $X-$Y (not giving the actual numbers--both in the triple digits--because I don't know how accurate they are).

But you know what? Not everyone has $X OR $Y lying around. (Having been out of work for more than 13 months while trying to save up for grad school, I certainly don't.) As an alternative they suggested bartering things--crits for art, or something along those lines. But not everyone has that time or energy, either because of health issues or a very demanding job or any of a thousand other reasons. And I'm sure there are other costs I'm not aware of when it comes to self-publishing. So even if I did want to self-publish my stories, at this point I wouldn't be able to.

I know this comment is very "Me! Me! Me!" but given the way the economy has been, I find it hard to believe that I'm the only one who would have a problem with the start-up costs.
Aug. 9th, 2010 07:43 pm (UTC)
You're definitely not alone. There are cheaper artists out there, but really, it's a toss-up between paying a lot for professional work and paying less for work that ... might not be quite as professional. (I don't know this for a fact, but I am fairly certain that my cover artists collect paychecks in the four-digit range for my books. Though I did a small press release where I believe the cover artist was paid $500 years back.)

Every time someone tells me commercial publishing is dying, I go back and look at my house. Paychecks from my publisher paid for a new roof, a new kitchen, and a number of other, smaller improvements.
(no subject) - shanrina - Aug. 9th, 2010 07:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 9th, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC)
I imagine they said that audio books would be the death of print too.
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Jim C. Hines

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