Mark Terry

Monday, March 28, 2011

In This Market...

March 28, 2011
In an e-mail this weekend my agent said something along the lines of "no rush in this market..."

Somewhere between the lines is an apparent optimism (maybe) that says, "But it'll improve, don't worry."

Now, setting aside the not-so-slo-mo implosion of traditional publishing, anyone who's been involved with publishing for any length of time knows that "the market's not so good right now" has been on the lips of publishers, editors and agents for at least 25 years. It seems to me that somewhere in the 1970s or 1980s Lawrence Block wrote a column in which someone told him "the market's not so good right now" and he pretty much commented that he'd been writing and getting published since the 1950s and the market was never good and publishers, editors and agents were always using that line as an excuse for why:

1. They rejected your work;
2. Their advance offering sucked
3. Your book didn't do well;
4. All of the above and more.

I confess that my real response to my agent's comment was a raised eyebrow and the thought, "Does she seriously think it's going to get better the longer I take?"

In a weird way, she may be right. So many entrenched writers like Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath and Connie Brockway and many others, are choosing to leave traditional publishing and venture out on their own that I suppose it's possible there will be more openings for new authors in traditional publishing.

Okay. I don't actually believe that. I think traditional publishing will focus more on bestsellers and on protecting their steady sellers while their lists grow smaller, which will bring in less profit, which will lead to downsizing, which will...

I don't actually think that the publishing industry's problems du jour have anything to do with the overall economy, they have to do with a paradigm shift in book delivery, i.e. e-books. And I think that the traditional publishing industry as a whole seems to be thinking short-term instead of long-term and that few writers are going to sensibly sign a contract that gives the publisher 75% of their e-sales forever, which is the current level traditional publishing has decided is acceptable.

What do you think? Do you think that it's acceptable for your publisher to get 75% of the revenue from an e-book sale forever? Think about that. E-books may be forever. They don't go out of print, at least not as far as we can tell. And the publisher is saying, "I'm going to give you, the author, 25% of the e-book rights, and that will never, ever change, even if the book is still making money and selling copies 100 years after you're dead."


Blogger JaxPop said...

I also think that traditional publishers are missing the boat with ebook pricing. I was reading some Kindle reviews of Harlan Coben's newest, & readers were using that forum to give 1 star reviews (not fair to Harlan) because of the price ($14.99).

And signing away rights to anything 'forever' seems pretty dumb.

7:06 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Yeah, signing away rights forever doesn't make sense.

One of the things we liked about Poisoned Pen Press when we signed was that they keep their books in print. Your book doesn't go on the bookstore shelves then vanish from sight because the publisher dropped you. People still buy One For Sorrow. But then there wasn't the ebook alternative.

I don't see us being hurt by, say, not being able to put our mysteries on sale as cheap ebooks. (PPP does, in my opinion, overprice their ebooks) Because among the general audience for ebooks I don't think you'd find many readers who would be attracted to what we've written - classic mysteries set in Byzantium. But were I writing science fiction or vampire novels I'd feel differently.

8:26 AM  
Blogger rkfinnell said...

That seems like an awful steep price to pay and I'd imagine it would set the ebook at a price few would be willing to pay.

12:54 PM  

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