The Quickly Changing World of Publishing

20 May

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The following is an abridged version of a series with the same title as this post on my other blog http://www.emergenthermit.com.

Naysayers of the indie ebook world have been hard pressed to find cons to match the pros involved in the whole business. Independent publishing has yielded rewards both globally and individually.

For one, ebooks save paper.

I often hear people say, ‘I like the feel of a real book.’

I am one among many people who happen to read just as much from an e-reader as I do from physical books.

Not only do people buy both, but I believe they’ll continue to buy both.

Proposition 1: Printed books will always exist.

There is too much love for them, despite the fluctuation in demand. Physical books will never become true antiques because there is just too much information in them to ignore. Even if we stopped printing books altogether, people of the future would have to read all of the old books lying around just to get an idea why there aren’t books still being printed. As a result, they would probably start getting printed again.

Ebooks are eternal. For me, the prediction is quite simple. With all books digitized, they will, through varying means, always be available to print.

With the indie ebook boom, there’s one complaint I’ve heard often: Most indie-ebooks are written badly.

This is unfortunately true. I’ve waded through many sample pages of indie authors looking for something that had the minimal grammatical readability I require to take something seriously and found missedspellsings, bad, punctuation or a complete lack of punctuation

The books that made it past stage 1 reached stage 2: books made up entirely of sentences sputtering with clichés and over-used ideas, yet, grammatically correct for the most part.

Now and then, an inide book passes stages 1 and 2 and ends up in the land of bookdom. But bookdom is only an acceptable book, not an exceptional book.

Most paperback bestsellers achieve bookdom, both through practice and with the help of an editor. Most traditionally published books achieve mere bookdom, but it doesn’t make them great books.

I think we can all agree, without getting into it too much, that a ‘great’ book has something to do with its unrepeatability. Every book inescapably belongs to one or more genres which is fine, but a ‘great’ book evades a tired formula one sees reoccurring even within genre.

Nevertheless, this is not to say that a great book may not appear from the indie ebook world. The quantity of bad writing is not what concerns me here.

What concerns me is a statement I’ve heard (read) authors and publishers making lately: ‘If a book is good enough, it’ll earn a traditional publication.’

This is only true if we approximate this vague value, ‘good enough,’ to the value of the individual publisher. If we take ‘good enough,’ in a sense of the wider common usage, the statement is historically false. It is false for the simple reason that far too many examples of books that are considered ‘great’ went through their initial printings as independently published works.

Proposition 2: Publishers are not mediators of the canonical process.

Traditional publishing invests in a presupposition of the book’s ‘marketability’ and guides the author toward an ideal performance of the value system innately coded in that very presupposition of marketability.

How many authors have been told, ‘We really liked your manuscript but we just can’t sell it’?

An author may be in the fortunate position of finding a publisher whose vision matches hers, but if not, it may be better for her to consider publishing independently. This has nothing to do with the merit of the final product.

It is becoming more and more evident as time goes on that if traditional publishing houses wish to survive, they will have to compromise.

The vital question used to be one that was put to the writer by the publishing house: ‘What do you have to offer that is both interesting and marketable?’

The vital question is quickly becoming one that the writer puts to the publishing house: ‘What can you do for my book better than what I could do on my own and how will that benefit my vision in the long run?’

This last question is not at all sneering or sarcastic but a very legitimate one I think both writers and publishers would benefit from considering.

If it was up to me, I would like to see traditional publishing exist alongside indie-publishing peacefully.

I view traditional publishing this way. The communicability of all forms of art is culturally contingent. Text has a lineage that predates its existence as a commodity. Stories have a lineage that predates text.

The canonical process is a long and complicated one that may immortalize a book for any number of reasons. The hypostasis of certain images, values and themes which are easily communicable across generations and cultures, filter into art and render a particular work ‘timeless.’

Proposition 3: The literary-canonical process is not inaugurative but reflective.

There is no committee for what makes it into the canon.

Traditional publishers would do better to recognize themselves as commercial mediators rather than canonical mediators.

If people would stop browbeating aspiring and unpublished writers about whether or not their work is ‘worthy’ of traditional publishing, and view traditional publishing rather as a contingent mode of collaborative and commercial interest, then I believe that both independent publishing and traditional publishing may coexist peacefully. This is not to say that a financially ‘equal’ situation would result, but I believe it is a far friendlier vision, absent of false pretenses as to what it means to be published.

Proposition 4: The existence of good art is not harmed by bad art.

One could argue against this point by saying that bad art, mistaken for good art, harms the artists putting hard work into their creations because it turns ‘bad art’ into a standard of production.

This could very well be true, but my argument is closer to what I’ve been saying all along about the canonical process. I’m not worried that ‘bad art’ will be considered good. This happens all the time and doesn’t really harm anything per se.

This would be just as silly as worrying whether or not some great work will slip out of the canon, which is not possible because there is never a point at which we can say about a work which has entered the canon that it ‘never belonged to the canon.’

While good art may be, for a time, harmed by bad art in a number of commercial contexts, the easy production of bad art will not swallow up great art.

In fact, it may have a wonderful result. Perhaps the gap between good art and bad art will become even bigger, while the gap between independent publishing and traditional publishing will become smaller and smaller.

Check the full post out at the link below

http://emergenthermit.com/emergenthermit/2013/5/15/the-quickly-changing-world-of-publishing-part-1-digitize-everything

and http://www.emergenthermit.com for more.

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