What becomes of a house divided?
We are a house divided. I‘ve never seen a time of greater division within our country. Why? I was going to write about the baby boomer generation and the great cultural shift that began in the sixties. But, you know what? It doesn’t matter why.
We need to love each other. Democrat and Republican, whatever ethnicity, gay and straight, atheist and religious, activist and apathist, (yeah, I made that word up)-however you self-describe, we need to pull together.
Can you see it? You may see it happening within your own family. Anger and resentment expressed with open animosity, hate speech against anyone who has a different perspective, these have become the norm-not the exception.
It’s funny, but even as I write this, I’m imagining someone attacking me for writing it. That’s where we are now. What will come of it? What will you do about it?
How bad does it have to become, before we address it?
I said it doesn’t matter why, but on some level we need to have the discussion. If we don’t own our personal attitudes and behavior, if we aren’t willing to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes, we may not be able to turn this around. What will our society be like if we let this train keep rolling?
Traditional publishing vs independent publishing
I fear there are more people, but less readers. Too many people seek to entertain themselves with video games, movies and TV on their smartphones.
There is much discussion these days about whether a writer should seek publication through the traditional publishers or do it themselves through self-publishing. Some successful writers who have been with traditional publishing houses are choosing to self-publish when the original contract expires or becomes obsolete. They are self-publishing their new work as well.
The most typical answer seems to be money. It's mostly about the Royalty from book sales. I should explain.
The long standing model has been that the writer finds an agent, the agent takes a piece of the Royalty in exchange for "selling" the book to a publishing house. The publishing house then bears all the expense of paying an advance fee to the writer to secure a contract for the right to publish, and the expense of the editing, front and back cover design, interior design, printing, distributing and promoting both the book(s) and the author. For doing all this, the publishing house gets the lion's share of the (Royalty) income from the sale of the books. Considering that the publisher bears all the expense and the risk, this is not unreasonable. In this arrangement, after the agent and the publisher have taken their share of the royalty, the writer is left with about 15% more or less of the income from the sale of the books.
THE THING IS...
Times have changed. today, the book stores are fading away. People are ordering their books on line, or downloading them as e-books. This opened a can of worms. How do you market and promote books to people who don't go into bookstores? Enter social media.
At the same time that this change in the business model was occurring, social media blew up. Twitter, facebook, and others have become the way we communicate and much of the advertising and promotion is done online. So much so, that traditional publishers started encouraging their writers to build social network marketing platforms. At first they would build them for their authors, at the expense of the publisher. Today the agents and publishers are looking for writers who already have platforms.
SO, THE QUESTION NOW IS...
If the writer has to have their own marketing platform and they can develop their own e-books and Print On Demand (POD) paperbacks and hardbacks, why should they want to be published by a traditional publisher who will keep most of the royalty.
Let me add some fuel to the fire.
There are too many books already. I know, I said it. There are so many good writers with so many good books, historically, currently, and on into the futre, the supply outstrips the demand. Each agent can only support and promote a handful of writers. New and unknown writers have a very slim chance of landing a contract with a traditional publisher. Why not just do it yourself? If you do it yourself you get to keep almost all of the revenue generated by the sales of your books, right?
WELL, MAYBE NOT.
The traditional publishers have everything in place to get a high quality book into the hands of the public. The writer may not. Many writers have neither the time or the skills to do all that production, marketing, promotion and manage sales and distribution, taxes, etc. It's just too much stuff. When are we supposed to have time to write?
AND THERE'S THE RUB.
Some writers want to keep as much of the income from the sales of their books as they can.
Assuming they can actually sell any.
Some writers are willing to make less money, in exchange for not having to do all the heavy lifting.
The problem remains. It's incredibly difficult to secure a literary agent, it's really hard to get a foot in the door.
WHY IS THAT?
There will be about one million books written this year. I'm talking fiction, across all genres. Of those, about seventy five thousand will be published by the traditional publishers. Of those, about one hundred (100) will be commercially successful. Only one hundred out of one million-you do the math. Agents can't afford to take chances on some unknown writer who may not be worth the effort over the long haul. What does that do to the odds of a new author landing an agent?
AND THEN THERE'S THIS-
What kind of book is likely to have a shot at commercial success? You might be thinking of the most currently trendy YA vampire romance set in a dystopian universe of the future. Wrong. It's not really about genre or even the quality of the writing. Remember, it's about commercial probability. The answer?
Any kind of celebrity. Professional athletes, movie and TV stars, musicians, criminals, present and past politicians, experts on politics or social matters, etc. Celebrity sells.
The other category that can get someone published is contrary to what I just said. It's people with connections. If you are friendly with an agent, publisher, or successful writer, you might have a shot- IF you can write. Publishers still won't give you a shot, no matter who you know, if your book is lousy.
Now that we have self publishing, anyone can write and market a book, even if its terrible or so poorly edited its not worth reading. There are thousands of self published books that are worthless rubbish, and more are being produced every day.
ON THE OTHER HAND.
Traditional publishers also market some horrible books, because some readers don't know the difference. Publishers will produce whatever sells.
What do you think is the best way to go?
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