Friday, December 30, 2011
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Elly: “I Am an Artist, Not a Jobs Plan”
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Elly: "Publishing is Better for the Already-Published"
Edan: "I’d Prefer a Small Press to a Vanity Press"
Elly: "People still say 'Vanity Press'?"
I think the author’s point in this section is that “small presses are great.” I’m not sure what that has to do with a not self-publishing. I agree: small presses ARE great. But they have their own struggles, especially with lack of resources and a mismatch between income and output. I used to work for a small press, and it’s been hanging by a thread for as long as I can remember. Even in Lepucki’s own example, her beloved small press had to shut its doors.
Like internet start-ups, most small presses do not succeed. That’s the dirty little secret. Traditional publishing is expensive and it’s an insider’s game. When handled by a small press, books have about the same chance of success as with strong, informed independent publishing. A small press might be run by one or two people handling a dozen or so new books, and a back catalog of a couple dozen more. These are strapped, frazzled people. Well-intentioned, but overworked. Often, the onus is on the author to drive marketing and publicity on her own. The small press does what it can: secures some reviews in the trades, puts some branding on materials, networks, leverages the back catalog. But the difference between a small press experience and a good independent publishing experience is surprisingly negligible. The major difference, of course, is the bite of profits the author loses to the publisher.
Getting a book into print is only the first step. Lepucki recounts a great stroke of luck with her novella, but I hope she isn’t naïve enough to believe that will happen every time. I hope she also realizes that is the kind of traction you can create for yourself if your product is excellent.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Edan: "I Write Literary Fiction"
Elly: "The Segregation of Literary Fiction is False Logic"
In this point, the author laments that only genre fiction can find success in self-publishing and that “literary fiction” has no home there. She says the landscape for literary fiction in indie publishing won’t change until Jeffrey Eugenides and Alice Munro use CreateSpace.
Yeah, if your bar is Eugenides-like success, you’re probably going to fall short, no matter what sort of publishing path you choose. Firstly, literary fiction is a hard sell no matter what. Most agents and most trad pubbers are looking for genre fiction. In large part, only very small, very boutique houses or university presses are going to publish debut literary fiction. At the bigger houses who delve into lit fic, they either want the big name with street cred, or the ready-made movie book (or both). Literary fiction writers have the deck stacked against them no matter what, because that’s not what the general reading public buys.
Secondly, as even the author herself points out, literary fiction is as much a niche or a “genre” as, say, hard science fiction. Each has their own specific audience, with limited opportunity for cross-over and cross-selling unless the book meets certain mainstream expectations regarding plot, character, tone, etc. Separating literary fiction out is not only snobbish, it’s false logic. Both self-published and trad-published author will fail if they do not identify their audience and market to it accordingly.
Edan: "I Guess I’m Not a Hater"
Elly: "I Guess I am?"
In this point, the author states that the argument that traditional publishing is dying is moot because trad pubbers are making more money than ever. She says they consistently put out great books and she wants that stamp of approval on her own book. “I trust publishers,” she says.
Saying you trust publishers to tell you what’s good for you in literature is like trusting a doctor to give you a prescription for a pill that has him rolling in kick-backs. They don’t have your best interest in mind; they have theirs in mind. They are a business. They do not put out the best books; they put out the books that sell the most. Most of the time, these do not overlap.
Nobody’s saying that traditional publishers don’t know what they’re doing. But the model is set up to favor incumbents. Large advances—or any advances at all, really—are a gamble unless spent on a known commodity. Times are tenuous for the big guys, so they’re going to continue to put out what they are fairly sure will make money. They also have the power behind them to be tastemakers. Books that become inexplicably wildly popular (read: Twilight) do not do so solely on their inherent merits. They are calculated business ventures. See, “Recursive Self-Homogenization.”
Trad pubbing doesn’t favor the fresh or the rebellious. The whopping, weird 1Q84 would never have come out in the U.S. if Haruki Murakami wasn’t already a known commodity. Guess what: I’m not, and likely you aren’t. Trad pubbing is for folks who can have their name bigger than the title on the cover, and the occasional one-off they can squeeze in using profits from the former.