Thursday, December 04, 2008

Publishing and the Unpublished

It's been a quiet day home with the Minibeast. I have my wip mapped out so I can complete it tonight and do a final read through. Just gotta wait until the sun goes down and Mini goes to bed.

Needless to say, I've had books and writing on the brain for most of the day. First thing out of bed this morning, I started off reading about the fallout going on at Haughton Mifflin Harcourt (best chronicled over at GalleyCat) through Pub Rants. Jobs are being/have been cut at HMH, and at the worst possible time of the year, if you ask me. I'm not sure what to think about this alleged on/off freeze? in acquisitions, which now seems to be just a fancy way of saying: We're about to become super selective about what we take.

Reading about that kind of thing makes me wonder about the future of publishing - and I'm talking about the nuts and bolts of the industry and acquisitions, not about the future of writers so much, because there will always be writers regardless of what publishing houses exist or the state of the book market and/or economy.

People who write, well....they write. And if they sell that's fantastic, but more often than not, when they don't they just pick up the next project and move on. Round two, try again. Then again, we've also come to an age where writers are more willing to take chances about where they publish and go with "non-traditional" publishers. It's also perfectly acceptable to epublish and/or go the POD route. I'm not in any way implying that people don't want to be traditionally print published - I certainly do - I'm only saying that there are more options now than ever for unpublished writers if NY won't take on their work.

Anyway, this morning I was reading Editorial Ass about Random House having it's own meltdown of sorts. Random House is dismantling Bantam Dell *faint* and Doubleday, and absorbing these imprints into other divisions - Knopf will be absorbing Doubleday, etc.

Ok, just for the sake of thinking out loud, here is finally something that makes me sweat a little. What does this sort of restructuring mean for the unpublished writer? Certainly, it will become much more difficult for unpublished authors to attain the NY dream with publishing houses going through a big shrink phase. And while I wholeheartedly cringe at the idea of anything happening to Bantam Dell (I've bought an insane number of their books over the years), I'm curious about Doubleday.

The only books I've ever read from Alfred A. Knopf were literary stories that stretched into the realm of commercial fiction. In fact, most of them had Anne Rice's name on the covers, and I didn't go out and buy every single one. Literary fiction is great, and I'm not in any way taking a crack at those who write it or read it. I don't question the talent or the drive behind it, and I acknowledge that it wins lots of awards, blows critics socks off, and more often than not makes for beautiful book deals. However, it also Puts.Me.To.Sleep. There, I said it. Snoozeville. Just my take on it : literary fiction is editors fiction. Critics fiction. I don't read it unless I have to.

My question with all this restructuring going on is how many slots for commercial fiction will NY publishers slash during reorganization? Because I think this is only the start of a broader domino effect. I can't imagine publishers turning away a literary gem with award winning potential or a stellar non-fiction book, for a cozy mystery or a scorching hot romance. When the dust settles, I honestly wonder what all this will means for romance, urban fantasy, horror, etc. as far as trends go?

I also wonder if slower acquisitions in NY will drive more readers as well as writers to epublishing? I know there are some people who think that will never happen, but it was the main reason I got hooked on ebooks - lack of variety. I couldn't find what I was looking for on bookstore shelves. But I digress.... It just seems to me these dips in the pond are going to cause more ripples than we realize. I suppose we'll just have to wait and see.


  1. I've been keeping tabs on these publisher issues as well, tossing around what they mean for us as authors. Your post was very insightful! Good stuff.

  2. A ripple is better than a wave I suppose.


  3. You bring out a lot of great points. As an author I just keep telling myself that I have to at least finish my book and see where it leads me. I guess I got this attitude after reading "The Expert's Edge," by Ken Lizotte. We as author's can't count ourselves out before trying first.

  4. Me too, Issy. It seems to be happening pretty much across the board: Random House, HMH, S&S....

  5. True, Jenji...very true....

  6. That's true, Becky. There will always be writers, and writers will always do what they do. No sense worrying about it too much from our perspective, because all we can do is try and see what happens. There are plenty of avenues to publication these days.

  7. Anonymous9:33 PM

    I've been brain freezing on all these reports myself, Cora. I mean, with the big publishers denying their longtime published authors spots, how will they ever have room for me?

    As far as ebooks go, I prefer to hold a book in my hand, but that time is limited when you consider cost of print, shipping, returns, etc. When ebooks solve so many of those problems. They create some as well.

    I read a long article a few months back which suggested that publishers would eventually GIVE ebooks away and authors would make money on readings, interactive online activities. It painted a picture of a whole new world.

    I feel like I'm just one step ahead of a gigantic wave.


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