Monday, February 23, 2009

Time Magazine, New York Times both report on self-publishing

Time Magazine has an interesting article in the “Entertainment” section (dated Jan. 21, 2009), “Books Gone Wild: The Digital Age Reshapes Literature.” The link is here
The article discusses Lisa Genova’s graduated success with her book, "Still Alice", first published in print-on-demand by iUniverse, and eventually, after it picked up an audience, picked up by an agent and then Simon & Schuster. She made #5 on the New York Times best seller list in January 2009.

The article goes on to discuss how the business model for trade publishing, often based on pre-publication payments to established authors who earn a big living off their writing, has changes. The economy is part of the reason, but the digital revolution and ease of production is another.

The article goes on to compare “Old Publishing” to “New Publishing” and calls self-publishing “Web 2.0 vibe finally washing up on publishing's remote shores.” But, going beyond just vanities (without a bonfire) it is becoming respectable again. Back around 1973 or so, self-publishing of a major novel would have cost about $15000 and the author would have limited control of his work. It has recently become a bit more expensive at iUniverse than it was around 2001 or so, but it is still affordable for most people of middle class means.

Some compendiums, however, will not review self-published books. And, in the past at least, (I'm not sure if it is still true) Author's Guild would only accept for membership authors who could gain advances from traditional publishers. There is some self-interest in trying to preserve that old model.

However Motoko Rich has an article in the January 27, 2009 New York Times, “Self-Publishers Flourish as Writers Pay the Tab”, link here.

Rich starts out by saying, “The point may soon come when there are more people who want to write books than there are people who want to read them..” It goes on to explain the explain the practical appeal of print-on-demand, as well as other possible opportunities like Kindle.

One problem with traditional printed books is that events move so quickly that many non-fiction books become obsolete (hence their material is kept current by blogs), and many novels with modern settings cease to remain timely. Many authors plots (including mine) were destroyed “creatively” by the sudden fall of Communism. Maybe we do need to go back to the classics.

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