Monday, July 23, 2012
Penguin takes on supported self-publishing by acquiring Author Solutions (iUniverse); more on old v. new books; a family Biblical relic
First, the biggest “news” item. Author Solutions, the parent of iUniverse (publisher of my two DADT books, discussed below) is now part of the Penguin Group. iUniverse has the July 19, 2012 press release on its website, “Pearson to Acquire Author Solutions, for $116M” here.
That means Penguin, a well-established trade publisher with a focus on republication in paperback in fiction and non-fiction areas, would be in a position to influence the culture of supported self-publishing, including expectations from and service to authors.
One issue of obvious potential concern can be sales volume, over a long period of time as well as initially. That can be an issue because the listed (and slightly discounted Amazon and BN) prices for new copies tends to be high. One technique is to offer authors discounts to buy large volumes of their own books, but then authors would have to take the responsibility for handling books, selling them and handling customer credit issues, defeating some of the purpose of outsourcing self-publishing to a “cooperative publisher.” Many authors want to focus on just “writing” and editing.
I have sometimes discussed here my own published books (three on Amazon), two of which start with the “Do Ask Do Tell” phrase and are currently available as print-on-demand from iUniverse.
I am not necessarily in an aggressive “sales” campaign, because these are older non-fiction books. They do give a lot of valuable history, particularly of the early years of the fight over “don’t ask don’t tell” and the unusual relation of that issue to my own life, of the issues surrounding self-publication (particularly without third-party supervision on the Internet, as with the COPA trial), and of the panoply of social issues stirred up after 9/11 (balancing “duty” and “freedom”). My most recent discussion about these publications occurs Oct. 1, 2011.
On June 11, 2012 I discussed my own plans for future media. These plans include publication of a novel (“Angels’ Brothers”) and of a third DADT non-fiction book, a draft of which is available now online in PDF format at my “doaskdotell.com” site. Completion of these items would require some more “fact gathering” by me, which should be completed by late August, followed by at least ten weeks of editing and perhaps two weeks of website restructuring, with as little distraction as possible, taking me up through the Thanksgiving period of 2012.
I will admit that some “old books” do remain best-sellers forever. Take Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, which reviewers hated in 1957 but which the public has always devoured. That’s true despite the book’s length, dogmatism, and a story centered on now outmoded technologies.
Or take some of Stephen King. Back in the mid 1990s, women where I worked would sit in the breakroom and scream as they read some passages from Stephen King’s “Misery”. (Oh yes, “She chopped off his feet.”) When I was in the Army, in the late 60s, I did read Ayn Rand, but I also read some Irving Wallace novels (“The Prize”, “The Seven Minutes”, and particularly “The Plot”), partly because Wallace seemed to have a keen eye for the possible course of the Cold War, and partly because Wallace followed the unusual but logical practice of developing his plot lines by opening his novels with long chapters each developing one major character at a time. Now these novels seem a bit outmoded. (Like “The Prize”, “The Plot” was supposed to become a high-profile film, but never did.)
I looked at some of the old books at the “estate” today and found a little Sunday School text, “From Solomon to Malachi”, 126 pages, by Kyle M. Yates, originally published in Nashville in 1934, with no ISBN’s then. It was reprinted in 1959, and my late father had probably acquired it at church when I was starting my junior year in high school. That was a good time; I was “different”, but things were stable, and I could not yet grasp the course my life would soon take. My father scribbled a reference to one Bible passage, Jeremiah 32:36-40, which promises the eventual return of “the chosen people” from captivity. The book has detailed charts and time-lines about the dual kingdoms and multiple captivities and returns, and the personalities associated with each. Jeremiah, as I noted in a Feb. 26, 2012 review of a movie about him, was “different”, unable to marry (supposedly by divine intention, but maybe by “immutability”) and tended to draw attention to himself and enjoy doing so, like one of today’s self-publishers. And he did attract the usual tribal animosity, even when he proved himself right. But I guess he was a little bit like Joseph, Daniel, and maybe even David. Jeremiah may be the first individualist, and he was the sort you do want to meet on the dance floor today.