Old Publishing Rant That’s Still Relevant

I originally posted this on August 21 of 2008.  And given that two pieces of news came out yesterday that seem to conflict with each other, I realized the content of the rant is even truer today.  The two pieces of news?

Essentially, that means more units of a product are being produced when demand for that product seems to be in a decline.  Why?  I think this old post explains why.  Feel free to leave your comments.

To say the world of publishing is in a constant state of change is a lot like saying the sun is hot. The ever-advancing realm of technology has not only transformed the method of production and delivery of books, it has also changed the buying habits of the reading public. Because of print-on-demand and the growth of online commerce, the barriers to getting a book to market are virtually gone. Anyone with a computer can write a book, upload it to a POD provider and make it available for sale with an online retailer. Inventory is no longer necessary. The cost of publishing is frighteningly reasonable, certainly more so than it ever has been before. The publishing world is no longer for the elite. It is an industry for the everyman. In short, we are in the midst of a publishing revolution. The question begs, however, is it too late?

Trends suggest we are reading less, yet more books were published last year than ever before. In fact a greater percentage of Americans would rather write a book than read one. I doubt this phenomenon exist with any other product on the market today.

So what is our love affair with writing, and ultimately publishing? Why is there a seemingly compulsive need to be an author in America when there’s arguably a relatively small market for books? It is a desire based on a lie or at the very least a misconception. Popular culture would have you believe that an author lives a life of leisure and luxury. They attend parties and rub elbows with celebrities from every walk of life. People want to publish for the same reason they want to be on reality shows. It seems less like work and more like being the center of attention.

If you want to write to be famous, put away that story idea. There are easier ways to be famous. Becoming a doctor and separating conjoined twins in a 27 hour surgery may be easier. It is certainly less time consuming. Training everyday for the Boston Marathon may be easier than achieving fame through publishing. You’ll certainly be in better shape than 99.9% of writers. Winning the nomination for presidency from one of the major parties may be easier than becoming famous through the written word. You will at least get to do less work and attend those parties with celebrities that you wanted to attend.

Writing is hard work. Publishing is hard work. Selling books is hard work. The rewards are not usually commensurate with the amount of work you will expend. Write because you love it not because you think there is a pot of gold at the end of the publishing rainbow. If you’ve ever said, “I need to publish this book because I have to pay some bills.” Back away from the computer keyboard and start flipping through the classifieds.

Publishing should come from a place of passion. If you want it to be your main source of income, then plan to do the following:

    • Practice your craft.There are enough crappy writers on the market.Don’t be one of them.
    • Hire a professional designer for the interior and cover.Don’t be all things to your book.You’re the writer.Leave the rest to more qualified artists.There are rare cases where one person can write and design the book, but chances are you’re not one of them.
    • Work with an editor you trust, and by all means don’t be your own editor.
    • Invest time and money in marketing.If you think the book can sell itself, you’re wrong.If you don’t have a lot of money, spend a lot of time marketing your book.If you don’t have a lot of time, spend a lot of money on marketing your book.If you don’t have either, don’t plan on selling a lot of books.
    • Read books.If you’re not a reader, don’t kid yourself, you’re not a writer.
    • Give it time.Don’t measure in months here.Measure in years.

      If you follow these simple rules, you can succeed in publishing even if this new publishing revolution is too late in coming. The reading public is hungry for books of high quality. Give it to them. It’s your duty as an author. You’re part of the revolution. Act like it. Write like it.

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      Booktacts – The future of books

      Booktacts - The book you can wear!

      Booktacts - The book you can wear!

      As an author and son of an ophthalmologist, I have been tinkering with a new invention in my basement that will revolutionize books, the booktacts. Basically, they are contacts fitted with wireless hyper radio wideband receivers that display text in ocular space. Yes, you read right, books you can wear. The booktacts can download any pdf or pcr file from any website. What’s more, you can control download functions and simple commands like highlighting and “send to printer” with a series of simple blink commands. I am coding them so they won’t download any Stephenie Meyer’s books because honestly, I am super jealous of her and really don’t want to give her access to another bestseller list.

      In addition to being high tech, environmentally friendly, fabulously avant-garde readers, they are totally fashionable. They come in a variety of colors and can even be designed with team logos, obnoxious inspirational quotes, and slogans like “If you’re reading this, you’re way too close to my face.” I’m even working on mood booktacts. They change color depending on your mood while reading. Reading horror? They turn blood red. Reading a finance book? They turn money green. Reading erotica? They grow six inches.

      I am not a scientist or a computer guy or an engineering-type person, and I don’t even have a basement, so the development stage has been really slow going, but I have tested a few prototypes on rats, and let’s just say, except for the blindness and brain damage, they work perfectly. I expect to start testing on humans as soon as I buy some duct tape and ether…. I mean as soon as my grant money comes in so I can pay a few test suckers…. subjects.

      BTW – Tim O’Reilly claims to have come up with a revolutionary idea that will change books. You can read his article, Reinventing the Book in the Age of the Web, but it isn’t even close to being as cool as the Booktacts.

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      Publishing Job of the Week

      If you want to be a writer, and you can’t seem to get that first big break that will open the doors of literary fame and fortune for you, get a job in publishing.  Learn the business and control the world.  Can’t be any simpler than that.  Here’s the cool publishing job of the week:

       

      JOB TITLE   Acquisitions Editor

      COMPANY   Rowman & Littlefield Publishing

      LOCATION   Lanham, MD

       DESCRIPTION

      University Press of America / HAMILTON BOOKS ACQUISITIONS EDITOR

      Seeking a full time Acquisitions Editor

                   Bachelors degree required–graduate degree helpful

                   Ability to handle heavy administrative work load

                   Excellent communication skills required–oral, negotiating, written

                   Must have ability to travel

                   Possess an understanding of Academia and Academics Publishing experience desirable–other business experience acceptable

      Please send resume and salary requirements to Jamie Goodman Assoc. HR Manager, jdgoodman@rowman.com

       

      You can apply by clicking here: Publishers Weekly

      Interested in Being Paid to Review Books?

      Publishers Weekly is looking for a few good reviewers. This is a great opportunity with one of the leading Publishing magazine in the industry. Here’s the ad:

      Publication or Company Publishers Weekly
      Industry Magazine Publishing
      Benefits telecommute policy
      Job Duration Freelance/Project Basis
      Job Location New York, NY USA
      Job Requirements Publishers Weekly, the international news magazine of book publishing and bookselling, seeks freelance book reviewers with expertise in the following categories:

      Fiction
      Nonfiction
      Audio Books
      Religion
      Children’s/Young Adult

      Please send a short e-mail query that states expertise and specific interests. Paste your resume and major clips into the body of the email. The subject line should consist only of one or more of the above categories.

      The e-mail address is:
      pwreviewers@reedbusiness.com

      No attachments, please. Messages with attachments will be deleted.

      About Our Company Publishers Weekly is the international news magazine of book publishing and bookselling.

      What Makes A Young Adult Novel a Young Adult Novel?

      So, Publisher’s Weekly held a breakfast panel on what makes young adult fiction young adult, and they didn’t invite me. Nice. Way to crush my ego, Publishers Weekly… And just so you know, I’m a big fan of breakfast. I would have been totally into that.

      Seriously, I’ve been asked this question before. What makes my books young adult books? The answer is I don’t know. I’ve had plenty of adults tell me they’ve read them and enjoyed them. I didn’t intentionally write to preclude adults from reading it. I wrote a story I would enjoy. I guess I initially considered it a young adult novel because I knew it was going to be a series. I may be wrong about this, but I think kids/teens are more willing to commit to a series than adults. I picked up some current Young Adult books as I was writing the Takers, and I was put off by the attempt of the author to use slang and infuse the text with contemporary “after school special” type morality. Teens don’t want to be preached to, and they certainly don’t want to be preached to by pretentious authors using the street lingo kids use today.

      I found this quote by Sherman Alexie to be particularly puzzling:

      Writing for teens involves a stripped-down technique, Alexie said. “You tend to write more like Hemingway than Faulkner. More like Emily Dickinson than T.S. Eliot. It’s not a matter of more complex thoughts, but the number of adverbs and adjectives. In the adult world, the number of adverbs and adjectives can be confused with great writing.” Martin put it another way: “Teen books are like adult books, without all the bullshit.”

      Obviously, he’s never read a fantasy novel for the young adult market. Those things are jammed with adverbs and adjectives, and they contain a lot of bullshit (sorry, I’m not a fan of hardcore fantasy). On the adult side, you could probably count the number of adjectives on one hand in Cormac McCarthy’s novel, The Road. There isn’t one ounce of bullshit in that book, and I’d bet not a lot of young adults are running out to read that book.

      I’m writing a book right now that I don’t consider being for the young adult market. It’s about a young boy, but the language is rough and he has to contend with some pretty seedy adults. But is that enough to keep it out of the young adult market? There’s no sex. It’s a violent book. I don’t mean there’s a lot of violence in it (there’s some). I mean the tone is very violent and unforgiving. Maybe that’s what separates a young adult novel from an adult novel. A young adult novel often times emerges with a hopeful message while an adult novel can end in a sea of ambiguousness leaving the reader dazed and confused. I don’t know. Just a thought. If you’re interested, you can read the Publishers Weekly Article here: “Think Future” Panel Debates What Makes a YA a YA