Friday, March 25, 2011

Revolution in Publishing?

Writers are in a tizzy about e-books and self-publishing. You must have read or heard something about this recently, right? Search the name Barry Eisler and you soon will learn that this successful thriller writer turned down a $500,000 (yes, half-a-million dollars) offer from a traditional publisher for a new book because, as he put it, “I think I can do better in the long term on my own.” He means self-publishing using the e-book format. Read his interview here, with Joe Konrath, another “name” author now digging deep into the e-publishing world (you know, Kindle, Nook, and so on.) Reading that interview may make you weep, or at least take a deep breath. Eisler estimates he will make $30,000 this year on a short story (!); Konrath talks about a book he wrote twelve years ago, rejected by every major publisher, that has sold over 35,000 copies in only two years on Amazon.

How about these numbers --

"According to preliminary estimates from the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales from 16 reporting companies jumped 115.8%, to $69.9 million in January. No other trade segment posted a sales increase in the month. Sales of mass market paperbacks were terrible in January, down 30.9% from the nine reporting companies, falling to $39.0 million, $30 million below the sales of e-books. E-book sales also topped $49.1 million in adult hardcover sales reported by 17 publishers; hardcover sales fell 11.3% in January. Trade paperback sales fell 19.7% in the month but remained above e-book revenue at $83.6 million from 19 houses."

That paragraph is from a Publishers Weekly article entitled January E-book Sales Soar, Top Hardcover, Mass Market Paperback, which you can read here.

Meanwhile, writers’ groups are presenting seminars about the topic of e-books; new e-formatting and e-distribution services like Smashwords arise and thrive on the landscape; and listservs and discussion groups debate the pros and cons of self-publishing through hyperspace with some familiar arguments heard before, such as the decline of quality because the self-published works are not vetted by editors; the relatively inexpensive price of an e-book hurts writers who are still published in the old-fashioned way; this is the end of bookstores; this is the end of traditional publishers and the publishing world. This is the end.

But it’s not, of course. The demise of the book has been predicted time and time again, only to not ever happen, and it won’t happen now. The golden age of paperbacks caused critics to moan about the decline in quality because of the massive hit on the market that the paperbacks had created, and many lamented that the traditional “hardback” (a code word for literary work) was dead. Didn’t happen then, won’t happen now. TV was supposed to destroy radio, movies, books, and brains. Only part of that turned out to be true. Bookstores have been dying for decades; publishers have languished for years; writers have complained for centuries -- and yet, we continue to write, publish, read and collect books. Oh, the world is changing, for sure, but we will always have books with actual pages, just like we still have music cassette tapes and players even though we live in a downloaded, i-tuney world.

It’s obvious that traditional publishers have to change, and some of them will wither away and die because they can’t keep up, but let’s have some faith in the multinational publishing corporations to understand and fix their bottom line. They will make it once again profitable for writers like Eisler and Konrath to return to the fold, simply because doing so is in the multinational’s best business interest.

But for now, the opportunity exists for all writers to seize the day. I know writers who have gathered or are in the process of collecting their already-published and paid-for stories or out-of-print books precisely for the purpose of publishing them in e-book format, yours truly included. Nothing better I would like than to have my stories available in one place at a very affordable price. I think new readers and old fans can appreciate such a collection, and those writers who have already done this are reporting success and satisfaction. Check out Steven Torres’ short story collections now available for your Kindle – he’s pleased with what is happening to his work and the reactions from readers.

There isn't a revolution in publishing coming, it's already happened. I think it's a good thing, but opinions vary. Meanwhile, I am digging my Nook (a gift) and using it - I've managed to read all of the Captain Alatriste series without extending my already over-extended book shelves, I have all the Mark Twain novels at my fingertips, and even my own book, King of the Chicanos, (available in all e-book formats, I might add) sits on my Nook shelf ready to be read and shared, just like the copy that stands proud on my work table.

¡Viva la revolución!


Melinda Palacio, the other Friday blogger here on La Bloga, reports the following good news:

Melinda will read with contributors to the poetry anthology New Poets of the American West including Teresa Dowell, Jeffrey Schult, Joyce E. Young, Lynne Thompson, Maurya Simon, William Archila, Carol V. Davis, Thea Gavin, Craig Cotter, and Rafael Jesús González.

March 26, Saturday 7:00 PM

Many Voices Press proudly announces the Publication of New Poets of the American West: an anthology of poets from eleven Western states. (Please see attached flyers for cover art and additional information). This anthology contains 450 poems, including several written in the Spanish, Navajo, Salish, Assiniboine, and Dakota languages (with translations). The poets are Pulitzer Prize winners, MacArthur Fellows, newcomers, and street poets.

Collected here are poems about horse racing, mining, trash collecting, nuclear testing, firefighting, border crossings, buffalo hunting, surfing, logging, and sifting flour. In these pages you will visit flea markets, military bases, internment camps, reservations, funerals, weddings, rodeos, nursing homes, national parks, backyard barbecues, prisons, forests, meadows, rivers, and mountain tops. In your “mind’s eye,” you will meet a simple-minded girl who gets run over by a bull, two mothers watching a bear menacingly nosing toward unsuspecting children, and children who “have yet to be toilet trained out of their souls.” You will learn to “reach into the sacred womb, / grasp a placid hoof / and coax life toward this certain moment.” You’ll teach poetry to third graders, converse with hitchhikers, lament for an incarcerated brother “trying to fill the holes in his soul / with Camel cigarettes / and crude tattoos.” You will sit at the kitchen table where perhaps the world will end “while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.”

In the short time each of us has in this world, here’s your chance to experience life widely and to reflect on your experiences deeply. In New Poets of the American West, we hear from Native Americans and first-generation immigrants, from ranchlanders and megaopolites, from poet-teachers and street-poets, and more. In fact, the West is so big, and home to such diversity that the deeper one reads in this anthology, the more voices and world views one encounters, the more textures of thought, emotion, and language one discovers, the less we may find ourselves able to speak of a single, stable something called the American West. Rather, we may find ourselves living in (or reading into) not one West, but many.

Find a link here to the official publication flyer.

This event is scheduled for the
Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center
681 Venice Blvd. Venice, CA 90291 | Venice/ Marina del Rey | (310) 822-3006
Map |

If you are in the neighborhood, join Melinda and the other poets for what should be a stimulating and creative evening of poetry.



Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

oompassion is revolution