Blogger: Mary Keeley
Location: Books & Such Midwest Office, IL
We’re aware technology has been changing the landscape of publishing, but have you noticed the rate of acceleration? Don’t think you’ve figured out your options and can settle in comfortably. It will be different tomorrow. The challenge we all face is to keep up. You need to be knowledgeable. Today I’ll share two news items I ran across in the past week that highlight the wave of change flooding the business of publishing.
Before Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple last June, he unveiled the design for Apple’s new building. In a discussion group on LinkedIn, Kevin Cronin, an ebook pioneer, shared a column posted on www.FastCompany.com that was written by Farhad Manjoo entitled “The Great Tech War of 2012.” Manjoo reported that Apple’s new circular building, situated on 150 acres, will house 12,000 employees. He wrote, “Apple’s new campus will have a footprint slightly smaller than that of the Pentagon; its diameter will exceed the height of the Empire State Building.” (Reminds me of the Tower of Babel, but whatever…) Obviously Apple is big, but so it Facebook, Google, and Amazon. The battle of these Titans affects all of us, and this article explores what that means in terms of your social media efforts: here
Steve Jobs died at a young age . . . 56 or 57, wasn’t it? But in the techno sphere, he was actually one of the older executives. His replacement, Tim Cook, is even younger. And have you seen photos of Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, and Larry Page, CEO of Google? They’re young. Even Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, appears to be relatively young to have risen to that level. The brave new world of technology comes easily for the younger generation. Who will be the next teenager to launch a technology empire from his garage? And what does that mean for those of us who use social media?
Speaking of Amazon, David Streitfeld wrote an interesting column in the Business Day-Technology section of The New York Times last week with the provocative title: “Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of the Deal.” He reports that “Amazon will publish 122 books this fall in an array of genres, in both physical and e-book form.” He points out next that their publishing program “will place Amazon squarely in competition with the New York houses that are also its most prominent suppliers” (emphasis mine). We should be watching to see how that is going to work out–another battle of the Titans.
Amazon executive Jeff Belle, announced that 30-year industry veteran Laurence J. Kirshbaum will lead a new imprint. He explained, “Larry will be building out a publishing team in New York and will found new imprints under the Amazon Publishing umbrella, with a focus on acquiring the highest quality books in literary and commercial fiction, business and general nonfiction.” Here is the link.
Amazon’s foray into publishing has been directed toward acquiring general market (ABA) authors. Fortunately, this gives Christian publishers a little time to think creatively and prepare defensively–better yet, offensively. Christian authors might find it tantalizing to contemplate partnering directly with Amazon Publishing, but when Amazon launches a Christian imprint, will it hire people who grasp how Christ-centered the projects need to be–and the authors need to be as well?
Of what significance is this information to you, the writer? Isn’t it enough work just to master your craft and produce great writing? The answer is that an informed writer has an edge when talking business with an agent or editor. Imagine yourself in a meeting with an editor at a writers conference. The editor may, in conversation, comment on a recent happening within the industry. Or the editor might mention it purposefully to see your reaction and thereby get a sense of your knowledge of the industry, or lack thereof. If you are able to respond intelligently, you will present yourself as a professional, committed to your craft.
Do all these goings-on make your head hurt? Me too. But it’s a fact of life that the business side of writing is more important than ever for you to know.
What questions does this information raise for you? What other aspects of publishing are you warily watching to see how they develop? What makes you the most nervous? What makes you the most excited?
Just a couple quick thoughts: Through a friend who worked at one, I became more aware that not all Christian bookstores are actually owned by professing Christians. Business is business, and if people with little or no faith can profit by selling to the Christian public (either online or through actual stores), then it will happen. However, the very thought of businessmen with zero personal interest in God deciding which books to print or sell to us certainly bothers me. I love to see genuine, sincere evidence of a love for God in any author, agent, or editor.
As far as technology goes, it’s constantly changing so fast that no one can keep up with all of it. So I’m going to paraphrase Mr. Miyagi’s advice to the Karate Kid and suggest that maybe it’s not so important to know everything as it is to use well that which you do know.
Your excellent article sparked two observations in my mind.
1-I could point to a number of current CBA publications that are not written from a Christ-centered, scripture-based viewpoint. Fortunately, they are few, but even publishers who profess to be faith-based make compromises when profit is concerned. As believers, we need to be aware of the secular world, but also of “tares among the wheat.”
2-When I read ABA authors’ complaints about low advances and royalty percentages, the numbers they bemoan are much higher than the advances and royalties many Christian writers receive. I understand that our market is smaller. I understand that writing is a ministry, and our priority should never be “sordid gain.” But I hope Christian publishers’ preparations might include some discussions about not “muzzling the ox.”
When I review what I’ve written, it sounds frank. I almost deleted it, but please understand that my motive isn’t to be critical but to simply acknowledge a couple of “elephants in the parlor.” These are topics that come up when writers and friends chat privately.
Janet Ann Collins
I’ve been predicting for years that when the economy is good again fewer people will be interested in religion and the big publishers that purchased Christian houses will cancel those imprints. Tech businesses depend on planned obsolescence to keep customers, so probably today’s e-books will be unreadable in a few years. Combine those two factors and what do you get? Maybe more small, traditional Christian publishers in another decade or so, but there may be some years of down time in between.
I’m an unpublished Christian author. I subscribe to this blog because there’s such good information. I’m planning to self publish my book through Amazon. Why? Because what I understand from the last three years of information I’ve collected is that I need to write the perfect query letter and even then the agent or publisher needs to be in a good mood in order to read it or have time to read more than the first couple of sentences, but they don’t have time, so I have to be super lucky just to get my query letter read. Then, if I am picked up by an agent or publisher I have to be well educated on publishing and do my own marketing. I would love to have an agent, but print on demand publishing is making it possible for all trash can query letter writers to find their own success.
Thanks for offering your valuable observations and perspectives. Jenny, I appreciate your honest feedback. Getting published is hard work, no doubt about it. That’s why we try to present a realistic view and also equip writers with important tips to help you polish your proposals until they shine among the competition.
It’s nice to know that Amazon continues to provide options for writers.
However, I would be wary of any contract they would offer, knowing that they possess the size and clout to say “this is how we do business — take it or leave it.”
I also see this move as running publishers — both small ones and big ones — out of business, just as is happening with bookstores. Writers could very likely end up with much fewer options to publish their work.
Question: Does Amazon list these published books on major sites and deliver them to brick and mortar stores? I still think from my limited knowledge that the bigger houses have the advantage. Does Amazon pick and choose their books or do they allow anyone to publish? That creates noise and it makes it difficult for beginner writers to shine. Writing in this market needs to be good and the plot compelling to be heard.
I think it’s good to have agents and editors in place to make sure that good writing gets through. Yes, some may slip past, but I like a well written, well put together book. I’ve reviewed self-published before. Some were good. Some reminded me that there is a reason for agents and Publishing houses because the self-published book showed a lack of editing or a lack of discernment where to make their wording succint. Personally, I also don’t mind the struggles either. It grew me. I’m glad I didn’t get published when I was younger. The lack of maturity and voice left my writing wanting. I think everyone needs to stop and think and ask: Am I in it for the glory seeking or the story teling? I’ve learned impatience in writing doesn’t help writing. Even if you self-publish, you’ll have to work just as hard if not harder, to market it just to recoup your costs, and you may not recoup it. From my research, if you don’t put the money into the book you self-publish, the product will reflect that and your sales will reflect that.