Monday, December 12, 2011

Armchair Publishing: A Small Rant

In the spirit of curmudgeonly-ness (from last week and 'cuz it's Monday)... if anyone wants to know the main reason why I chose to go Indie, read this article from The Passive Guy. In particular, the following quotations are what make the decision simple.
"Just so we’re clear, if the Twilight query had gone to an experienced agent at Writers House instead of a newbie, the experienced agent would have turned it down cold. Stephenie was very lucky a publishing “expert” didn’t review her new product idea."
And then...
"In any field other than publishing, a well-run business that missed a JK or Stephenie idea would have tracked down the people who failed to see the potential in the idea, fired them and completely re-worked the query processing system so an error of that magnitude would never happen again."
I've experienced this first hand in my day job.  Sometimes people aren't fired, but the process is re-processed constantly. It actually is somewhat of a joke among engineers because we routinely try to find any way to shirk the cumbersome process (at great risk of getting slapped with a poor performance review, which equals no raise... as if they need an excuse). Point being: the traditional publishing business model is really ineffective.

I don't like to just lobby criticism without offering a possible solution (armchair quarterbacking being what it is), so here's my idea. Ebooks and Indie publishing provide a great avenue for pre-published publishing. That is, if you're a new writer, you can get started sharing and learning right away, without waiting for the ancient process to grind you up in its gears and spit you out.

Traditional publishers need to get out of the query cycle and start being more proactive. Make editors into "talent scouts." I have to believe their experience counts for something. Chase after the small-scale successes. Get rid of the slush and take to the Indie piles. How many ballplayers do baseball scouts look at before they find the next All-star? It still wouldn't be perfect, but I have to believe it'd be better.  Meanwhile, we can be out there honing our game instead of honing our query-ability.

Waiting on writers to come to you is such a passive way of doing business.  I would think everyone would benefit (readers, writers, editors) from being more active.  But, I'm not a seasoned pro or anything, so what do I know?


Sonia G Medeiros said...

I like the idea of editors being talent scouts. There's certainly a lot of folk out there writing good stuff. Some of them may be intimidated by the whole trad publishing thing and reluctant to go through the query process. Obviously, personal opinion is involved in the accepting of a manuscript. Sometimes that jives with the market and sometimes it doesn't.

Regardless of how any of us individuals might feel about Twilight, it's been a huge success. That's the way the market seems to go sometimes.

Matt said...

Yeah, I mean I'm not going to say the writing in Twilight was superb (nor berate it), but it got tons of people reading and made a whole bunch of money. Love it or hate it, it was successful as a book. Yet it nearly didn't make it. Same with Harry Potter.

It's a rough industry to try and predict anything, sure, but technology should be able to let us market test things for cheap... and find talent where it lies hidden.

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