Sunday, May 09, 2010

Is Print Almost Dead?

I was just contacted by a writer I met at a convention, who asked me for a quote. She's doing a blog about the ensuing death of the six major publishers. Here was my response:

Publishing has been wonderful to me. I've met many terrific, smart, generous people, and if the Big 6 are indeed going to go under, I will mourn their loss.

Also, when the multitude of editors who worked for those publishers are sadly let go--including the many who have rejected my work over the last twenty years--I want them to know that I'm making a freakin' fortune self-publishing ebooks they passed on, and am in need of a good freelance editor.

They can send their query letters to me c/o my website. I advise them to keep the letter to less than a page, and to include a SASE for my reply. If they don't hear an answer after six months, it's a good sign I'm not interested, so no need to follow up with an email or phone call.

53 comments:

L-Plate Author said...

Classic, Joe, just classic!

CJ West said...

Brilliant Joe.

You should also mention that they should use Times New Roman 12 point, double spaced.

Angelia Almos said...

I'm really glad I set my tea down before I started reading your post or I'd be choking right now. LOL

Bob said...

I thought there was a big 6. Last I counted. And no one ever counts HQ as part of that, even though Romance sells over 50% of fiction.
My motto at Who Dares Wins Publishing is "Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way." Sort of like in the Infantry. I've had over 40 books 'traditionally' published and plan on having more. But in just three months WDWPUB has over 20 titles up, we're grossing well over 4 figures a month and shooting for 5 before the end of the year. Just today we're uploading MP3 downloads on my Novel Writing Presentation so people can purchase them. We're so "mom and pop" I"m burning the CDs for my 6 CD set on my laptop as I work.
The major publishers just don't seem to want to lead. They're making stabs at it, but the future requires massive realignment in publishing, what we've termed Flex Publishing. I recently received a letter from a senior editor at Random House suggesting I self-publish one of my successful traditionally published series I have the rights back to as they could barely promote their frontlist, never mind doing backlist. I'd already beaten her to the punch and Atlantis is our #1 bestseller, simply by linking it to the TV show #Lost on twitter.
A word of warning, though, to everyone who thinks they can slap their book up on Kindle: as has been pointed out on this blog: quality counts. Every title we have up at WDWPUB has been vetted by traditional agents/editors, reviewed, edited, blurbed etc. And we're very picky about the new titles in our pipeline. Because the ultimate deciders of an author's success or failure nowadays is not the agent or editor or publisher, but the reader.

The White Wolf said...

ZING!

Stacey Cochran said...

Oh sweet justice!

BTW, I've posted a new blog on a similar topic. Everything that is happening with eBooks is going to happen with film and TV.

_______________________

Stacey Cochran
Internationally Bestselling author of This Ain't Your Grandma's Publishing World, Bitch

Mike Dennis said...

And don't forget to remind them, Joe, to use 1-inch margins all the way around, NO right-hand justifying, NO simultaneous submissions, and to include a short statement about how they feel they can best market themselves should you deign to take them on.

Joe Konrath said...

There are 6. Typo or brain fart. I'll change it.

ami said...

hehehe. this post made me laugh. But are we laughing too soon?

In any case it feels good.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Big boys are losing power, that's for sure. Glad I'm with a small publisher.
And while I'm certainly NOT making my fortune on an eBook, please pass along to those editors that the self-help book they passed on but my small publisher didn't now nets me three times the speaking engaements - thanks!

Ellen Brickley said...

Brilliant post Joe :) I laughed out loud and shared with my non-writer boyfriend, who laughed.

Gabriela Popa said...

But what about staples? Are we going to leave them without precise guidance regarding the ins and outs of stapling? Have we forgotten that not 5, not 7, but six staples seal a mailing bag effectively!?

On a more serious tone, this "vetting" by an editor still troubles me. The one and only person who should be in charge of vetting an author (and his/her work) is the author. Because if the work is poor, the case is moot anyway. And if it's good or very good, your worry should not be all this vetting stuff - but your responsibility toward a gift you were given so you can give it back, enriched thousand of times, to folks around you. Anything else is (or becomes, with time, anyway) background noise.

Kaye Manro said...

Stellar post, Joe. I'm still laughing-- out loud!

Mark Terry said...

Got a snortish laugh out of me.

Ellen Fisher said...

Funny post, Joe. Thanks for the laugh.

J.A. Marlow said...

Oh, how the balance of power shifts!

:snicker:

Okay, that was good. A good thing I'd already swallowed the tea before I read that last paragraph!

And so many don't see how things are changing. I mentioned to another author what I was planning to do and the business steps I'm taking to make a success of it (doing a blog series to document the progress, which in the end will include sales data). The response? "Good luck, but I don't see it having much success."

This, of course, by an author who has never had success selling a book, and therefore never even reaching the readers.

Let's face it, until the authors really wise up, there will still be people submitting to the big guys and signing deals that are bad for them.

That is until the publishers go under because no one is willing to pay their prices. Or play their games of "you can buy our books over here in this format, but not over there in that format." Or until the authors wising-up hits critical mass. Or... well, so many reason!

Alexis Harrington said...

Ha! You could also mention that their talents don't fit your particular needs at this time. Of course, you'd have to respond to say that. Maybe after a year of silence . . .

Anonymous said...

Joe, your insecurity is showing. These types of posts are classless and do nothing to further your writing career. To anyone outside your circle of friends, these types of posts come across as petty and juvenile. Why risk your reputation with middle-school snarkiness that reeks of insecurity?

Give full attention to what should be your primary focus--writing the best books you can write.

Joe Konrath said...

Joe, your insecurity is showing.

I have no insecurity. But I do enjoy irony.

CJ West said...

Joe, this last comment says to me that you've hit a nerve. They have a point. When have we ever seen an agent write snarky comments about authors?

CJ

Anonymous said...

Joe, your insecurity is showing. These types of posts are classless and do nothing to further your writing career. To anyone outside your circle of friends, these types of posts come across as petty and juvenile. Why risk your reputation with middle-school snarkiness that reeks of insecurity?

Never fear, Joe. You're reputation just went up a notch amongst classless middle-school juveniles like myself!

Anonymous said...

Best ever post!

Christine said...

I am intrigued... that's all.

E.J. Wesley said...

Anon said, "Joe, your insecurity is showing. These types of posts are classless and do nothing to further your writing career. To anyone outside your circle of friends, these types of posts come across as petty and juvenile. Why risk your reputation with middle-school snarkiness that reeks of insecurity?"

If I may, a few observations:

1. Seems like trolling around blogs and posting anonymous replies that denounce the opinions/thoughts of others is a fairly insecure act.

2. As an aspiring YA author, I like juvenile; to be honest, I was a little disappointed at the lack of a fart joke.

3. I'm not in Joe's circle of friends (hell, I don't even think Kevin Bacon could associate us at this point), yet I found some humor/irony/truth in this post.

My blog, it’s occasionally funny …

http://the-open-vein-ejwesley.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

CJ - LMAO.

Inorite? Agents would *never* insult writers left and right for making the slightest mistake in judgment, rag on writers for wanting to maximize control and objecting when they feel under-appreciated, or create hash tags to dissect their every flaw for the world to see on Twitter, or...

...oh, wait.

Bernita said...

Served cold.

Frank Zubek said...

I doubt the ones who really need to read this thread are even aware it exists. Or even care.

They're spending most of the afternoon surfing around for a job.

Just a guess.

Zoe Winters said...

That was so wrong, but so right. It made me LOL.

You should start making patronizing posts about what you look for in a query letter and start mocking people's query letters publicly. You know, to keep that tradition alive.

Maybe agents can start representing editors.

Isn't change neat?

David H. Burton said...

ROTFLMFAO!!!

Jamie Ford said...

Huzzah. Nicely done.

Robin O'Neill said...

Hilarious. I'm liking you more and more, Joe.

I would add "If you don't hear from me, assume your query didn't sweep me away and I don't care if your few paragraphs cannot possibly represent how good you might be."

rex kusler said...

Eventually there will be conferences so they can pay hundreds of dollars to stand in line and pitch you.

Try not to laugh at them.

CJ West said...

All kidding aside, doesn't it seem just that the power should be in the hands of the people creating the story and not those correcting the grammar, making a pretty cover, and delivering it to shelves?

Bob said...

I'm looking at these comments and I'm thinking Dewey Defeats Truman. I think we're declaring the death knell of the big 6 a bit prematurely. Things will change. There might be new people. But bad writing will still get rejected. The concept that the author is the best one to judge their own work explains 1.2 million titles in a year where 995,000 of them sold less than 100 copies.
The comment that there will still be authors signing bad deals with publishers and they need to wise up-- throw me in the briar patch. Oh, wait, already been there over 40 times and the person who made that comment has never been.

And the ultimate power is in the hand of the readers.

The power the author has is to write the best damn book they can.

On the positive side, authors have more opportunities and access than ever before. No longer do traditional publishers exclusively control the gate to readers. I know this as a brand new publishing company. I've been predicting tremendous change for a long time now-- much faster and bigger change than most people can conceive of. But still . . .

I've been in publishing over 20 years and every person I've worked with, be it author, agent, editor, cover artists, publisher, sales rep, bookstore owner, etc has had one thing in common: we love books. So this "we-they" stuff is funny for a moment, but also sad.

Joe Konrath said...

All kidding aside, doesn't it seem just that the power should be in the hands of the people creating the story and not those correcting the grammar, making a pretty cover, and delivering it to shelves?

I was talking with a good friend of mine about why authors continue to pledge allegiance to a dying, broken system that doesn't treat the artist very well. The conclusion I came to: Stockholm Syndrome.

We've been conditioned to revere the gatekeepers. The only way to sell books was to go through them, so they became the ones we yearned to impress in order to reach our goals and dreams.

But in reality, they are just business people. And as the business model changes, what they actually do for an author becomes apparent.

In the case of agents, I still think they're vital. My agent has helped me a great deal these past few months, and I would have been lost without her. Besides vetting a contract, writing two film contracts, and writing two collaboration contracts, she's also helped me deal with my print publishers on two very pressing issues. She is well worth the 15% she gets.

As for publishers--as I said, I love publishers. But their main purpose is to get the books in front of readers. Every other service they provide--editing, layout, proofing, cover art--can be outsourced.

Editors simply don't have the power they once did, at least over me. I can write something and find an audience without them. In fact, I can find an audience--a large audience--with books they turned down. That says something, doesn't it?

The power in publishing is all about distribution. If a publisher has it, the writer needs them to get it.

But when ebooks become the dominant media, distribution can be achieved without publishers.

I don't hate publishers, or editors. I've worked with some terrific ones. In fact, every one I've worked with has been terrific.

But they've also made mistakes. And those mistakes have affected my career.

I find it liberating to be the master of my own ship, for the very first time in my career.

Anonymously yours said...

To Anonymous: Your comments might be taken seriously if you had the stones to sign your name. Anonymously, they are petty, condescending and sad.

Adrian said...

It seems many here are taking Joe's post as a snarky, nya-nya-nya to agents and editors. I didn't read it that way. I thought it was an extremely clever way to point out that the power structure is inverting.

JHHK said...

Joe,

The Big 6 is dead.
Who is the new Big 6?

Amazon
Apple
Google
Sony
Microsoft
Nintendo

Are these the new kingmakers?

- Jack H.H. King
Author of 'Midget DeathSport'

Anonymous said...

Loved every friggin' word! Still giggling about the last paragraph 20 minutes later!

Zoe Winters said...

Joe said:


"But when ebooks become the dominant media, distribution can be achieved without publishers."

Exactly! Right or wrong I foresee a future in which everything is basically on the Internet. Those who position themselves well now, at least have a shot of survival. Those who don't, will be wondering what happened.

Also agree with the Stockholm Syndrome assessment. It's pretty much like Battered Wives Syndrome. Human beings need way too much validation IMO. And that need holds many back every time.

C. Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

I LOVED this post. I came back today again just to read the comments, which have doubled since last night.

I blogged about this exact issue a few days ago. The new "big publishers" are Amazon and Apple. I don't know why it's so hard for people to understand that.

The bi publishers spent decades ignoring the online marketplace and now they are pissed off because they are losing market share.

rex kusler said...

The beauty of this new model is that anyone can get their book published by Amazon or Smashwords--no matter where in the world they live. Just try getting an agent when your return address is c/o a state mental hospital.

Moses Siregar III said...

Cold. Blooded.

If only Joe could really tell us how sweet it is :-)

Vincent Zandri said...

Nice...I especially have extremely fond memories of my major publishers...especially when one of my editors, who remains a friend and is one of the last survivors maintaining her job told me, and I quote, "They are preventing you from selling books." The majors nearly ruined my career....

Zoe Winters said...

Vincent,

How were they preventing you from selling books? (This isn't be questioning the truth of your statement, this is me being nosy/curious. It's not my business so you can feel free to tell me that, but I'm curious now.)

Zoe Winters said...

*isn't ME questioning.

Stupid fingers.

Joseph D'Agnese said...

Freaking hilarious!

Debbi said...

ROFL! That's awesome.

Don't forget to add the part about how their editing style "doesn't meet our needs."

Radu Prisacaru said...

Fantastic blog. Keep on rockin, Radu Prisacaru – UK Internet Marketer & Web Developer

kanishk said...

I'm really glad
post free classifieds

bowerbird said...

jakonrath said:
> The conclusion I came to:
> Stockholm Syndrome.

bingo.

now you just have to wonder
if amazon might ever decide
to lock the door with you inside.

not to burst your bubble. but...

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

i swear i didn't know that you'd be
crawling into bed with amazon
when i wrote that...

-bowerbird

JeffN said...

Awesome! That my friend was an inspiring post.