So, like I blogged about earlier, the American economy is basically in the toilet, and to quote Roger Clyne, “Everything’s going down, flowin’ counterclockwise.” Regardless of direction, the fact remains that, besides the bailouts of AIG, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, I’ve heard today that both Washington Mutual and Morgan Stanley are initiating sales of themselves (I know a couple of people who work for Morgan Stanley, and wish them the best).
New York/Manhattan is, obviously the epicenter of the financial industry. When the Dow sinks, it sank first in Manhattan.
Manhattan is also pretty much the epicenter of the publishing industry. And given that the financial climate is what it is, one would think that the publishing industry is every bit as concerned about its own welfare as financial sectors are concerned about their own.
And one might not be wrong.
For example, one of the regular publishing/agenting blogs I read is maintained by Lori Perkins, of the Lori Perkins Agency. Lori is extraordinarily well known in the publishing industry and has quite the agenting reputation. She is renowned and respected. This is her blog. I like reading her blog.
So today, Lori wrote about how the faltering economy might affect writers. Money quote:
It’s not all doom and gloom. I just sold another book for one of my clients to Harlequin’s Spice line. But the bad news there is that it won’t be pubbed until 2011.
And there’s the rub. These publishing companies work so far in advance, that when they decide to slow down acquisitions, they can literally just stop buying for 6 or 9 months. And that’s what I predict will happen here.
So my advice is to close on any offer that comes your way now, or try to get a three book deal, because it’s going to be very slow for the next few months.
Which is interesting, certainly. It gives me pause. It might not be doom and gloom, I guess, but, well, it’s a little doomy and gloomy. At least on my end. My end being recently graduated MPWer who studied with Sid Stebel and is currently seeking representation for his debut novel. That end.
But here’s the thing:
Perkins recently partnered with two colleagues to form Ravenous Romance, an e-publisher specializing in romance available exclusively online (no printing-on-demand, it seems). Perkins is, understandably and justifiably, excited about this: it’s a brand new publisher actively seeking new material. To wit:
There’s more than enough to go around, as we are buying over 400 books a year and at least 365 short stories.
Then again, it seems like an entirely different business model from that of ‘traditional’ publishing (we really need a better adjective for that). It doesn’t sound as though it’s based on advances; it sounds much like Harper Studio, the new Harper Collins imprint, which asks writers to either accept drastically reduced advances or forego it altogether in favor of greater sharing in profits. Which seems kind of cool, in a certain way; it’s certainly getting writers to put their money (books) where their mouth is. I’ve often thought I might fight for a higher advance but then reinvest it into whatever publishing company offered it and the marketing/publicity budget they had allotted me.
Arguably grandiose publishing plans aside, the timing of Perkins’ posts and venture is interesting to me. Sure, acquisitions from traditional publishers might slow, but meanwhile, Ravenous Romance is purchasing upwards of 400 manuscripts for e-publication. Also, actual publishing might slow, but a digital publisher inherently lends itself to faster production. Which is why Ravenous Romance seems like it might be a terrific alternative in an otherwise troubled time.
The question I ask, though, is of degree. I salute Perkins and really admire what she’s doing. But digital publishing gives me pause, if only because it’s so accessible to anyone. Publishing a printed book requires conversion, printing, and often distribution. Even self-publishing companies like Lulu affiliate with a printer because not just anyone can produce a professional-looking book, and even if they could, how might they get it into bookstores.
Digital publishing, on the other hand, completely obviates that need. In a few moments, give or take, I’m going to hit the ‘publish’ button here. The conventional phrase is that I’ll be sending this post ‘into the ether,’ which I suppose is partially true, but it’s an easily accessed ether, ain’t it? After all, you managed to find it. Ravenous Romance bills itself as an online publishing company, but aren’t Blogger and WordPress, too? One could make the argument, of course, that something like Ravenous Romance allows for a gatekeeper similar to the traditional publishing houses and somehow lends some authority/credibility based on the fact that any work published was somehow acquired, but then again isn’t that one of the problems with traditional publishing; since when has it been concerned with either authority or credibility so much as whether a book will sell?
Me, I don’t know. Really, all I know is that though publishing may be changing in drastic and exciting ways, the more it changes, the more it will remain the same. Because all it is, really, is simple: words finding their way.
Which, I think, they generally tend to do.