View Full Version : The new publishing business model


Steven Lyle Jordan
03-27-2010, 10:02 AM
A recent TeleRead thread (http://www.teleread.org/2010/03/25/books-and-buggy-whips-publishing-in-the-new-world/#comment-1161695) has been discussing the new publishing model of the new world. It uses the "buggy whip industry" metaphor to demonstrate how businesses dedicated to one product didn't go out of business, but retooled to sell new products for the rising auto industry... from buggy whips to leather seats and steering wheel covers.

The resulting discussion has suggested ways in which the publishing industry could retool themselves to satisfy the new era. My own suggestion takes advantage of the idea that the pub industry should be giving up on the idea that they are making money off of consumers, and embracing the idea that they would make their money in the future off of the authors themselves... their new market.

Think of the missed opportunity publishers are losing in the present system... and it's in those slush piles. Instead of "cherry-picking" the pieces worth their time to sell through their current process, they could be taking on all of the material in the slush piles... providing service to the authors to improve and package all of those books, and make money directly from the author... then let the author worry about selling the book on the market.

Imagine making money off of those thousands of slush pile books, instead of just a handful of accepted books. And it would be guaranteed income, up front, from the authors. Much of the risk involved with current publishing (printing, inventory, pricing, remainders) would be gone... the only trick would be promoting their services to authors to keep steady business coming in.

Taking the present risk of the market, handing that risk to authors, and getting direct up-front payments for their work from a vastly larger number of clients, instead of the fickle public. What publisher wouldn't want to do something so sensible? What author wouldn't jump at the chance of having their work improved for them, so they have a fighting chance of getting it out to the public? What would happen to the present print-based book, so wasteful and expensive compared to digital products?

Comments are invited.

pwalker8
03-27-2010, 10:44 AM
Certainly I can see a big market for someone to work with authors to edit and polish their material. On the flip side, I think that many author's other big problem is going to be getting noticed by their potential audience with all the drek out there. Sometimes when I go to the Amazon kindle bookstore and look at SF sorted by publish date (trying to find out what has been added in the past week), I have to page through four or five screens to find a book that isn't either PD or self published. That's the other job that the publishers had historically filled. Someone is going to make a good living creating web sites that helps people find books they want to read.

neilmarr
03-27-2010, 10:51 AM
You're suggesting, Steve, that the entire slushpile be passed to the hapless consumer? Don't you think folks who've followed your proposed model in recent years (PublishAmerica comes to mind) are not doing enough to swamp the reader with unreadable nonsense so that finding the needle is becoming increasingly frustrating as the haystack grows and grows and grows? I'm in the business of filtering slush piles and I wouldn't wish the job on my worst enemy far less ask him to actually pay for some of the rubbish I throw out. N

ardeegee
03-27-2010, 10:52 AM
I don't think it would work. Many people think that they can write. Few can. By publishing everything, they would be expecting the reading public to not only wade through rivers of crap looking a carp, but also to pay for it. Maybe if the slush piles were made free, some might be willing to wade, but they still are spending their time.

Jack Tingle
03-27-2010, 11:51 AM
Well, it's a viable business model, since they exist today. I detect a note of tounge-in-cheek, I think.

It's called "vanity press" nowadays, but there'd be almost no printing presses involved anymore in your new model. Its widespread adoption would spawn another business model, that of gatekeeper, or as it was once called, "publisher" or "reviewer". I'd pay for a service that sorted the resulting mass of dreck into two major categores "sucks"/"doesn't suck", subdivided the relatively tiny "doesn't suck" pile into rough genres and then coarsely ranked or graded them.

Regards,
Jack Tingle

rhadin
03-27-2010, 12:57 PM
The problem I see with Steve's model is that authors would be expected to front the costs that publishers currently front. Essentially a self-publishing model. Today few authors are willing to front those costs, many because they simply do not have the financial wherewithal to do so.

And to buy those services from a publisher as opposed to buying them from a freelancer is likely to be significantly more costly. Rather than paying for these services, authors will do it themselves, to everyone's detriment. For some examples of current problems that I think would expand exponentially, see Give Me a Brake! (http://americaneditor.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/on-words-and-ebooks-give-me-a-brake/).

Steven Lyle Jordan
03-27-2010, 02:56 PM
Good comments, all. Let me address a few points:

Obviously, there is a lot of stuff in the slush piles that probably should never be seen in the wild (no tongue in cheek needed there). However, I'm suggesting that it should not be the publisher's job to decide, because the current publishing model is too dependent on profiting heavily on the smallest number of books, which means there are too many potentially good books in those slush piles that the publishers are passing up on due to lack of expected high-profit margins.

The publishers are better off applying their core talents--editing, proofing, packaging--to as many books as possible, including lower-profit books that otherwise get overlooked and lost in the slush piles. Some of those not-so-good books may only need a little work to be made sellable, real polished gems. Then pass that cleaned-up product to the author for them to sell and make whatever profit they can.

When I say the authors should be paying the publishers, I am not assuming the cost will be the same as what publishers pay to produce a book, including the entire print-based process, support of transportation, warehousing, etc, etc. The publishers basically would charge for editing and packaging services, period. We're talking about a few hundred dollars to a thousand, not much more. And it would be completely optional... if you don't think your work needs their services, don't use 'em. Or maybe just pay for proofing services, or just packaging. It's the author's choice, and it won't impact their ability to release their books... it will just make them better books. The idea would be for the author to make enough in sales to pay for the editing costs, or to accept them as operating losses.

Authors would be responsible for distribution, which does not have to be expensive... a purely digital distribution model can cost as little as a hundred dollars a year (website and software costs, primarily). Sure, it might be substantial in other cases, such as for those who insist on print, or spend more on website services, software, etc... but if you think about it, that's one way to cut down on the number of books that get pushed at the publisher, reducing the amount in the "slush pile."

And finally, although the publishers will no longer filter consumers from the slush, they don't need to: There are other services that can do that, most notably P2P services and portals that can review books and make recommendations. Those will be more impartial than recommendations and reviews from within publishers, who frankly have a vested interest in making their own drek sound good, and actually obligate authors (in some cases) to provide reviews in order to bring in customers.

So the slush will be reviewed, much will be revealed by more impartial sources to be slush, and left unpurchased... bad authors will still be filtered out, and consumers will still know what to buy and not to buy.

ardeegee
03-27-2010, 03:04 PM
Some of those not-so-good books may only need a little work to be made sellable, real polished gems.

No-- the relation between "goodness" and "editing needed" is probably inversely proportional.

neilmarr
03-27-2010, 03:11 PM
***Some of those not-so-good books may only need a little work to be made sellable***

Those are the toughest books to get anything worthwhile out of, Steve. You're basically talking re-write with those. They would take months, years. The fact that they're not-so-good means the author isn't ready to work with an editor yet. Your proposed scheme is utterly unworkable.

Even at a small house like my own -- where we read every submission sent in as per form (synopsis and two chapters), I must go through up to thirty subs a week. Over the course of a month, I might ask to see four or five full manuscripts. Of those, we may publish one. The other two pro, full time editors on the team would report similar results.

How about you just read those that showed promise enough to merit a second glance, Steve? They're turned down for good reason. Even a book we eventually publish might be over a year in heavy edit before it's good enough to put out there for its final judgement -- by the reader.

You can's just land readers with nonsense or expect serious professional editors to virtually re-write the not-so-good work of sub-standard authors. Life is literally too short for an editor to take the also-rans to publication. You would need editorial teams the size of armies.

Neil

Steven Lyle Jordan
03-27-2010, 03:14 PM
It's called "vanity press" nowadays, but there'd be almost no printing presses involved anymore in your new model. Its widespread adoption would spawn another business model, that of gatekeeper, or as it was once called, "publisher" or "reviewer". I'd pay for a service that sorted the resulting mass of dreck into two major categores "sucks"/"doesn't suck", subdivided the relatively tiny "doesn't suck" pile into rough genres and then coarsely ranked or graded them.

That's exactly what I expect to get out of P2P and portals, except more impartially than from publishers themselves.

If pubs want to tell authors, "We can only clean your book up so much, it needs serious work"--then offer to do that work, for a fee--that should be within their purview to do so. But let the public, and P2P/portals run by impartial others, tell the consumer what is and is not good.

Steven Lyle Jordan
03-27-2010, 03:19 PM
You would need editorial teams the size of armies.

That is not a non-starter. Clearly, we're talking about a major reorganization of what is considered the publishing house (into more of a publishing factory). But it is still do-able, and given the evolving publishing climate, still potentially workable.

ardeegee
03-27-2010, 08:08 PM
This thread reminds me of a review of a vanity press book that deserved to remain in a slushpile:

http://www.blaghag.com/2009/04/book-review-professor-and-dominatrix.html

pilotbob
03-28-2010, 12:53 AM
The problem I see with Steve's model is that authors would be expected to front the costs that publishers currently front. Essentially a self-publishing model. Today few authors are willing to front those costs, many because they simply do not have the financial wherewithal to do so.

I was going to post exactly this. :thumbsup:

Also... Would there not be concern about the reputation of the publisher. Many people buy books from certain publishers because they can expect a certain quality from each book that is published.

Of course, this is more true in the technical publications I guess. I know what to expect from a Wrox book verses an O'Riely book.

BOb

pilotbob
03-28-2010, 12:57 AM
Obviously, there is a lot of stuff in the slush piles that probably should never be seen in the wild (no tongue in cheek needed there). However, I'm suggesting that it should not be the publisher's job to decide, because the current publishing model is too dependent on profiting heavily on the smallest number of books, which means there are too many potentially good books in those slush piles that the publishers are passing up on due to lack of expected high-profit margins.


So, while currently the retailers are able to take advantage of the long tail, you are suggesting that authors take care of the long tail.

I guess you could extend this so that the publishers could perhaps have two brands that they publish under. One would be for first books and/or new authors. The author would need to pay for all the editing and typesetting up front and the publisher would do no marketing. But, after they are established the publisher could offer advances etc as they do now.

This actually might be interesting because it would allow for authors who might be rejected get discovered. I'm sure there are books that have been rejected by several publishers only to go on later to be big hits.

So, Steve... I'm wondering, if this is such a good idea and business plan... why don't you become the "new century" publishing company?

BOb

MaggieScratch
03-28-2010, 01:41 AM
This model assumes that most readers find their reading material online. I would suggest this is not the case. Many people go to bookstores and browse until they find something that catches their interest. Bookstores don't carry all the books that are published. The publishers and/or distributors send salespeople to the bookstore buyers, and these salespeople have to "sell" the buyer. The buyer then decides which books they will carry in their bookstore.

No bookstore can carry every book. How will the bookstores decide which books to carry? Who will pay the salespeople? Is that something else the author is expected to pay for upfront?

"Let the author worry about selling the books?" Who's going to write the books while the authors are busy selling them?

There is more to the editorial process than simple copy editing and proofreading. It is a collaborative process between the author and the editor and meant to polish and improve the work. And there is more to selling a book than tossing it up on the Internet and hoping people find it. Publishers have the cash flow to allow the authors to be paid, the salespeople to be paid, the editors to be paid, and production costs to be paid, all while the process of bringing a book to the paying customer, the reader, is going on. To expect authors pay it all upfront is just nuts.

If people really want to publish their stuff and don't want to take the time to polish their own work until it is acceptable to a commercial publisher, there are plenty of ways to do it now. Lulu, the Kindle store--whatever it's called, and Smashwords are the most author-friendly; AuthorHouse and its various "imprints," and oh yeah, PublishAmerica, for those too naive to know what they are doing. Caveat emptor; or when the author becomes the customer rather than the reader, caveat scrivener.

riemann42
03-28-2010, 01:57 AM
The rumors of the demise of the publishing industry are greatly exaggerated.

Unlike newspapers, changing the medium should have no affect on the big publishing houses. Their role: advancing the authors to fund the work, selecting high quality work to fund, editing said work, distributing it, and most importantly marketing will all still be required, whether we read dead trees, digital ink, or by direct download to the brain (this sentence has tended to go a little long, but I hope it serves to make a point that many people, myself included, or rather, myself especially, should never be published). The only role that this eliminates is the printing press itself, which is really only a small, and environmentally devastating, portion of the total cost of the work that publishers do.

As a consumer, If every work was a vanity publication, I don't know what I would do. I am sure a company would quickly emerge that sorted the vanity works, funded ongoing projects that should promise, edited them, distributed them to popular brain-download merchants, and marketed the work to make sure they got their investment back.

riemann42
03-28-2010, 02:10 AM
Rewrite of previous post:

Publishers will always be required to pay good authors to write, and tell bad authors to stop.

neilmarr
03-28-2010, 04:32 AM
***We can only clean your book up so much, it needs serious work"--then offer to do that work, for a fee***

That, Steve, would put us in the same sub class as 'subsidised' publishing, which is really just a front to sell publishing services, including editorial.

ALL the time we have is dedicated to making good books better, empowering the author and satisfying the reader. Editors working for a specific house cannot afford the time to work on a sub-standard manuscript that isn't even ready for edit.

And if a house adjusts its policy on the lines you suggest to the extent that it becomes what amounts to vanity press, what does the reader get? You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Publishers working this model would soon find that it wasn't worth working pro bono on even good books. It would all become a matter of who pays gets published

If an author wants to pay for services, OK, let him/her go to a company or freelance whose job it is to do that. The net's bursting with 'em. Most authors will not spend the money, though, and want the free professional services of a publishing house with an experience and expert staff and that covers everything and all costs.

You'd be as amazed as I am disappointed to see terrible manuscripts I've declined popping up as self published at places like Lulu, word for word in their awful original form -- complete with bad grammar and spelling mistakes as well as wobbly story lines, carboard characters, wooden dialogue -- the whole catalogue of incompentence.

I must repeat, Steve, that not all self-publishers (some of whom turn to the system not because of rejection but because they cling to their independence) turn out unreadable nonsense. There are rare gems. But it's tough to find them in the free and cheap section which is to all intents and purposes a public slush pile.

My policy, though, is that the client is the reader and NOT the author. An author should pay NOTHING toward publication of his book. Not a red cent. I see that as a form of bribery and am profoundly hurt by the not infrequent offers I get from 'authors' to pay BeWrite Books to achieve publication with us.

For paperbacks, we use a print on demand (non-inventory) system, but POD -- once an innocent term for a new print technology -- has become confued with PUBLISH on Demand, which is a business model.

Best wishes.

Steven Lyle Jordan
03-28-2010, 09:49 AM
This actually might be interesting because it would allow for authors who might be rejected get discovered. I'm sure there are books that have been rejected by several publishers only to go on later to be big hits.

Which, of course, is the whole point to this thread. :thumbsup:

So, Steve... I'm wondering, if this is such a good idea and business plan... why don't you become the "new century" publishing company?

Because I'm one guy, not an editor or proofer, not a CEO, and with no capital. I simply don't have the financial resources or wherewithal to do the job. I could work for such a company, in the packaging department (prepping works for digital formats, creating covers, etc). But that would be about it for me.

The idea was to suggest new directions for existing publishers, those trying to figure out their future business model, to try. I'm not surprised by the resistance to the idea, of course, because it is very radical compared to the existing model. It has its good points and bad points. But that's why it deserves to be discussed.

Keep in mind that I am not saying that all publishers would have to adopt this model, nor would all authors be required to follow it (which, I suspect, some here have wrongfully assumed)... present and future authors could continue to do what they do now, assuming what they do is working for them. But this would provide a new avenue for other authors, particularly those whose work has languished in the slush pile but deserves to be seen.

And again, I oppose the idea that publishers should tell consumers what is and is not worth reading. I know how that sounds, too... but consider this: I have read plenty of books, books that I enjoyed greatly, that never won an award or ended up on the NYT Bestseller list. I've got a houseful of 'em. In boxes next to comic books. When I turn on the TV, I don't need Masterpiece Theatre to entertain me... I am thoroughly amused watching Chuck. In short, what I read may not be the award-winning best, but it is still entertaining to me... and that's good enough for me.

Now, consider: A publisher gets 50,000 submissions, they accept 10 "Masterpiece Theatre"-level works to publish, and the rest never leave the slush pile. I go to my bookstore, I look at all 10 books, and none of them interest me. But maybe some of those 49,990 others would have been enjoyed by me. So what service has that publisher done for me? Nothing.

The proposed plan would get more good books out there... maybe not more "Masterpiece Theatre"-level works, but at least more "Chuck"-level works. The P2P sites and portals would be reviewing them all, and separating the wheat from the chaff. Consumers will find the books they want by going to their trusted portals.

Maggie, I don't know how existing bookstores would fit into this model, unless they A) allow visitors to access book portals online for browsing and searches of books that are not necessarily at the store, and B) find a way to sell e-books at the storefront level. Otherwise, this alternative publishing process would be going on parallel to the bookstores continuing to sell books provided by traditional publishing houses, maintaining the schism between pub houses and vanity press, or between pub houses and self-published e-books.

ficbot
03-28-2010, 09:56 AM
It's funny you mention bookstores, I was talking with my father about this the other day and he said he never goes into a bookstore specifically to buy a certain book. He goes in because he enjoys the experience of the bookstore and while he is there he will buy something if it interests him. I think a lot of people don't care much about the publisher or the supplier. They just want to browse the books and find something interesting.

I think publishers will use the time and resources they are not spending on the mechanics of printing to issue more books and they will try to build volume with things like ebooks and print on demand. And I think the bigger of the self-publishing sites will wind up self-regulating, with user ratings and reviews propelling the better books to the top of the list so people will find them.

ardeegee
03-28-2010, 10:47 AM
I'm not surprised by the resistance to the idea, of course, because it is very radical compared to the existing model.

I'm not "resistant"-- I just do not see how burying everyone in a mountain of feces helps anyone.

I've never worked in a publishing house sifting through slush piles, but I've seen enough self-published and fan-fiction to see how the vast majority of it is utter garbage (including the self-published fiction that I've looked at here that gets high praise feedbacks, but of course I won't name names.)

I think you are underestimating just how bad bad writing can be. (Any chance you have some books sitting on slushpiles?)

When I turn on the TV, I don't need Masterpiece Theatre to entertain me... I am thoroughly amused watching Chuck.

But Chuck is a very funny, well written show. A better analogy would be, you don't mind watching hours of home videos shot on a shaky camcorder by your neighbor's cousin Bob featuring his two middle-school children acting out scenes from Harry Potter, a film which his elderly Aunt Doris tells him is as good as the work of Cecil B. Demille.

neilmarr
03-28-2010, 11:14 AM
***The proposed plan would get more good books out there***

The proposed plan, Steve, would also get more bad books out there. We're back at square one and searching for needles in giant haystacks. Filtering systems scouts/agents/editors/publishers/retailers (yes, they're also part of the subjective selection process) are like the spam filter in your email programme: they save you having to wade through a load of junk, but the odd genuine message does get thrown out with the bathwater.

And when you talk about the resources you don't have to give publishing a go yourself, maybe consider what I did: I came out of a lucrative writing life because of health hiccups that prevented me from getting about and spent every red cent I had and ten years of my life without a penny of income to get BeWrite Books to where it is today, which ain't far.

With the help of three (now two) experienced and previously well paid professional fiction editors who agreed to work with me on a small royalties basis and a technical and admin side who did the same on an even smaller royalty, we've now made it work to the extent that only these past few months we've started to turn the corner. Gosh will our authors see a difference in their royalties cheques.

There's neuteral ground where we can meet, Steve, and where we might even discover some happy medium. We must all keep open minds right now.

'Fraid, though, I've got to bow out of this debate for a wee while. I've got a couple of weeks in hospital as of Tuesday. Maybe we can pick up on this later. It's an imortant topic and it does need to be thrashed out. I thank you for jumping in with both feet, even though I don't immediately agree with you on any point.

Also, Steve, you have my email adress I think if you want to go into more depth. My PC died on me yesterday, but I can tap my mail through this wee netbook here. The direct address, by the way, is netbookATbewrite.net. Imaginative, eh? (Oh -- use the @ sign of course.)

Best of luck everyone. Look forward to your company again when I'm back in the Land of the Living. Hoots. Neil

Elfwreck
03-28-2010, 11:53 AM
That, Steve, would put us in the same sub class as 'subsidised' publishing, which is really just a front to sell publishing services, including editorial.

Yes. And possibly, in order to avoid brand confusion, a publishing house that did this would need a different line-name for those books.

ALL the time we have is dedicated to making good books better, empowering the author and satisfying the reader. Editors working for a specific house cannot afford the time to work on a sub-standard manuscript that isn't even ready for edit.

They can if the author is paying for it. And in order to keep some level of quality, they can demand the right to approve the final book before release if the author's going to use their name on it--otherwise, the author can pay them for editorial advice, accept or reject any amount of it, and release the book through lulu or smashwords or whatever.

And if a house adjusts its policy on the lines you suggest to the extent that it becomes what amounts to vanity press, what does the reader get?

Ohgeeze, better than we're getting *now* from a lot of self-published ebooks.

I wouldn't expect this to make for a lot of excellent books. I'd hope it would improve the quality of some of the mediocre books--and in a rare handful of cases, be exactly the nudge an author needs to make her work professionally sale-able. But mostly not; it'd mostly be a way to encourage bad authors with a few decent story ideas to get spellchecked and grammar-edited and have the worst of their story contradictions fixed.

If an author wants to pay for services, OK, let him/her go to a company or freelance whose job it is to do that. The net's bursting with 'em.

It's not. Or rather, they're scattered and hard to find, and most don't have the ability to say honestly, "I know what it would take to make your story mainstream-publishable."

Most authors will not spend the money, though, and want the free professional services of a publishing house with an experience and expert staff and that covers everything and all costs.

And for those, you limit the offer to those works that are already of a certain quality level.

You'd be as amazed as I am disappointed to see terrible manuscripts I've declined popping up as self published at places like Lulu, word for word in their awful original form -- complete with bad grammar and spelling mistakes as well as wobbly story lines, carboard characters, wooden dialogue -- the whole catalogue of incompentence.

You left out "purple script fonts."

The worst of those would never consider paying for editing services, so they're not the authors being discussed here.

I must repeat, Steve, that not all self-publishers (some of whom turn to the system not because of rejection but because they cling to their independence) turn out unreadable nonsense.

Some are just writing on topics so esoteric they can't find a mainstream niche to publish in. And some of those would be greatly enhanced by editing, and still not mainstream-publishable.

My policy, though, is that the client is the reader and NOT the author. An author should pay NOTHING toward publication of his book. Not a red cent. I see that as a form of bribery and am profoundly hurt by the not infrequent offers I get from 'authors' to pay BeWrite Books to achieve publication with us.

And that's a professional decision, an ethical choice--having nothing to do with market forces or business opportunities.

You could, hypothetically, create a line called "BeTouched," and sell access to your editors and publishing advice, without offering inclusion in the BeWrite line. (I'm not suggesting it, just suggesting an example of how it could work in conjunction with current publishing practices.) Authors who paid for editing would have the option of including "beta'd by BeTouched" in their sales pitch, which might convince more people to buy their books.

I suppose, on further consideration, I'm not sure what kind of rates would apply. $50-100 seems like very little for professional editing services, even fairly cursory ones, and much more than that would block most would-be self-published authors. OTOH, $50-100 for spellcheck, *basic* grammar/punctuation check (the kind that proofreading people get twitchy when they're not allowed to make), and simple formatting might be reasonable, and would greatly improve the quality of some self-published ebooks.

Jack Tingle
03-28-2010, 12:05 PM
OTOH, $50-100 for spellcheck, *basic* grammar/punctuation check (the kind that proofreading people get twitchy when they're not allowed to make), and simple formatting might be reasonable, and would greatly improve the quality of some self-published ebooks.

And some professionally published ones as well. (rimshot)

It's an interesting model. If you can package it right, market it broadly enough, and keep hold of high quality standards in the services you offer, it might make some money without becoming a scam. There are a lot of author wannabees out there with some money in their pocket.

A reviewing company to separate the wheat from the chaff might also make money if this comes to pass. :)

Regards,
Jack Tingle

Steven Lyle Jordan
03-28-2010, 12:12 PM
Get better soon, Neil!

The proposed plan, Steve, would also get more bad books out there.

Yup. As I said, I just want to put the filtering process in the hands of third parties, and out of the hands of publishers. But this way, the publishers get more work, take less risk, the market does the filtering work, and a few more good books get out.

There's neuteral ground where we can meet, Steve, and where we might even discover some happy medium. We must all keep open minds right now.

Agreed. So let's keep discussing alternatives.

I'm not "resistant"-- I just do not see how burying everyone in a mountain of feces helps anyone... (Any chance you have some books sitting on slushpiles?)

Nope. In my case, my preliminary letters to publishers all resulted in the same notice: "We are no longer considering outside and un-agented works." In other words, dismissed without even a look. And some of those were the books I sell on my website right now, and seem to be entertaining a few people.

pilotbob
03-28-2010, 12:28 PM
complete with bad grammar and spelling mistakes as well as wobbly story lines, carboard characters, wooden dialogue -- the whole catalogue of incompentence.


funny... many people attribute books of Dan Brown and other "best sellers" with the above attributes. Books which certainly have gone through the editing process with a publisher.

BTW: You spelled "cardboard" and "incompetence" incorrectly above. :smack: I'll give you "catalog" because you used the British spelling so I assume that is where are you from.

BOb

rhadin
03-28-2010, 12:32 PM
When I say the authors should be paying the publishers, I am not assuming the cost will be the same as what publishers pay to produce a book, including the entire print-based process, support of transportation, warehousing, etc, etc. The publishers basically would charge for editing and packaging services, period. We're talking about a few hundred dollars to a thousand, not much more. And it would be completely optional... if you don't think your work needs their services, don't use 'em. Or maybe just pay for proofing services, or just packaging. It's the author's choice, and it won't impact their ability to release their books... it will just make them better books. The idea would be for the author to make enough in sales to pay for the editing costs, or to accept them as operating losses.

The problem is that the publishers will be unable to compete price-wise with freelancers who currently provide the services to the publishers. Consequently, publishers will disappear and become freelancers themselves. Authors will have difficulty in determining freelancer skills, just as they do now. Additionally, you assume that authors are willing to absorb all these costs. My experience is that most authors are unwilling to absorb any editorial or production costs, preferring to ask their neighbor to give it a once over and to sell their best effort no matter how poor an effort it is.

Steve, the biggest problems I see with your plan are (a) getting authors to spend their own money on these services, (b) authors getting sufficient competitive distribution, and (c) authors devoting sufficient time and effort to self-promotion to recoup any of the costs they have prepaid (which leads us back to (a)).

As for the idea of authors accepting operating losses, if they don't do that now, why do you think they will do it in the future?

Yes, there are some authors who are willing to do (and currently do) just what you suggest and there are some authors who are quite capable of doing everything themselves and doing so successfully. But such authors are in the very small minority.

I also think there is one other aspect that hasn't been fully explored: the commercial value of carrying the, for example, Random House imprint on your book. Under your plan, it is likely that authors will be unable to sell any book for more than a dollar or two. This is a money-losing proposition if the author has all of the marketing, editorial, and production costs to front and absorb. The imprint of an established publisher helps create a market value for a book, something that is missing in your scheme.

I wish your plan was more viable; as a freelance editor and typesetter of 25 years' experience, it would likely increase my business. Unfortunately, I do not see it being viable but for a handful of authors.

Kali Yuga
03-28-2010, 12:32 PM
Steve... I take it you never spent much time on MP3.com. :D

Self-publishers already have the option to hire freelance editors and a whole range of services to get their books out there. This has been the case for years. What's different now is that everyone and their mother believes they can be an author (and/or that writing a book is a goldmine), and the slush pile has grown to epic proportions.

In fact, it's gotten so bad that most big publishers will no longer look at unsolicited manuscripts. They well know there's a chance they will miss the next Philip Roth, but the reality is that there is too much dreck, and it's too expensive just to wade through it in the first place.


Tell you what, spend 40 hours wading through Smashwords and/or Scribd, only reading books that were not previously published.

Assuming you find any, call up a freelance editor and ask how much they charge to polish up a 300 page manuscript. Then call a professional illustrator or photographer and ask them the cost for cover art; while you're at it, ask them if they know a professional graphic designer who can put it all together for you. Of course you'll need a publicist and a national ad budget. It probably wouldn't hurt to hire someone to properly convert it into at least ePub, AZW and PDF.

Now, add up all those costs; my guess is it'll be around $20k not including marketing. I doubt many writers can afford this -- and if they can, why not just do it, list your book on Amazon DTP, and get 70% back per book?

And if someone's book really does take off that way, the publisher can sidle up to them, offer a nice advance, professional editors, national marketing, and other resources, and nab rights to the self-published books as well. It'll almost certainly cost less to cherry-pick the handful of winners from Smashwords than to sully their reputation by turning into a massive slush pile producer like Smashwords.

Got another business plan handy? :D

HarryT
03-28-2010, 12:33 PM
$50-100 for spellcheck, *basic* grammar/punctuation check (the kind that proofreading people get twitchy when they're not allowed to make), and simple formatting might be reasonable, and would greatly improve the quality of some self-published ebooks.

$50 for an entire book? That seems way, way too low to me, I'm afraid. $50 per hour may be reasonable (although even that's on the low side), but how many hours would it take to do even a basic check of a typical novel? I'd say it would be several hours at a minimum.

rhadin
03-28-2010, 12:38 PM
You can's just land readers with nonsense or expect serious professional editors to virtually re-write the not-so-good work of sub-standard authors. Life is literally too short for an editor to take the also-rans to publication. You would need editorial teams the size of armies.

Having experience editing such books, I can tell you that the editorial process costs many thousands of dollars for the not-so-good books of substandard authors. The last time I worked on one as a developmental editor, the client -- against my advice -- insisted on spending his money to get what he believed was a great book into publication shape and paid well over $15,000 for the editorial work. He was happy until he discovered that readers weren't interested in his book.

Publishing is an expensive crapshoot.

rhadin
03-28-2010, 12:42 PM
This actually might be interesting because it would allow for authors who might be rejected get discovered. I'm sure there are books that have been rejected by several publishers only to go on later to be big hits.

Two authors come to mind: Mitch Albom and JK Rowling. I expect that out of 10,000 authors 1 follows this path (and the odds might actually be higher than 1:10,000). But this doesn't make for a good business model.

Elfwreck
03-28-2010, 12:45 PM
funny... many people attribute books of Dan Brown and other "best sellers" with the above attributes. Books which certainly have gone through the editing process with a publisher.

Only because they haven't seen some of the drek that gets released on Lulu.

As much as I think many published books have formulaic dialogue and flat characters and inane descriptions, they are much, much better than a lot of the unedited manuscripts being "self-published."

May I introduce you to The Eye of Argon (http://www.rdrop.com/~hutch/argon), a short story written in 1970? Some self-published ebooks available today--sometimes for sale at Amazon--match it for quality.
"Prepare to embrace your creators in the stygian haunts of
hell, barbarian", gasped the first soldier.
"Only after you have kissed the fleeting stead of death,
wretch!" returned Grignr.

Steven Lyle Jordan
03-28-2010, 12:46 PM
Two authors come to mind: Mitch Albom and JK Rowling. I expect that out of 10,000 authors 1 follows this path (and the odds might actually be higher than 1:10,000). But this doesn't make for a good business model.

Exactly the point: The current business model results in 1-10,000 books to see the light of day. A new model, taking the risk out of the publisher's equation, might allow 1-500, or even 1-50, to see the light of day.

Maybe I should ask: Is there some part of "impartial third-party post-filtering, instead of publisher pre-filtering" that does not make sense?

pilotbob
03-28-2010, 12:47 PM
Two authors come to mind: Mitch Albom and JK Rowling. I expect that out of 10,000 authors 1 follows this path (and the odds might actually be higher than 1:10,000). But this doesn't make for a good business model.

Actually, it is a very good business model. Having an author pay for all the costs to publish a book and the marketing. I think there is a profit to be made there. But, it won't be in selling the book, it would be and editing company. I could see it making a profit...if...

You can find enough authors that are willing and able to pay for this stuff up front. Which I highly doubt...

Also, would the "publisher" get any cut of the sales for a book they edited?

BOb

rhadin
03-28-2010, 12:52 PM
Because I'm one guy, not an editor or proofer, not a CEO, and with no capital. I simply don't have the financial resources or wherewithal to do the job.

Think about what it would cost for Random House to switch to your model. Think then what Random House would have to charge an author for the editorial help. Now think:


How many authors would be willing to pay the inflated price for editorial help, which price includes a CEO's million-dollar salary, the overhead for several hundred editors who may or may not always be busy, the mailroom folk, the human resources department personnel, etc?
How would Random House be able to compete price-wise with the freelance editors who offer the same service but for half the price (or even less of a price)?

I think the idea is simply not viable and that there is no basis to assume that authors will change their current behavior of not hiring editors.

HarryT
03-28-2010, 12:52 PM
Actually, it is a very good business model. Having an author pay for all the costs to publish a book and the marketing. I think there is a profit to be made there. But, it won't be in selling the book, it would be and editing company. I could see it making a profit...if...

You can find enough authors that are willing and able to pay for this stuff up front. Which I highly doubt...


That's the problem, isn't it? 95% of authors probably think that they are in the 5% that can be published without the aid of a professional editor. We hear an endless litany here at MR about the so-called "greed" of publishers. I wonder how many of the complainers are actually aware of the amount of work that publishers do, and how much it costs?

Elfwreck
03-28-2010, 12:54 PM
$50 for an entire book? That seems way, way too low to me, I'm afraid. $50 per hour may be reasonable (although even that's on the low side), but how many hours would it take to do even a basic check of a typical novel? I'd say it would be several hours at a minimum.

I'm thinking ~1-3 hours for a novel; $25-50/hourly rate. BASIC spellcheck/grammarfix. Not actually reading the book. Run spellcheck program (amazing how many manuscripts don't even bother with that); scroll through looking for punctuation & grammar that makes the editor wince, and fix it.

If that seems unreasonably quick, maybe I could find a job in the publishing industry somewhere, 'cos that's about my skim-and-correct rate, and I don't think of myself as having extreme editing skills. (Or at least, not when I'm working that fast. I do great line-by-line editing but that takes a lot longer, and I don't expect to get paid for it; jobs involving that much detail work are really hard to find.)

I'd think real editing for novels would run at $20-$50/hour, a bit higher for "normal" nonfiction, and much higher for technical nonfic.

pilotbob
03-28-2010, 12:58 PM
That's the problem, isn't it? 95% of authors probably think that they are in the 5% that can be published without the aid of a professional editor. We hear an endless litany here at MR about the so-called "greed" of publishers. I wonder how many of the complainers are actually aware of the amount of work that publishers do, and how much it costs?

I for one never complained that publishers were greedy... I think businesses are in business to make money.

I just have a problem paying MORE for an ebook than I can currently buy the paper book for at a main stream retail store. So, I don't buy them... rather than complain... there's plenty out there to read that I don't think is reasonably priced.

BOb

rhadin
03-28-2010, 01:01 PM
I suppose, on further consideration, I'm not sure what kind of rates would apply. $50-100 seems like very little for professional editing services, even fairly cursory ones, and much more than that would block most would-be self-published authors. OTOH, $50-100 for spellcheck, *basic* grammar/punctuation check (the kind that proofreading people get twitchy when they're not allowed to make), and simple formatting might be reasonable, and would greatly improve the quality of some self-published ebooks.

If you find a "professional" editor who claims they can give you editorial help for $50-$100 total cost -- RUN faster than you have ever run. It is a scam.

Professional editors with experience charge anywhere from $35 to $200+ AN HOUR in the United States. Spellcheck can be run within that $100 budget, but to check even basic grammar means one has to read the manuscript and even the speediest editor, if they are doing a decent job, can't read a 250-page manuscript in an hour or two.

rhadin
03-28-2010, 01:06 PM
Nope. In my case, my preliminary letters to publishers all resulted in the same notice: "We are no longer considering outside and un-agented works." In other words, dismissed without even a look. And some of those were the books I sell on my website right now, and seem to be entertaining a few people.

And the reason for this is that every author believes she or he is the next JK Rowling and so swamped publishers with unsolicited manuscripts. Many publishers now rely on agents to prescreen and they learn quickly which agents are trustworthy and which aren't.

I haven't read your books and I am not commenting on their quality, but it seems to me that if your books are of good quality and you have a growing audience for them, that you should be able to find a respected agent and turn those rejection letters into acceptance letters. Whether getting an agent is worthwhile, depends on what you want.

neilmarr
03-28-2010, 01:14 PM
***BTW: You spelled "cardboard" and "incompetence" incorrectly above. I'll give you "catalog" because you used the British spelling so I assume that is where are you from***

Sincere apologies for the terrible typos and use of UK Standard English, BOb. I'm working on a netbook because my PC died yesterday, I can hardly see the screen and the keboard's tiny, and I'm up to the eyeballs in morphine and waiting for major surgery in a couple of days. That's why I begged leave to re-enter this debate when I'm back in the Land of the Living in a couple of weeks and can think (and type) straight. Neil

rhadin
03-28-2010, 01:16 PM
I'm thinking ~1-3 hours for a novel; $25-50/hourly rate. BASIC spellcheck/grammarfix. Not actually reading the book. Run spellcheck program (amazing how many manuscripts don't even bother with that); scroll through looking for punctuation & grammar that makes the editor wince, and fix it.

Please, Elfwreck, see my blog post Give Me a Brake! (http://americaneditor.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/on-words-and-ebooks-give-me-a-brake/) Most, if not all, of the errors cited would have passed both spellcheck and grammarfix. Part of the problem is that authors do rely on spellcheck and grammarfix and assume if something passes those "tests" it is correct.

A professional editor cannot read a standard-size novel for grammar and spelling in 1 to 3 hours; perhaps an amateur, but certainly not a professional of any caliber.

Steven Lyle Jordan
03-28-2010, 01:22 PM
Think about what it would cost for Random House to switch to your model. Think then what Random House would have to charge an author for the editorial help...

As you suggest, many of the traditional publishing houses would not be able to make this transition from their current organization. Others might. Maybe smaller freelancers would get most of this business, or maybe places like Random would have to scale down or break into smaller offices to do it.

You can find enough authors that are willing and able to pay for this stuff up front. Which I highly doubt...

Also, would the "publisher" get any cut of the sales for a book they edited?

I, for one, do not doubt that some authors, not sure of whether their manuscript will do well, will pay for services to help improve its chances. Will all of them? No; they will either go the traditional route, or go it alone. This is merely another choice.

As for the publishers getting a cut, that's not the direction described by this particular model (in which the author pays for services up-front, negotiation done)... but there's no reason why an author and publisher could not make such an arrangement, possibly to lower the author's up-front cost.

Problem is, that puts the element of risk back in the publisher's hands... which will make them less likely to offer their services, except for what they consider a "sure thing," much like the system we have now.

Understand, the author is absorbing the risk instead of the publisher... but under this system, the author is more likely to get a chance to take the risk (instead of never leaving the slush pile)... and using a publisher's services will help lower that risk by improving the product.

pilotbob
03-28-2010, 01:32 PM
Sincere apologies for the terrible typos and use of UK Standard English, BOb.

No worries. I was just teasing you. I just thought it was a bit ironic that in a post you were talking about authors incompetence and spelling errors while including them in said post. :)

It's all good! Maybe you were being punny and I just didn't get it.

BOb

ardeegee
03-28-2010, 02:32 PM
I see a parallel between this topic and people who remain in slushpiles-- they are convinced that they have a great book, and no matter how often the professionals who spend their lives day in, day out tell them that they don't (probably politely at first, probably less so after many repeats) they are sure that if they just keep repeating it over and over, the pros will change their mind. Here, pro editors and publishers are telling you why your business model just won't work, but you remain convinced that if you keep telling them over and over (ignoring their reasons given) they will eventually come to believe that your plan is as brilliant as you think it is.

Elfwreck
03-28-2010, 03:02 PM
Please, Elfwreck, see my blog post Give Me a Brake! (http://americaneditor.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/on-words-and-ebooks-give-me-a-brake/) Most, if not all, of the errors cited would have passed both spellcheck and grammarfix. Part of the problem is that authors do rely on spellcheck and grammarfix and assume if something passes those "tests" it is correct.

A professional editor cannot read a standard-size novel for grammar and spelling in 1 to 3 hours; perhaps an amateur, but certainly not a professional of any caliber.

An editor can't read a manuscript in that time, but could skim through it, and potentially do a find-and-replace search for any of those errors that seem common. (Can't replace all instances of "no" with "know," but could search for "I no" or "we no" and replace those with "I know" and "we know.")

A quick 1-3 hour overview wouldn't fix all errors, but it could move a book from give-up-reading to occasional errors. Could potentially make it submittable to an agent or slushpile. Although I suspect that most books with grammar & spelling that bad, also have story continuity & characterization problems, some probably don't, but an agent isn't going to bother looking at any book whose first four pages make him wince.

:: ponders trying to convince would-be authors that they should pay $100 to have their book edited so that *maybe* an agent will consider it ::

Yeah, I think you've convinced me; the idea itself (publishers offering paid editing services) has some validity, but the practical side of it seems unworkable. The ones who would actually gain from it won't be convinced to use it, and the ones willing to pay for it are likely to have works that even good editing won't improve enough to make them worthwhile.

There are plenty of amateur books that would be greatly improved by a couple of hours of basic editing. There are a lot more that would need 6-10 hours to make them coherent & readable at all, and there'd be no way to making a pricing system that could tell those apart.

Steven Lyle Jordan
03-28-2010, 05:10 PM
I see a parallel between this topic and people who remain in slushpiles-- they are convinced that they have a great book, and no matter how often the professionals who spend their lives day in, day out tell them that they don't (probably politely at first, probably less so after many repeats) they are sure that if they just keep repeating it over and over, the pros will change their mind. Here, pro editors and publishers are telling you why your business model just won't work, but you remain convinced that if you keep telling them over and over (ignoring their reasons given) they will eventually come to believe that your plan is as brilliant as you think it is.

Whereas there is nothing wrong with the current publishing model, nor the fact that it allows a great many potentially good books to languish in slush piles?

I do see your point, and it is not unexpected, nor unwelcome. Professionals usually have a vested interest in the status quo, which is why I'd expect to hear dissenting comments on a new business model. Many authors are also familiar with hearing "no" from publishers numerous times, until they get picked up by the one who says "yes" and publishes their book. And I'll point out that there have been a few positive comments on this model from others.

At any rate, this is just a discussion about an idea. When old business models are struggling under a changing market, new models must be considered and evaluated, lest the entire industry decay or collapse. There is certainly room for other ideas, and for further development of this idea, which you or anyone else are free to suggest.

Steven Lyle Jordan
03-28-2010, 05:14 PM
:: ponders trying to convince would-be authors that they should pay $100 to have their book edited so that *maybe* an agent will consider it ::

There are plenty of amateur books that would be greatly improved by a couple of hours of basic editing. There are a lot more that would need 6-10 hours to make them coherent & readable at all, and there'd be no way to making a pricing system that could tell those apart.

Never say "never." ;) The price-point you suggest would sound reasonable to me, for instance. Of course, that's a relative thing... it would seem expensive to some, and cheap to others. But I believe it would be do-able in some organization (though maybe not any existing ones).

ardeegee
03-28-2010, 05:57 PM
Whereas there is nothing wrong with the current publishing model, nor the fact that it allows a great many potentially good books to languish in slush piles?


I simply lack your optimism that there are a "great many" good books in the slushpiles.

Steven Lyle Jordan
03-28-2010, 06:28 PM
I simply lack your optimism that there are a "great many" good books in the slushpiles.

Yes, it's obviously an open question, and a subjective one at that. I guess my feeling is that it would be good to give more potential books a chance, if a system could be devised to allow it. And as it has been pointed out that current publishers are barely able to sort through the slushpiles to find those gems, it follows that any system that can sort through the piles more thoroughly, and help to better some of the works pulled from the slushpiles, will be able to produce more of those gems.

Or, at least, pretty colored glass... there is room in this world for costume jewelry, too.

Steven Lyle Jordan
03-28-2010, 10:28 PM
As this question sort of got passed up, I'd like to bring it up again: Is there some part of "impartial third-party post-filtering, instead of publisher pre-filtering" that does not make sense?

ardeegee
03-28-2010, 10:56 PM
Is there some part of "impartial third-party post-filtering, instead of publisher pre-filtering" that does not make sense?

Finding people willing to do it?

I know I wouldn't be willing to wade into an ocean of published slushpile just to look for the rare gem buried under the turds. And I don't think very many other people would be, either. There are far more good, published books already available than I could ever read in a lifetime-- so why waste time filtering through offal?

Fat Abe
03-29-2010, 12:31 AM
Rather than submitting a novel to a professional or semi-professional editor, why not submit one chapter to a consumer committee, comprised of readers with an interest in the genre(s) the novel falls into? This provides the first tier of filtering, which should remove 90 percent of the dreck that is below generally accepted publishing standards.

Another idea is to program an artificial intelligence engine, which can analyze the writing for poor sentence construction, redundancy, or cliches. It could also look for a cohesive style, on a paragraph to paragraph basis. Most people write to communicate, great authors write to express. "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." -- Elmore Leonard. But if it sounds like gibberish, take a language class. The AI engine could easily tells us if the proficiency level of the writing was between kindergarten and eighth grade. Amazingly, this could eliminate quite a few manuscripts.

Alas, since there are no perfect solutions, we wind up with the same old publishing model we've had for centuries. You send a manuscript to a publishing house, and you, most likely, receive a rejection letter. Here are some responses that were lifted from

http://frankfiore.wordpress.com/2009/07/08/famous-rejection-letters/

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D H Lawrence

‘for your own sake do not publish this book.’

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

‘… overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian … the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream … I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.’

Believe it or not, Ripley!

Teresa (unknown last name) posted an essay entitled, Slushkiller, with a funny list of bad writing filters:

"Author is on bad terms with the Muse of Language. Parts of speech are not what they should be. Confusion-of-motion problems inadvertently generate hideous images. Words are supplanted by their similar-sounding cousins: towed the line, deep-seeded, dire straights, nearly penultimate, incentiary (sic), ... "

Source: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html

She really knows what she is talking about. Lmao. Well, don't give up. Just because no one has formulated a business plan for a profit-making internet-based manuscript clearing house does not mean it can't be done. Most of the best writing today is sitting in email servers. Funny, off-beat, unbelievable. Harvest that, Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.

DawnFalcon
03-29-2010, 01:26 AM
Finding people willing to do it?

Are you familiar with the Neverwinter Nights 1 community?

Suffice to say it's been clearly demonstrated that it /can/ work. And there are ways to incentivise this as well - reserve a few percent of the revenue stream for the sorters as shop credit, distributed based on accuracy.

ardeegee
03-29-2010, 02:13 AM
Are you familiar with the Neverwinter Nights 1 community?

Suffice to say it's been clearly demonstrated that it /can/ work. And there are ways to incentivise this as well - reserve a few percent of the revenue stream for the sorters as shop credit, distributed based on accuracy.

I am aware that it the title of a video game-- and I assume that it is a reference of some sort to open-source software or to fan creation of game expansion packs, which has been around since at least since Doom (which was just about the last game I played back in college before finally no longer being able to hold an interest in games.)

So, to clarify, you are proposing maybe having reading recommendations being made by people who have the free time to read through piles of bad manuscripts in exchange for credit to buy stuff at a web site? And this is a demographic who's judgment you think people will find compelling? I can see the books now, proudly emblazoned with "Chosen for you by the elderly, by unemployed teens who live in their mother's basements, and by sweatshops in India!"

DawnFalcon
03-29-2010, 04:39 AM
No, I am referring to the community - specifically Neverwinter Vault, but other sites (mainly in other languages) also exist. It has an extremely successful peer-review system.

(roughly; 6000 modules, 1250 characters, 650 monsters, 7500 hakpacks, 500 3d models, 650 movies, 5000 scripts and presets, 6000 portraits, 800 sound packs and a couple of thousand miscellaneous files: many of that mass of files having multiple versions!)

They proved highly successful in selecting and popularising, via a simplistic peer system which could easily be radically improved by today's social networks and trust systems, the decent content from the dross!

So...while I think it's a large task, neither do I mock.

neilmarr
03-29-2010, 07:18 AM
***There are plenty of amateur books that would be greatly improved by a couple of hours of basic editing. There are a lot more that would need 6-10 hours to make them coherent & readable at all, and there'd be no way to making a pricing system that could tell those apart***


I'm terribly sorry, Elfwreck, but you have no idea of what goes into editing. A 'couple of hours of basic editing', 'Six-ten hours to make them coherent and readable'? (Is that all you expect from a book -- coherent and reqadable?)

A careful read for assessment only of an average length novel will take ten or twelve hours.

If it's good enough for editing, it then comes down to the 'how long is a piece of string?' principle.

Few manuscripts can move with a line edit or even with a good copy edit. A light edit over and above copy edit will take twenty-thirty professional working hours.

Many manuscripts -- the vast majority in the case of first-timers -- will need heavy work and sometimes will involve hundreds of working hours. Bits and pieces presented as fact must also be thoroughly checked along the way. Also there's the vital question of continuity which many authors screw up terribly: someone described as tall you might find several chapters later struggling to reach a can of beans on a supermarket shelf.

This work, of course, is often spread over a matter of many months as updates to drafts and made to produce new master working copies of an ms, because the author is part of the editing process and must, himself, make changes and develop and re-structure as per his editor's advice.

This new author input itself is often flawed and needs more editing and rewriting and resulting adjustment to other parts of the manuscript. To save time, it is not at all unusual for an editor to write new passages or even chapters himself. I do that more often than I like to, but many authors dealing with an editor for the first time run out of steam during the editorial process and prefer to hand over much of the donkey work.

And after all that you've got careful proof reading of the polished final edited draft before print. This involves several hawk-eyed people. Most will move almost as fast as they might with a recreational read, so let's say eight hours for this job.

Then the bound proof (the ARC) arrives from the printer and must be painstakingly proofed again for typos and print-generated error, looking for such simple things as a reversed apostrophe or a hard-to-spot double space between words. That takes about the same as a pre-print proof read.

And still mistakes will slip through the net. At the bigger houses, largely because the editor doesn't get involved in the closing stages and the clean-up is left to inexperienced assistants or even untrained interns.

By the way, an ebook should go through exactly this process with the exception of proof reading the bound proof hard copy. What you should do instead is to proof read each format version. There are so many of those these days (nine, I think) that we rely on third party conversion (say through Smashwords) cannot check what would amount to 900 versions of books in our current SW catalogue (9,000 hours?), and can only guarantee our own PDFs and ePub that is converted and proofed in house.

It's a tough old job, Elfwreck, and it takes time. My two associate editors and I have well over a century of experience behind us as professional writers and editors and we manage to publish just twelve novels a year, working long, long hours and with only the best authors we come across.

Now do you see that two to hours working on an ms from an amateur is a tad less than realistic? Even reading through the twenty or so submitted synopses and sample chapters we receive every week takes much, much longer than that -- just to reject/decline in all but a tiny percentage of cases.

Best wishes. Neil

rhadin
03-29-2010, 09:11 AM
An editor can't read a manuscript in that time, but could skim through it, and potentially do a find-and-replace search for any of those errors that seem common. (Can't replace all instances of "no" with "know," but could search for "I no" or "we no" and replace those with "I know" and "we know.")

So then the problem becomes "I know longer" and "we know longer". You can't do a global find and replace for homonyms -- curing one problem creates a companion problem.

A quick 1-3 hour overview wouldn't fix all errors, but it could move a book from give-up-reading to occasional errors. Could potentially make it submittable to an agent or slushpile. Although I suspect that most books with grammar & spelling that bad, also have story continuity & characterization problems, some probably don't, but an agent isn't going to bother looking at any book whose first four pages make him wince.

A quick overview wouldn't fix enough errors to move a book from give-up-reading to occasional errors. You can't readily catch mixed metaphors, convoluted sentences that include past, present, and future tenses, character changes (e.g., Jan at the beginning was female and 15 pages later is male), repeated sentences and paragraphs, and myriad other problems that exist.

:: ponders trying to convince would-be authors that they should pay $100 to have their book edited so that *maybe* an agent will consider it ::

Yeah, I think you've convinced me; the idea itself (publishers offering paid editing services) has some validity, but the practical side of it seems unworkable. The ones who would actually gain from it won't be convinced to use it, and the ones willing to pay for it are likely to have works that even good editing won't improve enough to make them worthwhile.

There are plenty of amateur books that would be greatly improved by a couple of hours of basic editing. There are a lot more that would need 6-10 hours to make them coherent & readable at all, and there'd be no way to making a pricing system that could tell those apart.

There is no book that "would be greatly improved by a couple of hours of basic editing." If you hire a professional editor to do no more than 2 hours of work on your 300-page manuscript, you have wasted your money and the editor's time. Six to 10 hours requires a reading rate of 50 to 30 pages an hour for that 300-page manuscript. Try doing a real edit, not a cursory edit, of a manuscript (not of an already edited book that has been published by a known publisher) at that rate and then go back over the same material at the rate of 5 pages an hour. You will be amazed at what you find that you missed -- and even at that rate you will still miss some things.

There also seems to be a misunderstanding of how a professional editor works. The PE doesn't just read the manuscript and correct misspellings and runon sentences; the PE tracks, for example, characters and action, which requires using a PE-created stylesheet. If you called a character Jaenski in chapter 1, the editor needs to track that so that the PE knows to change Jaensky in chapter 5. If you describe Jaenski as a multihued lizard with 16 vampirish fangs in chapter 3, the PE has to track this so that in chapter 10 your description of Jaenski as a green-yellow lizard with 10 fangs can be corrected. If you write that the war occurred 6 eons ago in chapter 2, the PE has to note that so that in chapter 16 a character doesn't talk about the war that occurred 7 eons ago.

The above are just a few examples of what a PE brings to the table. To track all these things takes time. It simply cannot be competently done in 6-10 hours.

rhadin
03-29-2010, 09:23 AM
As this question sort of got passed up, I'd like to bring it up again: Is there some part of "impartial third-party post-filtering, instead of publisher pre-filtering" that does not make sense?

I haven't addressed this because on the surface there is no problem. However, you haven't defined what makes a third-party impartial and what skill set(s) that third-party would need to properly evaluate a manuscript.

The biggest problem I see is what occurs after the third-party finds that gem-in-the-rough? Suppose the third-party told you, Steve, that your manuscript had great potential -- basically it was an interesting story and fairly good characterization, but it needs the help of a professional development editor and a professional copyeditor (they are not the same and do not perform the same function).

Now you ask what that would cost. The response is that it would be in the thousands of dollars, and no, it will not guarantee you that an agent or a known publisher will pick up your manuscript or that you will sell 10,000 copies over the Internet.

What do you think most authors would do?

If your intent is that the gems-in-the-rough found by a third party would now find a publisher, isn't that what agents do? How is this idea different in this case from the current agent scenario?

Steven Lyle Jordan
03-29-2010, 10:15 AM
Actually, you have this part backwards: The idea would be for the author to have a publisher-cum-service bureau provide services on their manuscript, according to the author's desires and pocketbook... then the book is released by the author. Only then do third-parties evaluate the book for a P2P site or portal, letting consumers know whether or not it is worth reading.

This is why I say the author assumes all risk: They may pay for services by the publisher/service bureau, but it does not guarantee their book will sell. The author can choose the service bureau according to their track record of successes ("x% of authors who purchase our editing-proofing package see a Y% return on investment in sales"), and the service bureau is free to turn down a job they don't think they can do... or take the money and do something with it anyway.

Scott Nicholson
03-29-2010, 10:53 AM
Actually, Harlequin is already doing this, a semi-subsidized arm that caused an uproar in the major professional writing organizations, who took Harlequin off their approved list of "pro publishers." I don't know all the details, but essentially you pay to have your book go through their process and bear the logo. If I remember right, it ain't cheap.

Scott Nicholson
http://hauntedcomputerbooks.blogspot.com

rhadin
03-29-2010, 10:53 AM
I thought the third-party was evaluating whether the books should be published from the slush-pile. If the evaluation occurs after the book is published, how does the the third-party differ from the current review situation? And how does what you are suggesting as a business model differ from a vanity press or self-publishing, both of which currently exist?

Steven Lyle Jordan
03-29-2010, 11:24 AM
If the evaluation occurs after the book is published, how does the the third-party differ from the current review situation?

It doesn't, really. This model removes the publisher's filtering process from the slush pile, (hopefully) allowing many more decent books to be published than the current .00001% (or so) of submitted works.

And how does what you are suggesting as a business model differ from a vanity press or self-publishing, both of which currently exist?

It adds to the current self-pub/vanity process a service bureau (the publishers) that will polish the product, for a price, before it is self-published.

MaggieScratch
03-29-2010, 11:36 AM
Teresa (unknown last name) posted an essay entitled, Slushkiller

Unknown last name? The URL of the site wasn't a clue? The author of the famous and infamous Slushkiller essay is Teresa Nielsen Hayden, who at the time she wrote it was an editor at Tor, one of the few remaining publishers who accepted (and I believe still does) unagented work. Her husband, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, is a senior editor at Tor. Trust, Teresa knows of which she speaks.

That being said, I'm glad Slushkiller (http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html) was linked, as I had planned to do so.

Part of the problem with the OP is that it seems to assume that the majority of slush is publishable or close to it. Note that in Slushkiller the percentage assigned to such books (which are categories 11-14) are 1-4% of the submissions.

Firstly, one suspects that publishers would prefer to concentrate their energies on books that they think will sell. Publishers provide a great deal more than simple editing and print production. They also provide marketing, meaning they promote the book to bookstores and other retail outlets, which will in turn feature the books and try harder to sell them. In some cases this involves paying "co-op" fees, for instance, for placement on an endcap or in a special display, like the display of the latest books that greets you as you walk into Barnes & Noble. Those books don't get there accidentally: the publisher paid for it. A publisher is not going to waste increasingly scarce marketing resources on books they don't think they can get in bookstores. Therefore, the author has wasted his or her money on these "editing" services.

Actually, Harlequin is already doing this, a semi-subsidized arm that caused an uproar in the major professional writing organizations, who took Harlequin off their approved list of "pro publishers." I don't know all the details, but essentially you pay to have your book go through their process and bear the logo. If I remember right, it ain't cheap.


Harlequin (and Thomas Nelson as well) are monetizing their slushpile by using a rebranded service provided by AuthorHouse. They steer the "not good enough" books (including categories 1-13 on Slushkiller--meaning the 95 percent that is unreadable or shouldn't be published by anyone, as well as the almost-good-enough stuff) to the rebranded service for vanity publication. The author can purchase editing and marketing services from them, or not; the cost can be prohibitive, and if a book is truly slushy, won't help it a bit. The outcry came because Harlequin has also suggested that they might pick up books from this program that sell well for commercial publication. Many authors have pointed out that, especially in the romance writing community, there are plenty of free resources that authors can use to help them bring their work up to publishable quality, and that it is a conflict of interest to create unreasonable hope of commercial publication in authors who just don't have the talent and ask them to spend a lot of money for something that won't ever happen, and also that the service is extremely overpriced. Also, note that the editing and marketing services are provided by AuthorHouse--not Harlequin.

I think the OP had something different from this in mind--more of an earnest attempt by the publisher to create a publishable book that will be edited and marketed like all the other books they publish. I don't see that happening. If it was something they think would make them some money, the publisher would just buy the book in the first place. Having two different workflows would complicate bookkeeping enormously, I would think.

All that being said, there is a high probability that some of the current methods used by commercial publishers will change. It will not happen quickly, however, and I'm not sure that it will be quite in the method described in the OP. I suspect we will see agents taking over more of the functions currently performed by publishers. They already are doing it to an extent. Some agents will guide a promising author through some rewriting before submitting a book to editors.

Steven Lyle Jordan
03-29-2010, 12:02 PM
Part of the problem with the OP is that it seems to assume that the majority of slush is publishable or close to it. Note that in Slushkiller the percentage assigned to such books (which are categories 11-14) are 1-4% of the submissions.

Firstly, one suspects that publishers would prefer to concentrate their energies on books that they think will sell.

Actually, I'm not assuming that the majority of slushpile books are good... merely that more than .000001% of them are good, and that the present system isn't rescuing enough of them for consumers.

I realize publishers only want to print those books they think they can profit from. However, they are publishing so few, only those with the absolute highest chance of a good return, that other books that might make a passable return are not even being considered... in other words, publishers pick the sure things, but a lot of potential also-rans are being lost.

This model is simply designed to rescue some of the also-rans. Yes, it will also result in some bad stuff being released, too... but the third-party post-filtering services should be enough to keep most of those at bay.

And it's not as if all of the bad stuff will be released by this model... there will be plenty of potential authors who won't go through that extra work, just as they don't now, and their works will still sit. (Along with some good works too, unfortunately, though I guess it's hard to get up sympathy for a great book you've never seen.)

pilotbob
03-29-2010, 12:26 PM
Actually, I'm not assuming that the majority of slushpile books are good... merely that more than .000001% of them are good, and that the present system isn't rescuing enough of them for consumers.

Out of all this discussion I think one issue isn't really being taken into account. The current system is releasing more books than anyone could read anyway. Do we really need more books?

Sure... it doesn't feel great if you are an author on the out side looking in (as you are Steve). I wonder if your position as an author who has been rejected is perhaps making you think this would work.

So.. Steve.. as an author... would you pay all this money to have your books edited and typeset (or whatever term you want to call it for ebooks)? You still do your own sales, which you are doing, your own marketing, which you are doing, your own fulfillment... which you are doing.

So, let me reiterate... as a customer I have no lack of good books. When I look at the LibraryThing early release books available every month and realize that this is probably a small portion of what is being release each month it is daunting. If the amount of new books coming out were increased 100 fold... it would be paralyzing for me to pick on a few books to read each month.

BOb

rhadin
03-29-2010, 12:42 PM
It adds to the current self-pub/vanity process a service bureau (the publishers) that will polish the product, for a price, before it is self-published.

But this already exists. There are lots of people who provide these services, in fact, they are often the same people that the publishers hire. All you are doing is adding another expense layer because the publisher-service provider in your concept would need to make a profit as would the editors they would hire.

Even vanity presses offer these services -- the more you are willing to pay, the better the quality of the service you will receive.

I don't see how this is any kind of new model; at best it is an expansion of the existing model, and an expansion that won't fly any better than the current system does.

Until you get past the hurdle of authors being unwilling to foot the expense, there will be no change.

rhadin
03-29-2010, 12:44 PM
This model removes the publisher's filtering process from the slush pile, (hopefully) allowing many more decent books to be published than the current .00001% (or so) of submitted works.

But the publisher's filtering process can already be easily circumvented; that's what self-publishing is. So far I see nothing that makes this "new model" a "new" model as opposed to the current model just being called new.

DawnFalcon
03-29-2010, 12:44 PM
Out of all this discussion I think one issue isn't really being taken into account. The current system is releasing more books than anyone could read anyway. Do we really need more books?

That's a pretty classic 640k statement...

Also, tagging (for the semantic web, even) and reviewing is something which croudsourcing is very good at.

rhadin
03-29-2010, 12:49 PM
Out of all this discussion I think one issue isn't really being taken into account. The current system is releasing more books than anyone could read anyway. Do we really need more books?

To give it a number: more than 400,000 titles were published in the UK and US in 2009.

Elfwreck
03-29-2010, 12:59 PM
Out of all this discussion I think one issue isn't really being taken into account. The current system is releasing more books than anyone could read anyway. Do we really need more books?

Not by numbers, but some niches are vastly under-represented because mainstream publishers promote what's sold well in the past.

The "erotic/romantic fantasy" niche has exploded online recently, but didn't have (doesn't have?) a large print following because publishers assumed there was not enough demand for it. They were apparently wrong.

I do not believe we need more erotic fantasy books, but there could be other genres being ignored because they don't fit into a publisher's current categories.

MaggieScratch
03-29-2010, 01:17 PM
And, as has been pointed out several times, there are already mechanisms for getting these books out there. Once the publishers see there is a market, they generally are not behindhand in exploiting it. For instance, the popularity of Ellora's Cave led mainstream romance publishers to start publishing erotica.

Also, I think readers are a lot less picky about what they are willing to read for free than they are about what they are willing to pay for. Popularity of free stuff on the Internet does not necessarily translate into big sales figures.

It doesn't make a lot of sense to me for publishers to take an author's money for editorial services and then not market the book. If the author is willing to pay for editing and marketing the book, then those services are already available, and they don't really need the publisher.

Publishers are businesses. The purpose of a business is to make money. If the publisher thinks a book will make money, they will sell it. If not, they will not. It's really not a hard equation.

ardeegee
03-29-2010, 02:03 PM
There was an introduction by Harlin Anderson in Dan Simmon's collection Prayers to Broken Stones that has always stuck with me since I first read it 20 years ago, and I've been thinking of it while reading this thread-- I've finally gone back and found the quote that most applies:

"Understand: I do not believe "anyone can write." That is to say, anyone can slap together words in some coherent sequence if s/he had done even a modicum of reading, and has at least a bare grasp of how to use language. Which is talent enough for writing letters, or doctoral theses, or amusing oneself with "creative endeavors." But to be a writer—not an "author" like such ongoing tragedies as Judith Krantz, Eric Segal, V.C. Andrews, Sidney Sheldon, and hordes of others I leave to you to name—one must hear the music. I cannot explicate it better than that. One need only hear the music. The syntax may be spavined, the spelling dyslectic, the subject matter dyspeptic. But you can tell there has been a writer at work. It fills the page, that music, however halting and rife with improper choices. And only amateurs or the counterproductively soft-hearted think it should be otherwise.

When I am hired to ramrod a workshop, I take it as my bond to be absolutely honest about the work. I may personally feel compassion for someone struggling toward the dream of being a writer, who doesn't hear the music, but if I were to take the easy way out, merely to avoid "hurting someone's feelings"—not the least of which are my own, because nobody likes to be thought of as an insensitive monster—I would be betraying my craft, as well as my employers. As well as the best interests of the students themselves. Lying to someone who, in my opinion (which can certainly be wrong, even as yours), doesn't have the stuff, is mendacious in the extreme. It is cowardly, not merely dishonest. Flannery O'Connor once said, "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher."

Similarly, I take it as my chore to discourage as many "aspiring authors" as I possibly can."

So, the reason I'm so anti-"open slushpile" is because I think that good publishers should be not only a promoter of good writers but also a preventer of bad ones.

(This coming from a former aspiring writer who long ago realized that my love of reading did not equal a talent for writing.)

Steven Lyle Jordan
03-29-2010, 02:21 PM
Well, okay, I'll admit that it may be just me: Out of those "400,000 books" being produced per year, I find myself interested in and buying very, very few of them (on the order of 4-6 books per year, in a good year). So maybe I'm really the only one looking for books that aren't being printed for me.

And though I haven't been rejected (you can't really say you've been rejected when they refused to even consider looking at the book!), I do have the feeling that there are probably better authors than myself who have been similarly snubbed, and could use a better outlet for their work.

(I also take it as implied that there are those who believe that, since I have not been vetted by a reputable publishing house, my work must therefore also be c**p, QED, and therefore my opinion on the matter isn't worth much... which I suppose negates the point of the previous paragraph thoroughly...)

To answer Bob's question: If a service bureau came to me and said, "If you pay $X, you can expect a Y-Z% return on investment in terms of sales for our services," and assuming I had the $X (and believed their figures)... yes, I would consider such a service. I would especially consider it if their services included things I could not do for myself. I have, so far, never received a credible offer like that, which is why I've never used one.

It clearly seems to some that I am simply proposing this model out of some deep-seated desire to ransack the present publishing model that has done me so little personal service in the past. Not really: Considering I have, and use, the tools at hand to successfully self-publish, I'd think it would be evident that my suggestion was intended to benefit others who are not so fortunate or able to self-publish as I... especially those who are better writers than I, whose works are left undiscovered in the current system.

And I've been careful to make it clear that I am not disparaging the publishing system's core services... just that they might be redirected in a way that would help get more good books out there, and in so doing, maybe help to revitalize an industry that is struggling through hard and unsure times.

To be clear: It really doesn't matter to me what the publishing industry does, since I'm operating outside of their influence.

Well, it was just a thought. After all, if we don't discuss ideas, how will we know what is and isn't workable?

Steven Lake
03-29-2010, 04:05 PM
Steve Jordan: In regards to your first post, POD and Pay to Publish (PTP) already do that. And the current system is just fine as is. It's doing exactly what it was designed to do. IE, It's taking the dreks (as one person called them) and pushing them to the bottom of the stack while (in most cases) pushing the cream to the top. The only thing they really need to do is to change how the filtering process works. IE, instead of taking submissions, they should just let all authors start out in PTP or POD, wait and see how they do, and if they do good, sign them. Same with agents. It'll reduce the publisher and agent workload by leaps and bounds while ensuring that only the "good" authors get picked up. Right now the workload at the publishing houses is causing too many "dreks" to get through because the editors are overworked.

At least that's my idea. Now whether anyone would do that remains to be seen. One thing for certain, it'll make those wanting to hit the top work harder and get better, which in the end benefits us all. It'll also make the wannabes who only want stuff handed to them and don't want to work for their spot at the top just up and quit, leaving room for better authors. :) That's just my 2c.

rhadin
03-29-2010, 04:06 PM
(I also take it as implied that there are those who believe that, since I have not been vetted by a reputable publishing house, my work must therefore also be c**p, QED, and therefore my opinion on the matter isn't worth much... which I suppose negates the point of the previous paragraph thoroughly...)

That's a bad assumption to make. I have read many self-published books that I have enjoyed and I continue to buy self-published books (which is, unfortunately, how I also discover the real drecky books that I complain about). I haven't read your books because the subject matter hasn't appealed to me, but that doesn't mean they are not good, only that I haven't read them.

To answer Bob's question: If a service bureau came to me and said, "If you pay $X, you can expect a Y-Z% return on investment in terms of sales for our services," and assuming I had the $X (and believed their figures)... yes, I would consider such a service. I would especially consider it if their services included things I could not do for myself. I have, so far, never received a credible offer like that, which is why I've never used one.

If you ever get such an offer RUN from it as fast as you can. No reputable editor or service bureau can legitimately make such a claim. There are too many variables that are beyond their control, not least of which is that the subject matter of your book -- no matter how well written the book is -- simply doesn't appeal to more than 5 people. The most any legitimate vendor can promise is to work with you to improve your book.

Unlike you, I find at least 5-6 books that I want to buy every month, if not more frequently. Last year I bought almost 300 books and there were still more that I wanted to buy. This year my pace has slowed quite a bit but I've still bought 26 books since January 1.

Steven Lyle Jordan
03-29-2010, 04:33 PM
That's a bad assumption to make.

It may or may not be a bad assumption... but it is definitely the vibe I get from some of the comments in this thread. However, I wasn't singling anyone out (YOU know who you are! :stare:), and I don't take it personally... I was just pointing it out.

tompe
03-29-2010, 04:35 PM
As this question sort of got passed up, I'd like to bring it up again: Is there some part of "impartial third-party post-filtering, instead of publisher pre-filtering" that does not make sense?

But every book needs some editing so with only post-filtering you will get lower quality.

Steven Lyle Jordan
03-29-2010, 04:38 PM
But every book needs some editing so with only post-filtering you will get lower quality.

Books would continue to be edited... that happens regardless of the filtering process. "Post-filtering" takes place after the book is released, in P2P and portal reviewing processes.

tompe
03-29-2010, 04:43 PM
Books would continue to be edited... that happens regardless of the filtering process. "Post-filtering" takes place after the book is released, in P2P and portal reviewing processes.

But you said that the post-filtering was instead of pre-filtering. So what mechanism would make editing take place before post-filtering? Why should an author pay for editing before releasing the book? Or did you think about some other method?

ardeegee
03-29-2010, 06:03 PM
"Post-filtering" takes place after the book is released, in P2P and portal reviewing processes.

1.) Peer-to-peer systems like bittorrent are useful only for free, DRM free material-- you could not share files that had to be DRM-keyed to individuals since by definition files shared on a P2P network need to be bit-for-bit exactly the same. So that means all books would have to be given away for free-- where would the publisher benefit from that?

2.) People downloading from P2P systems as a whole do NOT make comments unless there is something profoundly wrong with the download-- as in, virus infected or deceptively named.

delphidb96
03-29-2010, 06:19 PM
Actually, I'm not assuming that the majority of slushpile books are good... merely that more than .000001% of them are good, and that the present system isn't rescuing enough of them for consumers.

I realize publishers only want to print those books they think they can profit from. However, they are publishing so few, only those with the absolute highest chance of a good return, that other books that might make a passable return are not even being considered... in other words, publishers pick the sure things, but a lot of potential also-rans are being lost.

This model is simply designed to rescue some of the also-rans. Yes, it will also result in some bad stuff being released, too... but the third-party post-filtering services should be enough to keep most of those at bay.

And it's not as if all of the bad stuff will be released by this model... there will be plenty of potential authors who won't go through that extra work, just as they don't now, and their works will still sit. (Along with some good works too, unfortunately, though I guess it's hard to get up sympathy for a great book you've never seen.)

Smashwords. LuLu. Amazon's Createspace and DTP. Manywords. All of these are avenues to get books published that currently are languishing on the slush-heaps of major publishers.

Hell, if one has the financial wherewithal to pay an editor and then BooksJustBooks printing fees, one can release through Amazon with HC, TPB, MMPB *and* ebook format! (Granted, this requires a tad more up-front money than going the CreateSpace/DTP route... And one has to figure out where to *STORE* all the copies. :D)

Derek

delphidb96
03-29-2010, 06:25 PM
That's a bad assumption to make. I have read many self-published books that I have enjoyed and I continue to buy self-published books (which is, unfortunately, how I also discover the real drecky books that I complain about). I haven't read your books because the subject matter hasn't appealed to me, but that doesn't mean they are not good, only that I haven't read them.

I cannot begin to count the number of 'drecky' books I've purchased from bookstores and via the ebook stores. Many of which are *NOT* self-published. Sure, *some* of the "worst offenders" fall into the self-published category, but some come from real publishing companies - Silhouette comes to mind. (On the ebook side, I've found decent works from Elora's Cave - all two of them - but tend to throw out the rest as more toxic than straight cyanide gas. :D )

Derek

K-Thom
03-29-2010, 10:00 PM
Actually, I'm not assuming that the majority of slushpile books are good... merely that more than .000001% of them are good, and that the present system isn't rescuing enough of them for consumers.

Steve, you seem to be a very cruel guy. You yourself admit that 1 in 100 million books (okay "more than") might be worth rescuing. Let's even say it's 1 in 100.000. For this one book you would let pitiful readers worldwide wade through 99.999 books of somewhat "editorially enhanced" material?! My, I'd call Amnesty International if I ever came across such poor souls ...

You get the idea? Publishers don't want to wade through all of this stuff. That's why they reject on thousands with even looking at it. How long do you think it would take review sites to be sick of all this material? One year? One month? More likely one week ...

Okay, but back to your main idea, the service itself. It is already offered, of course mostly for printed books, but you hardly find any publisher with some self-esteem who would offer that kind of service himself. Even in a subcompany.
Any respected publisher would risk his own good reputation ever being connected to that sort of vanity press. By fellow publishers, by authors, by bookstores, by the readers themselves.

Did you ever consider such a service for yourself? In Germany, you'd get a service from BoD (http://translate.google.de/translate?js=y&prev=_t&hl=de&ie=UTF-8&layout=1&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bod.de%2Fbod_layout_und_lektora t.html&sl=de&tl=en) (Google-translated, folks) for 849.- to 2000.- Euros and above. And I know of vanity press cases where wannabe authors had to pay up to 8.000 Euros (that's about 12.000 US$ ...).
You might get it for about 1000.- Euros, if you're lucky and have some connections (know it, been there). Editorial service, cover illustration, typography, graphic design. Basic stuff, but indeed well done for that price.
Still quite a lot of money for your average Joe the plumber. Without ever knowing if he/she might ever sell enough copies (digital or printed) of the title to ever generate enough revenues.

So, who's the one to let the authors sort the wheat from the chaff of such a service? Or warn them in advance if their stuff really isn't worth it?
The "third party" again? That's a lot to ask from the community, being an unbiased, unprejudiced and conversant advisor. And that for free? This third party itself would offer a service to readers and authors which would be a business model in itself ...

ardeegee
03-29-2010, 10:57 PM
I was just now browsing through some of the many comments on the linked "slushkiller" article, and found this, also interesting, link:

http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2002/02/25/slush/

MaggieScratch
03-30-2010, 03:02 AM
And though I haven't been rejected (you can't really say you've been rejected when they refused to even consider looking at the book!), I do have the feeling that there are probably better authors than myself who have been similarly snubbed, and could use a better outlet for their work.

(I also take it as implied that there are those who believe that, since I have not been vetted by a reputable publishing house, my work must therefore also be c**p, QED, and therefore my opinion on the matter isn't worth much

I think perhaps you are naive and/or uninformed about how commercial publishing works. You are not alone in this. There are entire Internet fora dedicated to discussing and explaining the process and helping authors to get their work published.

It does not necessarily follow that your work is "crap" and I think it would be silly to make such an assumption. It's hard to tell as you don't seem to have given it a chance by trying to obtain agency representation so you can try to commercially publish. I think now that you have established a platform and a readership, you might find it easier than you think. However, you seem to have hit upon a system that works well for you, and if you prefer to keep on with it, I wish you the best, as I wish all my fellow authors.

It also does not logically follow that your opinion is not worth anything. As I said, there are Internet fora set up for these things, and all kinds of ideas (including some quite similar to yours) have been kicked around. Publishing seems Byzantine and unwieldy and ripe for a rework, but as things are now it succeeds very well at getting books to readers, which is the desired result. As I posted previously, I think the system will evolve somewhat in the coming years.

After all, if we don't discuss ideas, how will we know what is and isn't workable?

True enough!

Fat Abe
03-30-2010, 03:15 AM
Unknown last name? The URL of the site wasn't a clue? The author of the famous and infamous Slushkiller essay is Teresa Nielsen Hayden, who at the time she wrote it was an editor at Tor, one of the few remaining publishers who accepted (and I believe still does) unagented work.

Thank you so much for filling in the blank. I still have no idea who Teresa Hayden is, but I'll try to remember her name. I need to find a few SlushDivers to help me fish my manuscripts out of the gutter. Could Terry lend a helping hand?

Ardeegee and others wonders why avid readers, with supposedly good taste, would want to sample from the Slush pile? Same reason that Hugh Grant got involved with a street walker. Something is/was missing from his life. He needed some excitement. Who knows? Honestly, the number of tier one writers on this planet is miniscule. While I wait for V.S. Naipaul or J. M. Coetzee to write their next book, what am I supposed to read? Why not the smorgasbord of books- semi-pro & amateur novels from Smashwords? Where on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, do the smash works fall? Umm, 3 - 5. But I give these men and women an A+ for effort. None will ever win the Nobel prize for literature, but then again, neither will I. You cannot eat caviar every day of the week. Enjoy the beans and bark, every now and then. Laugh at life's bad jokes, and don't think the sky is falling all around you every time you read a bad book. (Personally, I fall asleep whenever I read Toni Morrison- so, if any of you feel insulted by that, take a powder).

DawnFalcon
03-30-2010, 06:46 AM
1.) Peer-to-peer systems like bittorrent are useful only for free, DRM free material-- you could not share files that had to be DRM-keyed to individuals since by definition files shared on a P2P network need to be bit-for-bit exactly the same. So that means all books would have to be given away for free-- where would the publisher benefit from that?

Um. That's quite the assumption, and I can think of a dozen ways round that without trying too hard. Yes, some of them involve a custom client...but we're talking about book-length material, it's NOT a lot of data.

ardeegee
03-30-2010, 07:15 AM
Um. That's quite the assumption, and I can think of a dozen ways round that without trying too hard. Yes, some of them involve a custom client...but we're talking about book-length material, it's NOT a lot of data.

Even IF you had a technical way around it, do you have a cultural one? P2P is about private individuals sharing files between one another. How many people do you think will be willing to give away their bandwidth to non-free content? With free (or freely pirated) material, people seed out of a sense of community and because they want the system to work. But a for-profit business selling DRMed content? Screw them. Let them pay for their own bandwidth. People will download and drop out immediately.

Also, the smaller a torrent (or some other vehicle of P2P content) the more susceptible it is to dying. If you want a torrent to last, you have to bundle dozens or hundreds of things together so that there are more likely to be people both uploading and downloading at any given moment. Anything offered only as individual files will, sooner rather than later, be collected together by someone and made available as a much more convenient (and longevous) batch. Which, if not large enough, will be gathered together with other torrents by the end user and, when one has enough files, burned to CDs or DVDs, with the source (and any comments thereon) forgotten about and irrelevant. And with most of the files never even given more than a quick glance, if that.

You think slushpiles are a black hole? That is nothing compared to the archives of a media hoarder (I don't know how much media I have hoarded away on DVDs, but it is in the mid-single digit terabytes.)

DawnFalcon
03-30-2010, 07:20 AM
P2P is used for a lot of uses, you're conflating it solely with the darknet there. That's RIAA propaganda, please don't do it.

Also, why is a smaller torrent prone to dying, naturally? Well, it's down to client settings, essentially people share X torrents. With a custom client, this is entirely avoidable. In the same way, the project tracker is under no obligation to accept user torrents.

You can't do this in isolation, no, it would have to be part of a community effort. Also, honestly, I'm not quite sure where the torrent thing comes from: it's not from anything I've said, I'd use a wiki-based platform (possibly a distributed one) and not torrents!

ardeegee
03-30-2010, 08:01 AM
P2P is used for a lot of uses, you're conflating it solely with the darknet there. That's RIAA propaganda, please don't do it.

http://yro.slashdot.org/story/10/01/30/1436250/DRM-Content-Drives-Availability-On-P2P-Networks?from=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Slashdot%2Fslashdot+%28Slashd ot%29


Also, why is a smaller torrent prone to dying, naturally? Well, it's down to client settings, essentially people share X torrents. With a custom client, this is entirely avoidable. In the same way, the project tracker is under no obligation to accept user torrents.


A custom client might not accept user torrents. Which would be the perfect reason to reupload the file somewhere else and use your own client. Custom clients made to restrict users in ways that open clients do not are made to be broken.

Also, honestly, I'm not quite sure where the torrent thing comes from: it's not from anything I've said, I'd use a wiki-based platform (possibly a distributed one) and not torrents!


Here's where it came in:

Steve Jordan said ""Post-filtering" takes place after the book is released, in P2P and portal reviewing processes."

I made my point about P2P.

You, then, make a reply to my reply which was explicitly about P2P. I could have mentioned other P2P methods other than torrents (like Emule or Kad) but the technical and cultural limitations would be very similar. But either way, wikis are not P2P and are irrelevant to a comment that was explicitly about P2P.

(Link for any who don't understand what P2P is and is not):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peer-to-peer

DawnFalcon
03-30-2010, 08:17 AM
Oh. I think you're confusing "file sharing" and "P2P". Peer to peer equally applies to community-based networks (croudsourcing, etc.) as it does the distributed networking architecture, which is used for - among other uses such as VoIP, DCVS and IM - file sharing.

I don't think Steve was talking about file sharing.


Also, the sort of project I was talking about earlier in the thread would protect pre-release books with key pair encryption. It's a perfectly legitimate use of DRM.

MaggieScratch
03-30-2010, 09:02 AM
Thank you so much for filling in the blank. I still have no idea who Teresa Hayden is, but I'll try to remember her name. I need to find a few SlushDivers to help me fish my manuscripts out of the gutter. Could Terry lend a helping hand?

A couple of things: their last name is not Hayden but Nielsen Hayden. And I don't think Teresa is an editor anymore. But the blog Making Light is a great resource for those wishing to learn about publishing.

queentess
03-30-2010, 10:33 AM
As this question sort of got passed up, I'd like to bring it up again: Is there some part of "impartial third-party post-filtering, instead of publisher pre-filtering" that does not make sense?

I think this is rather what already happens at Smashwords and the like. The stuff that is genuinely decent gets good reviews and gains respect.

I'd venture that the model right now isn't broken. You're proposing that publishers publish, well, just about anything, then let someone else wade through it. The current model allows publishers to continue to try to find the 'best' works and release them. Self-published ebooks (possibly with the help of freelance grammar nazis) then more-or-less follow your route, but backwards; instead of going through a publisher first, it first goes through the 'third-party filtering' system, then if it's good enough can be picked up by a publisher.

I could be wrong here, but isn't that what happened to Boyd Morrison?

ardeegee
03-30-2010, 11:09 AM
Oh. I think you're confusing "file sharing" and "P2P"

If there is some new meaning of P2P other than refering to distributed computer networks, usually used for file sharing, I was unaware of it. What you are calling P2P I would call crowdsourcing. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowdsourcing) I've always seen and used the term to mean only distributed sharing of content across a decentralized network of computers.

DawnFalcon
03-30-2010, 01:23 PM
Croudsourcing is quite new (2008) and not everyone uses it yet, even when it's appropriate. Peer to peer can be used for multiple uses (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peer-to-peer_%28meme%29), so...

BearMountainBooks
03-30-2010, 08:35 PM
Good comments, all. Let me address a few points:

Obviously, there is a lot of stuff in the slush piles that probably should never be seen in the wild (no tongue in cheek needed there). However, I'm suggesting that it should not be the publisher's job to decide, because the current publishing model is too dependent on profiting heavily on the smallest number of books, which means there are too many potentially good books in those slush piles that the publishers are passing up on due to lack of expected high-profit margins.

The publishers are better off applying their core talents--editing, proofing, packaging--to as many books as possible, including lower-profit books that otherwise get overlooked and lost in the slush piles. Some of those not-so-good books may only need a little work to be made sellable, real polished gems. Then pass that cleaned-up product to the author for them to sell and make whatever profit they can.

When I say the authors should be paying the publishers, I am not assuming the cost will be the same as what publishers pay to produce a book, including the entire print-based process, support of transportation, warehousing, etc, etc. The publishers basically would charge for editing and packaging services, period. We're talking about a few hundred dollars to a thousand, not much more. And it would be completely optional... if you don't think your work needs their services, don't use 'em. Or maybe just pay for proofing services, or just packaging. It's the author's choice, and it won't impact their ability to release their books... it will just make them better books. The idea would be for the author to make enough in sales to pay for the editing costs, or to accept them as operating losses.

Authors would be responsible for distribution, which does not have to be expensive... a purely digital distribution model can cost as little as a hundred dollars a year (website and software costs, primarily). Sure, it might be substantial in other cases, such as for those who insist on print, or spend more on website services, software, etc... but if you think about it, that's one way to cut down on the number of books that get pushed at the publisher, reducing the amount in the "slush pile."

And finally, although the publishers will no longer filter consumers from the slush, they don't need to: There are other services that can do that, most notably P2P services and portals that can review books and make recommendations. Those will be more impartial than recommendations and reviews from within publishers, who frankly have a vested interest in making their own drek sound good, and actually obligate authors (in some cases) to provide reviews in order to bring in customers.

So the slush will be reviewed, much will be revealed by more impartial sources to be slush, and left unpurchased... bad authors will still be filtered out, and consumers will still know what to buy and not to buy.

Admittedly, I didn't read through all the responses, but I don't see how your "model" is any different than vanity publishing today. That's exactly what vanity publishing is--buy the services you want or think you need. Harlequin has an entire new branch that charges for services (and also takes a cut of any book sold afterward.) They were even going to lend their brand to the idea until author guilds took offense.

Someone else mentioned Publish American.

There's all kinds of services already available. Really they are duel models that have co-existed for some time. In addition to that, publishers have spent the last few years pushing some of those upfront costs onto authors--things like promotion have been pushed onto many authors.

I think the key in the "new" world model is that there isn't enough money to go around...

BearMountainBooks
03-30-2010, 08:37 PM
By the way, I've also seen a huge trend in just the last year to charge for reviews. Sites that used to review for free (usually the books were free) are now creating packages to charge the publisher and/or the author. These aren't cheap either. I saw one the other day that was 75 dollars for a review. Good grief.

The trend started a few years back when Kirkus added paid reviews to their stable.

Now whether this helps "gatekeep" and helps the quality of what is out there...I'm willing to bet there are varying opinions on that!

Maria