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Old 07-12-2011, 03:03 PM   #1
Hamlet53
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Publishers still valuable in the age of ebooks and Internet access?

Even though I am not a writer, I found this broadcast thought provoking. I generally agree that there still is a role for someone between the writer and the public. Everything from correcting actual errors in grammar and language to serving as a second opinion on the writing quality and what may be improved. Writers can be blind to flaws in their own creations.

The rise of e-books is making it easy for an author to publish their own works . . . too easy, according to Joy Cardin's guest, after six, who says it's the job of the publisher to help to sift and winnow the good stuff from the bad. Guest: Eric Felten, culture columnist, The Wall Street Journal. click to streaming audio.
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Old 07-12-2011, 04:31 PM   #2
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That is true however now its up to the author if he/she wants to pay the editor or not. Previously it was not the publisher made the decissions of hiering the editor or not, now with the introduction of electronic books the author is mroe in control of his or her work and who gets to have input into the writting. Personally I am using electronic books to remove the middle man, the book store, from the book buying process. However, I would preferr to buy directly from the author rather than contributing to the publisher.
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Old 07-12-2011, 11:49 PM   #3
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This is a somewhat strained comparison, but try thinking about writing in relation to baseball. You have a certain set of expectations going to a professional baseball game. It's going to cost you a bundle to see some of the best baseball players on the planet. But the next day you could go to a town-team baseball game on a field that's funkier, with a different quality of play at a much lower price. They can both be beautiful events, and there will be many days when the game between two town teams will seem like the more sublime experience. But you don't walk through the gate thinking they will be the same. They've each got their qualities.

Nobody is making you go to a town-team game. Nobody is making you buy a self-published novel. You choose the experience because you think there may be something you can love within it. Given that you can generally download a free sample of that indie novel, there's not even a minor financial risk. So why all the hand-wringing about the future of literature?

(Though at the same time I could go for more sites that direct readers to the best of indie-published general fiction.)
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Old 07-13-2011, 04:18 AM   #4
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I think publishers will continue to be around, and will play a role in making successful self-published authors even bigger. They'd play more of a marketing and print distribution role, and perhaps also doing additional editing to an already mostly-polished book.

I think the nature of the online slushpile is not that big of a deal, as readers can instantly spot what is good or terrible writing from the first few pages. Readers also only recommend books when they're well-written and excel in all components, not just on price. I think good books will rise to the top, the problem is that it can take a while, and having a big publisher can speed up the process and create more visibility.
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Old 07-13-2011, 06:13 AM   #5
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it's the job of the publisher to help to sift and winnow the good stuff from the bad. Guest: [/URL]
Publishers choose books that they think will make them money. Good or bad doesn't really come into it. Michael Jackson dies, lots of books about Michael Jackson come out. The news says some kid got locked up in a basement for 20 years, books about kids locked in basements come out.
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Old 07-13-2011, 06:26 AM   #6
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I think publishers will continue to be around, and will play a role in making successful self-published authors even bigger. They'd play more of a marketing and print distribution role, and perhaps also doing additional editing to an already mostly-polished book.

I think the nature of the online slushpile is not that big of a deal, as readers can instantly spot what is good or terrible writing from the first few pages. Readers also only recommend books when they're well-written and excel in all components, not just on price. I think good books will rise to the top, the problem is that it can take a while, and having a big publisher can speed up the process and create more visibility.
There is so much more that can make a book horrible/bad than just writing/spelling quality, not all of those can be picked out that easily. On the other hand terrible spelling can be a goal of the writer (think Flowers for Algernon or Feersum Endjinn). I hope and expect that gate-keepers/'seals of quality' will stay around in one form or the other.
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Old 07-13-2011, 10:20 AM   #7
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I am not interested in professional gatekeepers.

They doomed themserves by recording the incompetence of their profession as a whole for over a century and now they shall reap the whirlwind.

Why do I say this?

Because I read prefaces. Pull out your favorite books and see how many would not have made it to market if someone's kid or grandkid hadn't submitted an old rejected manuscript found in a drawer one more time.

I prefer the method of using a crowd of people on forums to sift through new works, rather than the one or two people at best who read a work and often reject it in the publisher model.

Publishing had a public trial.
The verdict is inadequacy.
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Old 07-13-2011, 11:37 AM   #8
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Actually in my way of thinking, it is not the publisher who should help to sift and winnow the good stuff from the bad. It should be up to the buying public to make this determination. And now, with ebooks and the ability to self publish, it is even more so. One good thing (or bad depending on how you look at it) that should come of this is we should see more of the author's vision without them having to filter in through the eyes or whim of a publisher.
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Old 07-13-2011, 11:53 AM   #9
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There've been several author blog responses the WSJ article, including Kristine Kathryn Rusch telling him where he can stuff that idea ("The literary tastemakers—the editors, publishers, reviewers, etc—are seeing their control of what’s being read vanish, so they’re writing articles like this one. Honestly, it’s becoming the evergreen story of the year. Don’t know what to write for your weekly blog? Let’s write about the way that electronic publishing/indie publishing/self-publishing is ruining books for the rest of us.")

And David Gaughran points out the terrible developments since the rise of self-publishing, including "no more disappearing genres" and "fair pay for writers" and "bigger selection for readers."

I believe there *is* a niche--a profitable one, even--for curating books, for telling people "this is worth reading, that is not." But it's going to need to be a lot more customized than the big publishing companies have been in the past, and it's going to have to be based on something other than "this book will make me, the curator, money from sales."

A small startup could start selling subscriptions to recommendation lists, tailored to individual people's preferences--pay $10/month, get a list of 10 books/week within your genre(s) of choice, limited by your prefs--no-DRM only, or ePub/ADE only, or Kindle only, or even "nothing by Macmillan."

Of course, that's not *publishing.* That's the curation part that was always folded into publishing, with the "not worth our time" choices not getting *any* audience. Now, those books all have the chance to find an audience.

Did photography studios collapse when portable, individual cameras became cheap? Has the movie industry gone bankrupt since everyone got access to video recorders? Mygods, we have them on phones now; surely that's the end of the big-picture era. Too bad there are no more summer blockbusters being released.

Wait, those haven't happened. Hmm. Apparently, curation isn't the *only* thing that keeps a media production company in business.
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Old 07-13-2011, 12:01 PM   #10
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Did photography studios collapse when portable, individual cameras became cheap?
Professional stock photographers are grumbling now that there are sites that will let "amateurs" upload photos and lease them to photography buyers. Whether you see that as a bad thing or not would probably depend on whether you were a professional or one of the enthusiastic amateurs looking for a bit of extra beer money. For buyers of stock photography it's certainly a good thing because it means there is more choice and the prices are a lot lower.
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Old 07-13-2011, 12:02 PM   #11
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I can see a large market for a company that proofreads and edit checks indie books (at minimum - a more expensive service could check for more difficult to spot things, like plot holes and inconsistent characterization). Even if an indie author can't afford it for the first book, hopefully if they have talent and sell a few they can afford it on the next one.

And I can see a need for sources that review, write up, and recommend the good stuff. There are several possible ways to implement that. I'm not sure what would be most successful, but possibly something you subscribe to. Since there are so many free sites that do something of that kind, you'd have to offer some added value - such as the personalized recommendations mentioned above.
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Old 07-13-2011, 12:05 PM   #12
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Yes, publishing is easier than ever. But there's more than just putting a book on amazon and becoming an instant best seller. It's work. Aside from the initial stuff like formatting, editing, and getting a great cover, you have to spend a lot of time promoting. That's the kicker. Assuming an ebook is the most pristinely edited piece of work, no one will find you unless you promote.

I think publishers have it better than ever. Now they can pick and choose from a group of people who bust their asses and have already made it to the top of some lists. Although, if given the choice, I don’t know if I would want to align with a publisher, or stick with self-publishing. I guess it would depend on what they would offer.
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Old 07-13-2011, 12:05 PM   #13
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Publishers are in the business of selling books. They have no interest in separating the wheat from the chaff, as long as they can sell the product. Most items sell based on hype and marketing rather than content. Naturally, publishers are moving away from using reviews as part of their marketing scheme. In this regard many movie production companies no longer provide advance screenings to critics.

With the focus on marketing rather than content, publishers have also scaled back their role in typesetting and proofreading. Some publishers contract this work to other companies. In doing this, publishers have become little more than marketing companies. In this day and age there are other marketing options such as Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook. These companies are the new gatekeepers. I hope that in the future independent, non-profit gatekeepers emerge.
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Old 07-13-2011, 01:20 PM   #14
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With the focus on marketing rather than content, publishers have also scaled back their role in typesetting and proofreading.
Proofreading was dropped a long time ago in favour of using advance reader copies, often sent out to fans of the writer who will gladly proof it in return for being one of the first to read it.
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Old 07-13-2011, 04:42 PM   #15
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There is so much more that can make a book horrible/bad than just writing/spelling quality, not all of those can be picked out that easily.
Of course, which is what reviews are for. Reading the sample weeds out books with terrible prose or are really bad, and a good review is a seal of approval for "this was a story told well, and it's worth enjoying."

I think there could be money made with a curation service, but having personalized recommendations is just as easy as going to a message board regularly or asking a book blogger. I haven't had a lot of blog readers that directly asked me what they should read next, but the few who had appreciated it and even posted their own review of the book.

I see it as a crowdsourced/ecosystem sort of model, just like how we read news on the internet today. Before blogs and the internet, we all read one or two newspapers. Now, we read articles from big news companies, big blogs, and even small personal blogs. The media we consume is more fragmented, and the channels are more fragmented, but the ones of most interest to us will find us somehow, or we'll tweak our discovery methods (e.g. subscribing to a new blog) to get it personalized for us.
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