Monday, May 23, 2011

Legacy Publishing Practices

I just went looking at the various ebooks out there.  The prices are so high, I'd rather buy them in paper.
I don't know if I should bother attempting to have a business discussion on this.

Obviously no one saw the value of ebooks a year or so ago.  That's why the market was flooded by midlist writers and others pricing their work at 99 cents.  Now we're spoiled.  But geez, pricing an ebook at $12.99?  I won't.  Not ever.  I'll wait for the thing to be remaindered and pick it up for 1 cent plus shipping then donate it to the library.  By then the author makes ZERO.  

Is a book worth more than a single mp3?  It should be since it takes so much more time to create.  Does anyone review songs?  "Gee that song by the Woodhicks was stupid and repetitive!"  So not only do writers make less at 99 cents than musicians, they get these reviews.  Of course, there may be a group that creates a song and the money has to be split.  I'm not complaining or comparing an mp3 to an epub but since I was talking about the music industry yesterday, I'm still thinking about it.

The question we might ask is what makes paper books so expensive.  In the 80s & 90s when multinational conglomerates began to buy up independent publishers like Atheneum, there were big and substantial changes.  Let me say I'm a capitalist, I believe in the free market, I believe in a free society and a small government.
I also believe in the basic teachings of the Bible.
Due to unimaginable greed--as we saw in the music industry--the multinationals treated publishing just like any other of their businesses, lightbulbs or whatever.  Except that books are not like a ratchets no matter how much you would like them to be.  So they didn't want to pay adults to be editors--too expensive--so all the adults started leaving (mostly to become agents, or sometimes writers).  The editors were fresh out of college who were happy to live in studio apartments just to be in New York where they could go clubbing.  They didn't have a background in literature particularly (one editor I spoke with had no idea what Ivanhoe was) and didn't really know how to edit.  Or even think clearly.  They were there to *acquire* books.  That's all.  That's why they were called aquisitions editors.

My editor at Berkley on my travel series made some notes on the first book, read the second, left for a job at NAL for the third (now she's a writer) and no one gave me notes on the last book.  And it was the last because Bertlesmann bought out Berkley during that period and killed the series.

See, I'll be around to give myself notes on NLM2.  I'm not going to NAL.  My future depends on this book, it's important to me.  Very.

So you have these poorly paid young women struggling to do all the work while the bosses are jet-setting around the world.  That's why an ebook costs $12.99.  Not because the Seal Team 6 of publishing squired this book thru the system.  No.  It's because these businesses have vampires at the helm.  They're sucking everyone white.

It's not about spreading the wealth around, it's about greed.  It's about doing the right thing by everyone you deal with.  

Okay so they did the suck everyone white in music (executives making more than the artists, putting more cocaine up their noses if that's possible etc).  How's that working out for you?  No one's buying music anymore, they're downloading it.  Artists, like Aimee Mann, go out on their own.

Here's OK GO, a band without a record label supporting them.  Here's a link to Damian Kulash's article in the Wall Street Journal Future Of The Music Business

We're on the same track in publishing.  Books priced fairly are bought.  Books not priced fairly are not bought.
So with some exceptions, you have legacy publishers failing in the ebook realm and indie publishers succeeding.

Of course writers can't give concerts and no one will pay to hear me read Bad Apple, so it's not apples to apples.  Music and literature are not the same but oddly enough, the similarities are shocking.

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