Stream of consciousness . . .
I have been sitting thinking today, working through the next phase of the WIP, trying to picture just what I want to happen. I have an outline you see, a storyboard if you will and I tend to brainstorm at the end of a writing spell, write things down in pen, maybe a para, maybe only a word, but it helps me to move on more fluidly the next day. So I was having one of those moments and my husband disturbed me (with a glass of wine) and I told him that I had an image in my mind for tomorrow. I then realised that the idea that I had written two extra chapters way back before I had to leave it all on Nov 20 and which I thought I had lost, was indeed a figment of my imagination. To be sure I had thought them up, I just hadn’t written key words or paras anywhere. In my head the two lost chapters were there as a faint image, they just weren’t on the computer. Does that make sense? As my husband said, I forgot to press the metaphorical ‘save’ at the time.
We then went on to talk about the publishing game, and as streams of consciousness tend to do, we walked down many roads. The POD road, which I have done and enjoyed, and which made me grow up quicker than a baby on steroids. The ‘desperately seeking agent’ road which I also travelled last year with a major Australian agent who seduced me with so-called interest, emasculated me, ridiculed me and then threw me away. The ‘mainstream publishing road’ . . . hmm, the road I hope to place a tentative toe on this year.
My husband is a media exec and he said that in electronic broadcasting which now covers podcast, radio, TV, V.O.D, Facebook ,Twitter, I-View, etc . . . the content is the thing. Not the format but the C-O-N-T-E-N-T. In fact there is a saying: ‘Content is king.’ What surprises him I think, after watching the ease of my POD experience, is why mainstream publishing hasn’t moved more speedily into that area. There is so much on the internet about publishers thinking about POD, or thinking about E-Books etc. His comment was that if the content is good enough, what the hell does the format matter ? A good point and one I couldn’t answer, because I am a babe in the woods both as an author and a published writer.
There are those diehards who might say that because my novels are a product of POD that I am not a published writer. I would ask then: when is a carefully written story that has been professionally formatted, professionally cover-designed, printed and then marketed and which has a small fan base, not a published book? I suspect its a semantic question for more experienced people in the field than I, so with that in mind I’m off to write down some key words and paras for the WIP that I hope may one day do its own bit of seduction.
My thoughts precisely Prue. And your work is a sight more professional than a number of ‘traditionally published’ works I’ve read too…
Thanks for commenting SJAT. I suppose the thing I really wonder about is WHY the mainstream publishing industry, both major houses, authors AND agents are scared of POD. To me it seems the perfectly sound and sensibly economic way to run a business. But then as I said, I am an ingenue with no understanding of the greater picture.
But I finish this reply with a comment from a mainstream fantasy writer here in Australia. The most excellent Alison Goodman (The Two Pearls of Wisdom, wonderful book) emailed me in an exchange just before I was published POD by YWO.com in the UK, saying that POD is the ‘brave new world of publishing.’
Remember once upon a time they thought the earth was flat too, or that there was no such thing as a theory like Darwin’s and that Gallileo was a charlatan and mocked by the Church, or even that printing presses were an impossibility and doomed?
Hi Prue, if I can tackle the question of the mainstream publishing houses first. My experience is in the music business which went through all this before publishing. he people who used to cream the big money were the Record labels and they fought tooth and nail to hang on to their cash cow when artists started using the new media to record and distribute directly to their fanbase. Big corporate institutions just cannot react quickly enough, because of their entrenched corporate culture. I don’t think the profits are so large in publishing, but I bet the publishing houses are exactly the same as the record labels. Rather than adapt to the changing networks of distribution and sales, they just fight against them and ultimately, as with the record lables, they will lose. I make no judgement whether this is good for writers or not, since we will just have to see how it plays out. All the debates about new medias such as e-books and vooks, are I believe just debates about delivery systems. Unless the writers initiate them, they are the publishing houses trying to compensate and rebuild for faslling sales of traditional print, by offering books in new lifestyle-friendly forms, eg ones you can listen to on the Underground or read in the confines of your airplane seat in economy. Something like Nick Cave’s “Bunny monroe” may be a bit different, as I am sure that is more artist-led, seeing as he already has a huge following in the music world which he can crossover into literature through his video-book.
As to content – I think unfortunately it is far from only being about the quality of content. Now that all authors below the level of Rowling/Browen have to do all their own marketing, it’s about visibility, creating a personna (online, videos etc) and a literary version of minor celebrity manouevring… I wish it were still a world where authors live or die by their content alone. Over several novels this may well be the case, because if it’s not godd enough, readers will not stick with you by novels 4 or 5. But for debuts and follow ups, when we are still ‘unknowns’, we have to sell ourselves as names with personalities and the content trails in a very poor second.
Content may be king, but the mainstream publishers seem to be convinced that ‘celebrity’ is king at the moment. And perhaps it is, for them. Maybe they sell so few ‘non-celebrity’ books that they need the turnover, heavily-discounted though that may be.
Perhaps they don’t take into account that a lot of the stuff they publish is utter rubbish and would send many a YWO reviewer into paroxisms of anguish. Perhaps they don’t care, as long as their shareholders get some sort of dividend.
The only disadvantage a POD published author has is lack of marketing clout. Sadly, there is just as much poor POD out there as poor mainstream, it’s just that the mainstream has money behind it.
We must rely more on subtlety and the strength of our writing to win readers.
Keep the faith.
Marc and Jonathan, thanks so much for responding and for the elucidating comment. I understand what you say and in the case of the furiously hard work we POD authors from YWO.com have put in to market our titles, it is that vast corporate publicity machine that we miss.
I suppose my point is that mainstream must surely look at the technical facility of POD with its lack of overheads and wonder if it is something they should indeed pursue. There is no need for the quality control to change, they can still do all they currently do to publish the best possible title. But as you say, both of you, they sometimes miss the mark so completely they look not only bad but foolish.
Sadly, in the public/published eye, it seems that people can’t draw a distinction between POD and vanity press. To explain further, I invite everyone to read Alan Mayer’s latest WordPress blog and forgive me for not listing the link. But you’ll find links via Google.
I would also invite people to go to Writer Unboxed and read through the archive for Jonathan C Hutchins . . . an amazing success story which broke outside mainstream publishing with not just a plunk and a whistle but an absolute BOOM! And despite what they all say, we know there are many such success stories because POD writers do stick together.
I’m not going to deny that I would love my next title to be published mainstream, but in the meantime, with my previous titles in the YWO.com stable, I will indeed keep the faith!
Prue, I agree with most of your comment, but I do think the notion of the ‘vast corporate publicity machine’ is an absolute myth. The publishing houses just don’t have the money and now the personnel. All mid-list writers have to do the promo work themselves. Whta mainstream publishing houses provide is the distribution into chain bookshops – but as you say this may become irrelevant with the POD model and as bookshops one after the other close down.
By publicity, I mean the wherewithal to get posters designed and printed, bookmarks, facility to make contact with the relevant producers within the electronic media, appointments with print media columnists who take far more notice of a marketing department (even when it concerns a new author) than they do of lone products of a POD system, whether the book is good, has a fan base or not. And yes, the one utter desirable is the disrtibution into the chains of bookshops, the metaphorical pot of gold. And I am not talking about money here, just the ease of that distribution.
Without doubt the staff numbers in publishing have reduced as is evidenced by the huge number of books being released mainstream that have editing errors in them. (Makes POD seem okay after all). But whether one is a mid-list, newbie, or Number One with a mainstream house or just plain ‘indy’ or POD, call it what you will, of course we are still expected to walk the walk and talk the talk. But that’s okay . . . the way I figure it, POD has given me an excellent grounding in what’s to be expected. As I’m sure you agree.
Thanks so much for your involvement in this discussion, I really appreciate any thoughts at all.
Prue, you might be interested in Jane Friedman’s recent post on Writer Unboxed:
It generated some lively discussion including a comment from Zoe Winter that included this:
“More and more distribution options are becoming available for an independent author who does things right. (i.e. creates their own micropress, owns their own ISBNs, goes through the right channels… NOT a self-publishing author using a vanity POD press. Nothing wrong with POD as a technology, but an SP author needs to go to a POD “printer” instead, like Lightning Source.)”
Lightning Source is the POD printer Ray Rhamey is using for his forthcoming novel. He has set up a micro-press called Platypus, and one of the stated aims is to take manuscripts that don’t fit neatly into a genre. Ray has a post on Writer Unboxed this week with more info on this venture.
Mainstream publishing houses do have a far smaller budget for publicity than they did even ten years ago. But some of them still do a great job for their authors, even those, like me, who are not in the J K Rowling category.
Just in case that link doesn’t come up, Jane’s and Ray’s blog posts can be found at http://www.writerunboxed.com
Juliet, thanks for pointing myself and commentators to Writer Unboxed, I shall look forward to reading about the Platypus Imprint.
YWO.com writers have been very fortunate in that the printing house used by the publishers was Lightning Source UK as is evidenced by the physical quality of the titles. Everything from printing, ISBN, listing and distribution was handled by YWO.com/Lightning Source and the published writers had only to organise their marketing plan, a not insubstantial task, as you no doubt know. The advantage is that if ever any of the stable are published mainstream that they will fully understand the demands that will be placed upon them.
Thanks so much for commenting on this discussion, I really appreciate it.
Prue, thank you so much for opening up this discussion. And thanks to everyone here who put in their (more than) 2 cents. Lots of food for thought here (especially for someone like me, furiously working toward her edits and re-edits on her first book).