Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Assuming the Position

A Supplication to Napoleon,
Eugene Louis Lami,
oil on canvas, 1825.

The painting makes one think of the query process, n'est ce pas?

The news that another e-publisher ( Chippewa/Lady Aibell) will close its doors and the on-going problems with Triskelion's bankruptcy have forced some unfortunate authors to assume another position.

Discussions at Dear Author include the usual claims and counterclaims and the occasional implication that the authors are to blame for their unfortunate situation.

Desperate to be published, they omitted due dilligence, ignored warning signs, etc.

Conversely, some have been accused of instigating the situation because they bailed and/or made public certain concerns.

Dear me. Hindsight is always so clear.

Other platitudes such as shoot the messenger and blame the victim come to mind

One might be forgiven for wondering if e-publishing is filled with incompetent or corrupt fly-by-nighters, and further, is the refuge of the naive and the second-rate.

Someone made an acute comment that some writers have solid reasons other than simple desperation for submitting to an e-publisher - since a number of e-authors have been subsequently picked up by print publishers, based partly on their credits and credibility.

Someone else commented, quite sensibly, that this sort of shake-down is a typical stage in an emerging market.

But these proceedings serve to remind us that publishing -- in any form -- is a gamble.

It's all quite fascinating, especially since each controversy is open and out there, with names -- to a degree unlike, I suspect, any controversy involving non- electronic publishing closures and contretempts.

Piers Anthony's site and the ERIC site provide useful information on e-publishers, waries and warnings. December/Stacia also ran a useful, detailed series earlier this year.

You know you're in trouble when everything reminds you of writing.

From The Superior Person's Book of Words:
According to Mr. Bowler: One who stares for hours at anything out of the ordinary.

Me. My computer screen.


Jaye Wells said...

It in interesting to those of us unaffected directly. I also have found it interesting how many of the "first sale" reports in the last year through RWA have been to e-pubs--probably 90% in every issue of RWR.

Sam said...

My books were at three e-book publishers who susequently folded. I wasn't at Triskelion, but I know many who were, and it is a frustrating and heartbreaking time for everyone.
I tend to think that the businesses overreached. Also - the publishing world is cut-throat. Statistics point to about 500 books being published a day - so how to make a splash in that ocean?

That said, come to Calderwood Books! E-books - ecological, economical, and Easy to Read!
(Well, I have to splash around when I hear publishing news!)

Bernita said...

Jaye,it certainly is an active medium.
It makes me wonder if a small print publisher closed up, would there be nearly as much noise?

Bernita said...

Sam, I once placed a non-fiction book with two print publishers in succession, both of whom developed problems.

The Triskelion situation seems to a particulary bad one for the contracted writers.

StarvingWriteNow said...

Perhaps this is a sign of things to come. Like "1984" things to come.

writtenwyrdd said...

It's a bit daunting to read about the closures. I am wondering if the economics of publishing will reduce the monies available for mid-list and new authors even further, as publishing houses circle the wagons and rethink their fiscal policies in order to stay afloat. (Bad mixed metaphore, ain't it?)

Bernita said...

I donno, Starving.
E-publishers deal mainly with romance and erotica, and that market is popular.

As long as they don't try to circle the wagons while they're crossing the river, Written!
The dynamics change all the time.

Church Lady said...

I don't really know that much about e-publishing, but from what little I've read on blogs, it seems like this budding industry is trying to get its wings before its roots are developed.

raine said...

But these proceedings serve to remind us that publishing -- in any form -- is a gamble.

Maybe those of us who keep coming back to the tables need intervention...

So many e-pubs have popped up in recent years, it hardly seems surprising that several of them would go under. But I can hardly see blaming the passengers.

Charles Gramlich said...

I have to think that part of the problem is the sheer wealth of material that is appearing, and it is so hard for a new author's work to swim among that massive flood.

Bernita said...

That certainly appears to apply to some of them, Chris.

Roulette, Raine!
Nor I.
BTW, that is an excellent piece you entered in Jason's contest.Tight drama and depth and very much to my taste. I loved it.
I also noticed a number of other familiar names attached to some really nice writing.
Proud to know you all.

That's always been the case, I think, Charles, but the wealth of work doesn't cause the closures.

Linda said...

I am definitely writing your last statement in my quotebook: "You know you're in trouble when everything reminds you of writing." That's me, and it can be a problem.

Great post!

Bernita said...

Thank you, Linda!
You too?

Angie said...

OK, that pic and your comment made me LOL. 'Cause seriously? Yeah. [wry smile]

About the e-publishers, I'll point out that most new businesses do fail, no matter what industry they're in. It's just one of those things, and I think we're noticing it more because 1) it's our industry this time, and 2) there've been that many more new e-publishers recently, which means that many more failures. Even if we eliminate the crooks and scammers from consideration, most people who start a new business, with the best will in the world, just don't know what they're getting into when it comes down to it.

About markets, e-publishers are taking a lot of stuff the print publishers aren't. They exploit niche markets which are too small (or are currently too small, or are perceived as too small) for a print publisher to be interested in. Their overhead is too high, the cost of goods is too high, for a book that might sell only a couple thousand copies to be commercially viable in print.

But there is an audience there, and as Ellora's Cave proved, sometimes what the established NY publishers think of as a niche market can grow and get its own shelving section in the chain bookstores. :)

That all said, though, I think it is part of a writer's responsibility to check out a publisher before submitting, and certainly before signing a contract. There are times when everything looks good until suddenly it doesn't, but there are other times when the signs were pretty clearly there, even before the pit opened up under their feet. If someone walks to the corner and waits for the light before crossing, and some careless driver speeds through and runs the light and slams into the pedestrian, then it's very clear who the victim is and I have nothing but sympathy for them. (And might throw a few rocks at the idiot driver.) But when the pedestrian dashes out from between two parked trucks into the middle of 45 MPH traffic, I have considerably less sympathy when they get run down. In the latter case, I think assigning a certain amount of blame to the "victim" for his or her own fate is quite appropriate. It's still a sucky situation, and someone who's being hauled off to the hospital doesn't need to have people slamming them and making snarky remarks. But I'm going to think what I think, even if I keep it to myself. And if I have any smarts at all, I'll learn from their mistakes. Hopefully they'll learn from them too.


raine said...

Bernita, you have a generous heart, lol.

But there are some excellent pieces there, definitely. Very impressive stuff.

spyscribbler said...

Wow. I'm sorry, but parts of the writing community are so darned aggressively nitpicky, that I wonder if they don't somehow feel threatened.

I'm pretty sure that one of my publishers is going to cripple under the mess she's made, one of these days, even though I'm pretty sure she was the first one around. But until then, I'm making money and I'm reaching readers. All the reasons why people write for epublishers are valid ones, and I don't think desperation factors into many of them, if any.

Bernita said...

Excellent comments, Angie. Thank you.
"I'll learn from their mistakes. Hopefully they'll learn from them too."
One of the most valuable recommendations made during the various discussions was, I thought, "be professional and move on."

Not at all, Raine, yours is definitely one of my favourites. Some are quite brilliant, but - as the agents say - I just didn't fall in love with them.

"All the reasons why people write for epublishers are valid ones, and I don't think desperation factors into many of them..."

I agree, Natasha, and the method has much potential.
However, if one hears reports of "personal problems" provided as an excuse for laggard accounting, etc., I think warning flags should go up.

Shesawriter said...

"Someone else commented, quite sensibly, that this sort of shake-down is a typical stage in an emerging market."

I couldn't agree more with this statement. Sh*t happens. In every market. Print, audio, e-publishing ... nothing is safe these days. Everything comes with risks.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Tanya.
There is not, and probably never has been, an automatic "home free" card, publishing and writing are not exempt.

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