Welcome to Endless Iterations.

A place where one writer can chronicle the process of turning an idea into a story--through endless iterations....

Monday, May 14, 2012

A New Paradigm

What is wrong with publishing today?

The world of publishing has been dominated by a few companies for a long time—the so called “Big Six”. For decades, they have been the gatekeepers for aspiring authors, ensuring that the books we read are the books we love. They have ensured that the marketplace is full of products with professional editing, cover art, pricing, distribution, and advertising, and they have provided countless authors with the means to live their dream as professional storytellers, getting paid to spin their tales to a worldwide audience.

But their services have come at a steep price.

Stories abound about cryptic bookkeeping, late royalty checks, and draconian editing. The conditions and clauses of the contracts offered by the Big Six are said to be so similar that they are often accused of collusion. In the end, the author sacrifices control and profit so that their voice can be heard, and the author is left with little choice but to agree to the terms offered or they will have no audience at all.

Worse than the conditions of the published, however, is the graveyard of the publishing world—the slush pile. An innumerable host of stories have languished in this purgatory of words, waiting for a judgment that may or may not come. Who knows how many brilliant writers’ works have disappeared into the slush piles of the Big Six, only to be dismissed as not quite right for the marketplace or genre? Or are never read at all?

The Big Six ruled their empire with an iron fist, secure in their knowledge that they hold the keys to the gates. Vigilant protectors of an honorable standard, they are the old guard of an ancient regime. But the old empire is crumbling. Changing. Evolving.

E-publishing has changed everything.

Now, anyone can publish anything. Literally. With self publishing, the world of publishing is open to anyone with a computer. The biggest hurdle in an aspiring writer’s career (aside from actually writing books) is finding a platform to distribute their work, and now there are a number of platforms available to anyone. And, for the first time in human history, we are able to publish our own works without investing a small fortune into the publishing process. All we need is a computer, an internet connection, and a little time, and nobody can tell us that we are not authors.            

But with the good has come the bad. With the Big Six, you had some expectation that the books that made it through would have some sort of merit. Were there bad ones in the mix? Sure. But they were usually still well edited. You might not care for a book, but at least you knew that it was the product of professionals. Authors, agents, editors, publishers, advertisers, and artists all worked on these books—and they all got paid for it. They all had a vested interest in making sure that the product was a good, solid, professional product before it went out the door.

With self published books… not so much. There are no guarantees with self published books, simply because anyone can publish them. The cover art speaks for itself—but what about the rest? The only way to find out if a book is competently edited is to read it; and the only way to find out if a story pays off at the end is to get to the end of it. When you buy a book that’s self published, you’re really buying it sight unseen—Caveat Emptor.

So, modern publishing is at a crossroads; the old publishing model is no longer necessary, but it still fulfills a useful function. How can we, as people who are both authors and readers, make sure that we’re stocking the marketplace with products that are just as valuable as the offerings of the Big Six while maintaining the control of self publishing? How do we assure the readers that they’re getting a professionally edited book without having to sign contracts with publishers that set prices and diminish our returns? How do we gain all the benefits of working with a big publishing house without having to pay the steep price?

We form the publishing company.

I have a vision of a publishing company for a new marketplace. It’s a company where authors are given the opportunity to control their own works, from editing to cover art to pricing. It’s a company where the author gets to keep the lion’s share of the proceeds from his or her creations. It’s a company where we, the authors, get respect from the publishers because we ARE the publishers, and we, collectively, own the company. And we run it as a non-profit, so that we can be sure that our artistic integrity is not compromised, that nobody has a financial motive to take advantage of the artists involved, and that we work together to foster other writers in a community dedicated to the success of all the members of that community, rather than working for a company that profits by forcing authors into contracts that see their creative control and profits stripped from them in the name of “promotion”.

It hasn’t been done yet—but now the technology exists to make it possible. We can create a company to publish our own works, collectively rather than individually. We can create a company that produces the quality of work of a publishing house while preserving the profitability and control of self-publishing. We can create a company that is owned by its members, that is run as a non-profit, whose mission is to ensure that the integrity of authors is upheld. We can create a company where editors, artists, and most of all authors are able to profit from the fruits of our labors, where everyone is an entrepreneur and we are all working towards the common good. A company run as a meritocracy. A company of the authors, by the authors, for the authors.

I want to know what you think. If you’re reading this, you’re probably what I’d consider an “interested party”. I have a model in mind—something that I think will work. I want to know what other authors think. I want more ideas, more input, more thoughts. Would you be interested in something like this? Would you be willing to pay in essence what a professional author would pay an agent, instead of what a professional author would pay a publishing house? Would you be interested in paying an editor and artist a percentage of your profits so that you don’t have to pay them up front? Would you be willing to work with other authors to be part of a real, honest community of your peers, where everyone has the opportunity to succeed together?

I have a model. Now I want to know what YOU think.

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