On the Publishing Industry: or “Why I hesitate to jinx good news”   Leave a comment

The publishing industry is a weird, weird place right now. Having merged and threatened and merged and bought out and merged and subsumed and merged, there are about six remaining big New York publishing companies. The trouble is, they are streamlined for a publishing model that is 400 years old. They aren’t necessarily adjusting to the changing paradigm of narrower profit margins and the upsurge in e-book sales very well, let alone the fact that we now expect news instantly, and a book that was topical when you purchased it twelve months ago may not be topical by the time you’re trying to release it.

Into this gap step the small publishers and the indie writers. Being published by a small press or saying the hell with it and deciding to publish yourself is no the scarlet letter telling the world you are unworthy. I know plenty of mid-listers who published with New York for ten or twenty years and then suddenly discovered that because they didn’t sell like Steven King or Tom Clancy, they could no longer get a book published. Keep in mind, these are books that sold with perfectly respectable sales numbers . . . according to numbers that supported a profit margin ten or twenty years ago. Some of those writers have now gone to the small/indie model, sometimes hiring their own editors and cover artists to produce that book they’ve been trying to sell for the last five years.

The catch is, many of the newer small presses came about when writers, editors, or both who could see the handwriting on the wall about what was happening to the New York publishing industry decided they could do better. And for the most part, they’re right. They’re filling a very necessary niche in book publishing right now. But sometimes you lose a single individual out of a small press, and the whole press falls apart.

My condolences to and for ePress Online, which had not one but two deaths in its senior staff very recently, and will be folding as a result. Catherine Wells, with whom I’ve worked for about twenty years, had a book in print with them and another so far along she had the cover art and the galley proofs in hand, and she’s just received notification that now both contracts have been pulled and the rights revert to her. That’s a bitter pill, to have the rug suddenly pulled out from under you when you’ve been expecting the publication for months or a year, no matter how understandable the reason behind the news.

This kind of uncertainty is why I hesitate to actually relay good news about publication until I have a contract in my hand. And sometimes, even the contract is no guarantee.


cross-posting at The Editor’s Pen for relevance

Posted August 11, 2011 by April L'Orange in Uncategorized

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