Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Ultimate Fight---er...

The ol' e-publishing is or isn't a legitimate career move is something, as you know, that I've been keeping a close eye on. Though I demurely hold my opinions to myself (ahem) I have been paying attention and listening to both (yes, both) sides of the debate from the sidelines. Okay, occasionally I chime in with my two cents' worth.

Maybe my fifty cents worth... Anyway, here's another half-dollar between friends.

The thing is, I read this book about blogging last week. It's called, Blog! (Oddly enough) and it covers both sides of the debate over whether or not blogging is going to affect the old way of doing things in: Politics, (already is) Business, (Oh yes) and Culture...(you be the judge)

What I noticed during the read was that the arguments sounded more than a little bit familiar. Hmmmm

Despite an enthusiastic and forward thinking attitude toward the blog, many of the contributors hesitated to fully predict that things were "a-gonna be changin folks" Some did, some hinted around about it, and some outright denied that anything about Internet media could possibly take down traditional, ingrained, out-dated, old school media. Sigh.

It was a great read, as I've said. But it got me thinking about the electronic print debate which is slightly nearer and dearer to my heart. (Though I am growing very attached to my blogs.) So I ruminated over the similarities and the old arguments and, as I chewed on it a bit, I started to realize what really bothered me about the debates I've witnessed. There are a couple of things, two primarily.

First off, it is usually assumed that the choice between traditional print and e-publishing has to do with money. Traditional authors shiver at the thought of no advance, and electronic authors cite their substantially higher royalty percentages. Trad authors say to be a "professional" author you need to be getting advances, and E-authors claim that it all adds up to the same amount regardless of when it's paid out to the writer. All of this is worth looking into... as is why traditional print houses want to get your electronic rights for the same paltry percentage they pay for print rights. HELLO it costs way way less to put that thing out in e-format, AND I can find an online publisher that will give me 30-45% for those rights.

BUT... what if it wasn't about the money at all? No one even considers that an author might choose to go with an electronic publishing house because...??? Because they have a passion for the medium and prefer to support it? Because they believe in the future of e-books and want to be a part of it? Because they want to write whatever they want regardless of trends, editors' preferences, fads and agents input?

Is it possible? Hell yes, I say. Hell yes.

That last bit brings me to point two. This is the biggie, you almost always get this one first in any e-print is for amateurs argument. Quality. They will tell you the standards are lower, that anyone can get into print (let's look at some of the rejection numbers on the big e-pub houses, they are pretty similar to the print percentages) and that the books available are somehow inferior to those in print. They will forget that there is a lot of shiet published by print houses too. They will forget that sometime a better book gets passed over for what's "HOT" at the moment, in the print world. They will shudder and say, "What would happen if every horrid book ever written could get published?"

What would happen? (I'm going to tell you now)

What would happen is that READERS would decide who succeeded and who failed. Readers are not stupid. On the whole, I'd say they are a pretty intelligent bunch. They will know garbage when the find it and, simply, refuse to read that author. Why is this so scary, I wonder? Why should it be agents, editors, critics, making the decisions about who gets close to the reader? Why shouldn't quality control come from the end consumer? Kind of opens up the competition doesn't it?

I say, put everything in print and let the individual customers sort it out. Word of mouth will pick out the winners every time. People talk. Sink or swim! Seize the Day!! Viva la revolu.... Phew.

I think I need a moment. Time out, breathe, have a bit o chocolate. Better.

The point is, the people who have the most to lose, if change is "a-comin" are the people who make their living in the traditional routes. They have a reason to be defensive, concerned, frightened, in outright denial. (Here I go again)

I don't think they really have to panic. Change takes time-it moves in tiny, nearly painless increments. I can't remember that first answering machine...barely remember my first cell phone, though I thought of it more as a toy, a luxury... sigh.

The world will move forward and we will go with it, kicking and screaming or grinning like mad. In the end it's our kids and their kids that will decide for us. You know it is, the little buggers. I think we can all agree that we hope they read at all-in whatever form.

Pass me a cookie,
~Frances

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