Sunday, January 17, 2016

Lazy Publishers

I've often touted the growing indie movement.  I think it's the wave of the future and that it allows writers to react more to market forces than the oligarchy of traditional publishing.  However, it's having the perverse effect of making traditional publishing both more lazy and more autocratic.

What I mean by that is that while ebooks and technological advances have made indie more viable, they've also helped traditional publishing by eliminating the need for risk taking.  Since many people can achieve success through indie publication, yet still yearn for greater distribution and possibilities from traditional publishing, the traditional houses can sit back and see if an indie book makes waves in the market first before taking the writer on as a client.  They can wait until the public shows interest, and then they can pounce with offers of bookstore displays and high paying advances.  This eliminates the financial risk of pouring resources into an unknown author.

Further, traditional houses can continue to treat newbie writers like crap.  After all, if the newbie doesn't bow down to the demands of the house, that house can just go look in the indie ranks for success.  This Sword of Damocles can force subservience into those so desperate for traditional success that they'll give in to any demand from one of the few remaining traditional publishing houses.

The only counter to this is for indie writers to shun traditional houses unless offers are truly in the favor of the writer.  Traditional houses know the perception most have about how to get rich and famous, and they use that perception to their advantage.  Only if indie writers, and writers chained to traditional houses, understand the power they hold will the power of the traditional house ever be broken.  It's a power balance shift that many don't even know has taken place, or at least not to the degree it has.

Traditional publishing is dying.  But like many behemoths, it's a slow death and the beast still presents the image of vigor.  However, this vigor is an illusion to those who understand it, and it's time we remembered that.  Until we do, traditional houses will have no real incentive to change their habits.  It's time we force that change by holding from them what they need most - our work.

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