Thriller author Barry Eisler, a born-again proponent of self-publishing (and the first established author to sign with Amazon’s publishing division), told a local audience that :
- The book industry has badly needed a forced overhaul for ages;
- everyone in publishing who’s neither an author nor a reader is just a “middleman” (yes, even bookstores; yes, even indie bookstores);
- authors who defend the industry’s business-as-usual are like prisoners who suffer from “Stockholm syndrome;” and
- Amazon is no “Great Satan,” as it’s been portrayed by the NYC book biz and its NYC media pals. Rather, Eisler claims the e-tail giant is simply “injecting competition into what has been a moribund industry.”
Needless to say, in many parts of the book establishment (the most tradition-bound establishment in all the lively arts), them’s fightin’ words.
Meanwhile, authors Sarah Weinman and Maureen Ogle have put up separate online essays. Each questions the future of “serious non-fiction” in the digital age.
Under the old regime, profitable publishing houses subsidized this work with large advances against royalties. In many cases, the publishers knew authors would never earn these advances back. It was the companies’ way of subsidizing prestigious “loss leader” works.
But if self-publishing becomes the new business-as-usual, Weinman and Ogle ask, what will become of long, research-heavy projects—projects that could take as many as five years of an author’s full-time attention?
There’s always Kickstarter.com. That’s where local comix legend Jim Woodring is raising funds so he can work full-time on his next graphic novel.
And there are always grants, fellowships, teaching gigs, and working spouses (for those authors who can land any of them).
And there’s another answer, one that’s right under Weinman and Ogle’s proverbial noses.
Both essayists note that the most successful e-book self-publishers, thus far, are fiction writers who churn out several titles per year.
Non-fiction writers can do likewise.
They can chop up and serialize their longer works, one section at a time.
When it comes time to put out the full book, authors can still revise and re-sequence everything.
In another sector of the digital media disruption, music-biz attorney Ken Hertz reminds you that even (or especially) with the new marketplace, bands still face tremendous odds against “making it.”