The future of publishing

I ran across a fun article this week in McSweeney’s entitled “The Future of Books” which I thought I would share with you. There is no question that this is written tongue-in-cheek, but I found it particularly meaningful in a week when some big events happened that certainly are representative of the exciting things that are transpiring in our business.

First thing was that Barry Eisler decided to cancel a half-million-dollar, two-book deal with his publisher to self-publish, primarily electronically.  This played out in the media and during an interesting and enlightening conversation between Eisler and our client Joe Konrath. Then, later in the week, Amanda Hocking who has been selling her young adult paranormal books very successfully online decided that she wanted to auction her new series to a traditional publisher rather than self-publish, saying that she feels that self- publishing has its limits.

This is a subject that is going to inspire debate and probably some significant change in the way publishers, agents, and authors do business over the coming months and years. Everything in this area seems to be moving very fast.  In my opinion, all of this change is interesting and exciting in a business that has been more or less stagnant for many years.  As I have said before, I think reading will be on the upswing as will writing—hopefully good writing.

I would love to know what you think.

9 Responses to The future of publishing

  1. Lisa Marie says:

    I think that self-publishing makes a lot of sense if you’re Barry Eisler or any author whose reputation has first been established by a large publishing house. I don’t think that the average “indie writer” realizes that most authors who choose to jump ship come with a fan base attached. For the most part, there is a direct and necessary connection between their past publishing record and success as an indie publisher.

    That said, I’m putting agent querying on hold until everything shakes out. If major changes are made by major publishing houses – and if it’s true they’ll be more selective than ever – it doesn’t behoove me to play this particular lottery. Not that I’m a huge proponent of self-(e)-publishing; it’s simply about using my time efficiently. I went to a writers’ meeting recently and was astounded by the number of published authors who found success in approaching smaller/specialty publishing houses. I suspect I’ll take this route.

  2. I wonder if this might actually be a good thing for emerging authors. Maybe publishers will take a second glance at unknowns since they can quickly take the e-route whenever they choose and publishers could lose out on potential best sellers. Also they may not be as inundated by submissions and therefore have the extra time to spend on others.

    • Lisa Marie says:


      I’m wondering the same thing too! Will new voices be heard? Gosh, I really hope so! I love single title romance novels, but I can’t find any that appeal to my sensibilities these days. Something about the recession has changed my way of thinking. I’ve already found a couple of self-published writers who, on the other hand, write exactly what I want to read about.

      I’m not wild about Hocking’s writing. But props to her for proving the publishing industry was dead wrong about its assessment of her work. What all writers (who put careful thought into their craft) can take away from this, regardless of which avenue they choose to pursue, is that there is a readership for them somewhere.

  3. Lisa-

    It really is an exciting time for writers. No more rejection, rejection, rejection. I like the idea of the audience deciding what deserves their attention. I hope to join the e-authors out there within the next year or so myself :)

  4. Lisa- Do you have a website or a blog? Mine is danielledspears.blogspot.com :)

    • Lisa Marie says:


      I just started a blog that I loathe – mainly because I’m the masochist who went with WordPress. I tweaked around in the code and “broke” my theme, so I’m stuck with a crappy “pool tile” graphic until I figure out how to fix it. Will probably just upload another theme and begin again. Until then, I’m not adding too much content or formatting, because then it gets to be a pain in the tush! ☺


  5. Lance Parkin says:

    I think if traditional publishers continue to cut down on editing, copy editing and – above all else – marketing, and if they switch to ebook and POD models that ease any pressure to sell stock … and if bookstores continue their churn of books so that a new title comes out and it has three to six weeks to sell before being returned.

    … well, at some point it’s going to be hard to explain why they’re justified in getting 90% of the revenue.

    The argument at the moment, and it’s a good one, is quality control. You can put a novel out tomorrow. If it’s published by a traditional publisher it’s probably gone through an agent and an editor and a few other levels of proofing and copy editing.

    But for back catalogue stuff? It’s got to be getting to the stage where it’s far more lucrative for some authors to let the rights lapse, then self publish ebooks. Best of both worlds – a polished book, and (virtually) all the revenue.

  6. Eric Christopherson says:

    I think we’re entering a golden age for readers. The ebook revolution is exerting downward pressure on prices and because of the self-pubbing option there will be a greater variety of books than ever before.

    For authors, the times appear rosy too. It’s always good to have options, and there’s no reason not to play in both sand boxes à la Hocking. (Or à la myself. I’ve sold about 16,000 ebooks over the last year, meanwhile another title is being repped to traditional publishers by DGLM’s Jon Rudolph.)

    I hope that agents and editors end up doing well too, but it seems some adaptation will be in order. Richard Curtis, for example, has written on this recently, over on his E-Reads blog (see March 8th entry).

  7. Bethany Neal says:

    Changing up the “stagnant” world of publishing is a great way to look at all the e-book related happenings lately, Jane. Love the optimism! :)

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