books with Athena

books with Athena

Sunday, July 10, 2011

What Readers WON’T Miss about Corporate Book Publishers When They’re Gone.

Last week the Wall Street Journal published an article by Eric Felten called “Cherish the Book Publishers—You’ll Miss Them When They’re Gone” .

A lot of self-published writers responded with suitable outrage and derision. You can read Konrath’s “Tsunami of Crap” rebuttal here. But what offended me was not only Mr. Felten’s condescending attitude toward self-publishers, but his scorn for readers.

His argument was that, although some indie publishers may be making “earnest efforts,” the rest are unscrupulous scammers who are “creating books by the ream merely by grabbing a few pages of text from websites and dumping them into ultraquickie e-books.” 

He’s sure the readers of the world will rush en masse to Amazon to buy scores of un-previewed copies of  non-books without noticing they have no content.

Without our ever-watchful Big-Six Brothers, Mr. Felten fears, we’ll become brainless book-scarfing zombies, consuming everything on offer in the moldering pile of dreck that is Amazon.com.

Yup. I’d sure miss having a bunch of corporate guys in New York telling me what to read. How would I know I love zombipocalypses and dystopian steampunk this year if nice Mr. Simon and Mr. Schuster hadn’t told me?

And even worse, when those poor corporate publishing conglomerates get driven out of business by the evil Kindle-insurgents (not that I’m sure that’s going to happen) the mindless reading public might start buying some of those genres the Big Six have pronounced “dead.”

In fact—I hope this doesn’t shock youthere is evidence this kind of literary necrophilia is already happening in the dark corners of Cyberia as we speak.

Yes, it's true: customers who are forced to vet their own books are allowing these zombie genres to attack their brains. Here are a few:

Westerns: Westerns are as defunct as Buffalo Bill—everybody knows that. The last bookstore where I worked insisted we shelve the small collection of westerns on the bottom shelf of the darkest corner in the back, because “nobody buys them.”

So every time an adult male would come in, looking a bit lost, I’d ask if he was looking for the westerns. His face would light up and he’d go forage in the darkness and emerge with three or four titles (usually saying he’d have bought more if squatting to look at that low shelf weren’t so hard on his knees.) We could never keep the inventory stocked. So eventually, there were no more westerns in the store. So our western sales numbers plummeted. Which proved they don’t sell, right?

But, um, remember that John Locke guy—the one who just sold a million self-pubbed titles? Guess what he writes.

Yup. Westerns.

Chick Lit: It’s axiomatic that everybody hates Chick Lit. Except, well…chicks. Women love romantic comedies. But because the Big Six overbought a bunch of inferior Bridget Jones-wannabes in the middle of the last decade, the genre has been deemed as out-of-date as a pair of 70’s platform shoes.

But oh, gee: one of the first self e-pubbed books the idiot readers made #1 on Amazon was Elisa Lorello’s romantic comedy, Faking It. Amazon Encore has since launched Faking It as well as many other Lorello comedies in paper and she now has a very nice career.

And with the indie revolution, scores of websites like Chick Lit is Not Dead, Chick Lit Central the Blog  review great romantic comedies weekly. Most of the books are self-published. That’s where I found the fantastic books of indie superstar, Sibel Hodge who has re-invented the 1930’s style screwball comedy/mystery—proving chicks can be funny and smart, too.

Sexy Commercial Fiction: Remember big, sexy, guilty-pleasure beach books? They were pulpy, fun fiction for grown-ups that didn’t involve either the high school prom or gruesome child-rape-murders as a central plot device. From Anita Loos’ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes to Grace Metalious’s Peyton Place, to Jacqueline Susann and Judith Kranz, then Ruth Harris, Olivia Goldsmith and Terry McMillan, the 20th century provided big, yummy books to shock a little and entertain a lot. They were favorite companions for beach and travel or escape from almost anything. There were no vampires, werewolves or Halloween creatures of any kind. The only man-eaters were busty blondes with dark pasts. The books appealed to women of all ages. Even some men.

When was the last time you found a book remotely like them offered by a Big Six publisher? But guess what? Ruth Harris has re-released her 80s and 90s titles on Kindle and they’ve been consistently top sellers ever since. I sure hope we get more.


Unsentimental Women’s Fiction: Oprah’s book club did much to promote women’s fiction of a particular heartfelt, victimized-woman variety. But the scramble for the magic Oprah stamp-of-approval meant that tougher, funnier, more ironic women’s fiction fell by the wayside. Oprah’s club is gone now, but I don't see the return of the books it pushed aside. Will indie publishing provide us with our next Dorothy Parker, Muriel Spark, Fay Weldon, or Erica Jong?

I sure hope so. Erica Jong herself friended me on Twitter last week. Kind of made my day. She has a sexy new book out called Sugar in my Bowl. OK, it's nonfiction, and it's a collection of essays by 26 women writers. But I’m going to take that as a sign that her tough, sexy attitude may return to the mainstream of women’s fiction. As she said, “The trick is not how much pain you feel—but how much joy you feel. Any idiot can feel pain. Life is full of excuses to feel pain, excuses not to live.”

Crime Novels that skip the torture-porn: Anybody who’s ever worked in a bookstore knows that most book buyers are women over fifty. They’re always asking for something new and exciting. But they usually ask that it not be gruesome. For some reason, a lot of women don’t find rape and torture of other women that entertaining. But they still enjoy an exciting mystery or thriller.

Self-publishers can now provide an alternative to the books churned out by the writing stable that is known as James Patterson. (Although Patterson-brand fans will be happy to know that he sold his next 13 books this week—all of which will debut before 2014.)

Reality-based romance: Older romance fans are not as likely to fantasize about having sex with characters in children’s fairy tales as the younger set. They tend to prefer romance novels with a little more plotting and a little less boinking, but they don’t necessarily want preachy religious fiction.

So what? Nobody cares if Grandma buys books, do they? Well, um, maybe somebody does. I’ve heard a new ebook company is going to re-release the “sweet” romances of the 80s and 90s. Big sales predicted to new retirees, who are going to be in the market for a lot of reading material.

So—sorry Mr. Felden—I’m not going to miss having the marketing departments of a handful of New York companies telling me what I’m allowed to read.

I don’t mean to say that the Big Six don’t publish fantastic books in the approved genres. Their authors worked very, very hard to get those great book deals.

Thing is: these days, the writers getting the great book deals are increasingly starting out as those “earnest” self-pubbed authors Mr. Felten showers with condescension.

Like Mark Edwards and Louise Voss, who have had phenomenal success in the UK in the last few months with their self-pubbed thrillers Killing Cupid and Catch Your Death. This week they have signed a big deal with Harper Collins. There’s an inspiring write-up on their success from fellow Kindle bestseller Mark Williams at his blog this week.

As Mark says, “funny thing about the gatekeepers.  They claim to be protecting us from the drivel that self-publishers stick on Amazon. Yet the moment that ‘drivel’ starts to sell it suddenly acquires some hitherto non-existent star quality that the gatekeepers are desperate to get the rights to.”

In other good publishing news: literary Author Samuel Park—a regular visitor to this blog—has had his new novel This Burns My Heart (Simon and Schuster, debuts July 12, 2011) selected as one of the Best Books of July by Amazon. 

How about you, fellow bookpersons? Are there book genres you remember fondly that have disappeared from the shelves? What genre would you like to see brought back from the dead?
********
Next Sunday, we’ll have a guest post from a writer who is hedging her bets and taking all three publishing paths: Big Six, small press, AND indie. Kim Wright is the author of Love in Mid Air   (Grand Central: paperback release July 14, 2011), and she’s got a nonfiction book coming out in September, as well as a self-pubbed chick lit series (I can’t wait!) She’s going to give us the skinny about all three experiences in her post next Sunday.

And mid-week, on July 13th, we’re going to have a Very Special Return Engagement by bestselling thriller writer Jeff Carlson  Jeff is going to talk about Amazon reviews. Especially the snarky ones. You know—those people who look at the world through “demon-colored glasses.” It’s a must-read. So do stop by on Wednesday.

Also: tomorrow, Monday the 11th, I'll be guest blogging for Fois in the City on her blog Ramblings from the Left. I'll be talking about how blogging improved my life.

66 comments:

  1. Story collections. Publishers have been telling us we don't want them for decades, but I'd like to hear it straight from readers. And mainstream fiction with just a slight overlap into...pardon my language here...literary. Because, the ones you've most likely heard of aside, that's pretty much what I do.

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  2. I would like to see a new genre hit the shelves - there is a huge demand for spiritual (*not* religious) fiction. There are many many self-pubbed authors popping up in this genre, which suggests to me there's a need for a fiction literature that explores faith in an areligous manner. The Big 6 won't touch it, and yet there's are readers and writers aplenty.

    And I'm delighted to hear the novels of the golden age of romances (the 80's & 90's, when men were alpha and un-pc and women loved them for it!) are being reissued by the authors. Can't wait to stock my kindle with them.

    Judy, South Africa

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  3. Great post! Yes, I'd like to see more story collections. Also more mysteries that are not csi/grizzly-details and more, well, mysteries. And more family saga novels. More literary fiction. Just a wider range altogether than what's in the big stores now.

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  4. "Literary necrophilia." I suspect you've just coined a new phrase that will forever after be part of the writer's lexicon. Love it!

    One of the reasons I talk about the e-publishing revolution as the New Renaissance over at MWi is precisely because these artificial restraints on writers are being abandoned.

    Every old genre is now viable, and myriad new genres and mix-m-match genres will emerge.

    In the cyber book-store there is infinite shelf-space and room for infinite variety.

    Tiny niche markets can be catered for. Poetry, short stories, novellas, industry-standard-length novels or War & Peace door-stoppers, the option is there to write for your readers.

    Trying to pad out a perfectly good 40k novella to a 60k book will be a thing of the past, as will trimming a 110k novel to 80k just so the legacy boys' profit margins won't be squeezed too much.

    As for non-fiction... I can't wait!

    As a writer with far too many years behind me, my WIP list reads like a book in itself. The problem was, I could never muster the enthusiasm to finish most of them because they were never going to be commercially viable to publish.

    Suddenly I'm panicking that I won't be around long enough to finish even half of them.

    There's never been a better time to be a writer.

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  5. Heh, me? I'm just looking forward to seeing new spins on old hats, new hats and some brand new utterly bizarre hats! I just want to see what people can come up without without the former necessary constraints of a certain publisher's taste!

    I'm hoping to find some wacky gems out there in future :)

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  6. Excellent article. Thank you. and I agree with the comment..."Never been a better time to be a writer." Or a reader. I revel in chick lit and my kindle is packed with them. And I want to see more fiction for YA and children that doesnt breathe with lust every second page. And defn thrillers/mysteries that arent riddled with rape and 101 different ways to cut a woman into pieces.

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  7. Catherine--You're right. I forgot story collections. We're supposed to hate them. But when time comes around for prizes, the story collections win a big percentage. And non-MFA literary novels with plots used to be big. I'll bet they could be big again.

    Judy--That's a great point. Actually, I think some of Catherine's books fall into that category. Pay it Forward is spiritual without ever being religious.

    Elizabeth--I'm 100% with you on the non-grizzly mystery. Kind of like the non-torture-porn thriller. So much of what's available now treats us like ancient Romans. We're supposed to get off on watching people get eaten by lions and gladiators dying gruesome deaths.

    Mark--Novellas are another great example. They are already making a comeback. Jeff Carlson has hit the top 100 with his self-pubbed novella. It's not so much that "tiny niches" are being served. It's that the niches turn out not to be tiny at all. I honestly believe more people read chick lit and sweet romance than read zombie lit and steam punk, and I think the Amazon numbers will prove it. Let the Big Six cater to the New York 20-something hipeoisie, and indies can have the rest of the world.

    Spook--Great! Let's hear it for new hats. And new spins. In fact I'm going to launch my own hybrid of everything NY hates very soon: a Literary Chick Lit Western about Writers. (Another no-no: Writer lit.) Should be a hilarious experiment.

    Lani--Oh, good. Another Chick Lit fan! Why do books have to be all doom and gloom?

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  8. Thanks for the shoutout, Anne!

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  9. Well, I kept hearing that science fiction was dead when I was writing my first book. And I got many rejections from publishers of science fiction until a small publisher took me on. Apparently people still like to read it, despite what the big publishers think.
    And the music industry has been this way for years - we are spoon-fed crappy pop tunes. Don't even get me started...

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  10. Hi Anne,

    Thanks for mentioning Grace Metalious. Peyton Place was the first "adult" book I read as a kid. I had to forge a note from my mom to check it out at the library.

    Grace was the lit world's favorite punching bag in 1956, but whether it was her naivete or her true intent to write a tell-all about a small town in New Hampshire, I believe she paved the way for many fiction writers. (dusting off my Grace Metalious bobblehead) :)

    I read Gwen Bristow and Edna Ferber's books. I loved the historical aspect of the books. I went through a Zane Grey, Noel Barber and Neville Shute period.


    While I thank Mr. Felter for his concern, I don't need anyone to tell me what I should read. It's a simplistic analogy but think about velvet paintings. I don't care for them, but they're collectible because some folks like them.

    I'm hoping the advent of e-pub will liberate some terrific stories that have been languishing in slush piles.

    Thanks for another enlightening and thoughtful post.

    Jen

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  11. Wow! What a great Sunday Surprise! Anne, thanks so much for the shout out.

    What you call sexy commercial fiction was referred to by publishers as Women's Fiction and subsequently declared d.e.a.d. I kept thinking one of my publishers would reprint & repackage my backlist to accompany the release of a new book but it never happened. I was so frustrated that, over the years and way before digital publishing came along, I began to revert my titles. I had no idea what I would do with them but it was really bugging me to have them languishing in the clutches of indifferent publishers. The reversions sat in my files until--voilĂ !--I came across Joe Konrath's blog.

    It was and is a thrill to be able to revive, re-edit, repackage and present my work the way I want it to be shown. It is also a thrill to be able to write what I want to write--funny, irreverent, off-genre--and present it to readers who aren't bound by conventions dictated by corporate policies and chain store buyers.

    A genre I'd love to see revived? Gothic Suspense. Rebecca, anyone? Who can forget the terrifying Mrs. Danvers? Emily & Charlotte Bronte, Daphne du Maurier, Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, V.C. Andrews—lots and lots of talented authors here. Time for a new generation of writers to reimagine & reinvent this once very popular genre.

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  13. Great post. Lots of goodies here. And now I'm off to check out some of the links. Have a great week. Thanks!

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  14. You just about made my day by heading your list of very-much-alive genres with Westerns. What I'd love to see - what I'd love to write, actually - are some Westerns that transcend the boundaries of the genre as specified by publishers. They've got a reputation for being very basic and formulaic - Louis L'Amour himself complained that they were never treated as seriously as other historical fiction. It would be nice to see historical Westerns that can appeal to different types of readers simply as a good story.

    And I appreciate Catherine's mention of short story collections too. You see, my current project is a collection of Western short stories. :)

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  15. Great post, Anne! This really digs into some of the stuff in my last bullet point that I had to skim over for length Like we've been talking about, there's lots of options with this new frontier. I'm particularly excited about the genre/length possibilities this presents - one reason I'm working on both short stories in the Exeter universe for a couple of themed collections as well as the novels.

    Now to see how things shake out...

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  16. I agree with you, Anna. We readers aren't idiots. We're perfectly capable of browsing around to find something we actually want to read. I think the naysayers just feel threatened by small presses and self-publishers. I say let the best books win, regardless of who did or didn't publish them.

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  17. Thanks for a thorough, well-researched post (as always), Anne. I really like the list of what we actually want to read vs. what publishers think we want to read. I think the list is very accurate.

    One of my continuing concerns however, both as a reader and writer, is how can we find these gems? I'm not advocating a gatekeeper, but as a reader, how do I find this stuff? It is my understanding that the self published and indie/small press successes didn't there by magic...an enormous amount of hard work went into their marketing.

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  18. Thanks so much for this post. Very well said. My first novel had a hard time finding a home because it didn't fit perfectly into the genre's the big six (and okay most agents) were looking for. Thanks to a small publisher (Shelfstealers) who was just looking for really good books, my poor overlooked (again and again and again) novel has a home. I'm sure looking forward to more really good, cross genre books that the majors missed.

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  19. Spot on, Anne! Great post. I missed the WSJ article, so thanks for calling it to my attention.

    I don't think the Big Six are going anywhere soon, as I discussed on my blog (thanks for your input, BTW). And I'm okay with the Big Six sticking around, because the existence of gatekeepers is part of what gives self-pub works the renegade panache that I'd admire so much.

    And as for the quickie dreck--that'll resolve itself. I imagine there is not much repeat business for those publishers. Then again, there's an ocean of Big Six dreck. I guess even gatekeepers nod off now and then.

    Cast my vote for more drawing room mysteries, if I must pick a genre. Truth be told, though, I just love the proliferation of more, more more.

    I am quite comfortable being my own gatekeeper.

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  20. I sell 2,000 ebooks a day. That's in a day. Was lucky to do that in six months with my trad publishers. I was just on a panel at Thrillerfest with an editor who had bought one of my series years ago. I got the rights back. He about swallowed his tongue when I mentioned that the series was the #2 science fiction bestseller, only beaten by Game of Thrones.
    I got the rights back because the gatekeepers don't have very good gates.

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  21. I sell 2,000 ebooks a day. That's in a day. Was lucky to do that in six months with my trad publishers. I was just on a panel at Thrillerfest with an editor who had bought one of my series years ago. I got the rights back. He about swallowed his tongue when I mentioned that the series was the #2 science fiction bestseller, only beaten by Game of Thrones.
    I got the rights back because the gatekeepers don't have very good gates.

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  22. Once upon a time I sold real estate and used to laugh at people who tried to calculate the "best" time to be in the business. The best time to be in real estate is when people are selling ... that is until people begin to buy ... you see ... I was always the monkey in the middle ... if the market sucked for the seller I worked with buyers and ...

    So when the experts tell us what is selling ... we (writers) should remember ... we are the monkeys in the middle ... there is always someone who wants what we have ...

    sometime you wave your middle finger at convention and go your own way ... but before you start giving the big six the finger you might want someone out there to know who the hell you are.

    Mr. Meyer: You may not go back to traditional pubslishing but then again it will depend upon what is right for you at the time.

    But, if you had never been with a publisher when you began, how would any of those 2,000 people a day known who you were???

    Love these discussions since there is really no right answer and no one way to be successful.

    Thanks Anne, for another thoughtful Sunday post.

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  23. @ Sierra: "One of my continuing concerns however, both as a reader and writer, is how can we find these gems?"

    The same way you find good websites among the millions out there that aren't so good. The same way you find good music among all the millions of options that aren't so good. The same way you find your way around a major bookstore where most of the books are of no interest.

    Reviews, recommendations, research and common sense. And, just like with "real" books, experimenting with the new.

    All the major e-book sites let you download a preview (sometimes quite substantial).

    Sites like Amazon also let you return an e-book for a full refund if you're unhappy with it.

    As Alan Rinzler said, ninety per cent of paper books, with all their professional agents, editors, proof-readers, cover artists, etc, fail and are pulped.

    Maybe that's because the gatekeepers are too busy giving us what they want to sell instead of what we want to read.

    Sure there are bad e-books out there. There are bad web pages. But I surf the web constantly and rarely encounter the bad websites because I use the tools available to avoid them. The same goes for e-books.

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  24. What a fab post, Anne! And thanks soooo much for the wonderful shout out!


    I've said for a long time that with the ebook revolution it's now time for readers to decide what they want to read, not the publisher.

    Spook Said

    "Heh, me? I'm just looking forward to seeing new spins on old hats, new hats and some brand new utterly bizarre hats! I just want to see what people can come up without without the former necessary constraints of a certain publisher's taste!

    I'm hoping to find some wacky gems out there in future :)"

    That is soooo right! More and more genres and cross-genres are appearing with Indie authors. If I want to write Steampunk romantic comedy Martian chick lit, I can! I'm not tied to what a publisher "thinks" I should write or will sell!

    And chick lit is most definitely not dead!

    Happy writing and reading everyone!

    Sibel :) xx

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  25. Great stuff. Love the comments as well.

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  26. @Sierra: Anne and I have been talking about this some, and I did a post extrapolating how indie publishing might shake out based on experiences in fanfiction, which has much the same setup, minus the cost for the reader. But there, as here, you have a small proportion of gems among the dreck and no gatekeepers.

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  27. Dumb Question: Do newspapers/magazines regularly (and seriously) review non-traditionally published, e-books? Most book reviews I see in the paper/print media are all of regular published books, so they've all been vetted through gatekeeprs. To someone without an e-reader, limited time and budget, finding books I want to gamble $26.95 on is a challenge and for me, serious reviews are a big help. Maybe if newsmags/papers had a serious section on e-alone-books it might bring those to the attention of readers? (This apropos to the author who said he's selling 2,000 e-books a day and it was pointed out he's likely selling that many because he's already a traditionally published (hence "known") author. So there's the catch at this point: What mechanism helps separate wheat from chaff while still respecting the reader and allowing for a wider selection?

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  28. Thanks for the rebutal of that stupid article in WSJ. I noticed you're featuring an author that is doing all three paths (self, small press, big-six). I wonder how Mr. Felter would respond to self-published auhors that are being picked up by big-six publihers? My husband's Riyria Revelatations did just that - it is because he self-published that he got noticed.

    Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

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  29. Great blog Anne. I'm so glad Robin retweeted this so I could discover you.

    Great points about the diversity of voices and genres. One of the greatest things I see is that more small authors are making a living through ebooks. We all benefit from the diversity.

    Great to discover you Anne.
    CJ

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  30. OOhhhh So perhaps my Fantasy Action/Adventure with a Dash of Romance that I've been writing might have a chance? *Grin*

    Seriously I love the way you've put this. It sounds like the Literary equivalent to the Berlin Wall is coming down.

    :} Cathryn Leigh

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  31. Great article. I'm happy about the resurgence in the horror genre. Talk about a genre that was declare dead (when really it was just hiding in other genres). I used to read a lot of horror when I was a kid. Now I can get back into it.

    Rob Cornell
    Author of Darker Things
    Let the world you know meet the world you don't.

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  32. You tell 'em, Anne! I love all these new opportunities for authors, and think we're writing in the best time ever. Sure, there will be bad stuff that gets self-published, but just like any business, the cream usually rises to the top.

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  33. Samuel—Congrats and best wishes for bestseller-dom!

    Alex—Sci Fi’s demise certainly has been greatly exaggerated, hasn’t it? Funny how there’s a whole SyFy TV channel if everybody hates it. Congrats on finding an enlightened small press. I think that’s the route writers who still have a paper-book-reading audiences will take. Many serious writers are moving to small presses. The Big Six may soon be reserved only for celebrity autobiographies and Snooki-books.

    Jennifer—Grace Metalious was like Jacqueline Susann two decades earlier. They both got battered by the male-dominated press (who didn’t have any problem with pulp as long as it was written by the likes of Mickey Spillane)

    Ruth—I adore Gothic suspense. I spent many happy summer days with Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt. I think the recent success of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield was supposed to bring back the genre, but somehow it didn’t. It’s interesting how the definitions of “women’s fiction” keep changing. Nowdays “womens’ fiction” seems to be defined by the Oprah book: dark, weepy and in some way edifying. But since women buy 85% of fiction, most novels could be defined as “women’s fiction” couldn’t they?

    Jacqueline—Thanks!

    Elisabeth—I think the Western is in the American DNA. It’s our national myth. Literary westerns like McMurtry’s still sell very well. I have a friend who, like you, writes western shorts, that “nobody wants.” They are gorgeous pieces of writing. I hope you have success with yours. Maybe literary western writers can band together and start a website. I think that’s going to be how writers will reach their audiences in the future.

    Jennie—I do think epublishing will bring back the short story. We live in a world where everything is speeded up. Short fiction will fit right into that.

    Ranae—I think we’ll find new ways to find the books we like, through blogs and websites and forums and new ways that haven’t even been invented yet.

    Christauna—Congrats on finding a small press. I’m hoping some of my books may do the same, because I think a lot of my readers still prefer paper (I do.)

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  34. I must resign myself to the fact that the dusty, at-my-fingertips comfort of the hardback is just going to be gone someday, soon. :(

    I don't dislike self-publishers or ebook authors. I suppose I just wish that traditional publishing wasn't getting dumped so fast. I quite like my hard copies, and intend to purchase all the remaining ones that survive the Great Ousting by the E-Book Insurgents of the 21st century.

    Call me old-fashioned. :)

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  35. John, Bob and Sibel—How great to have visits from such successful indie authors. You all write great books that people are happy to pay money for. If your books were bad, you wouldn’t be making a living with them. Simple as that.

    Sierra, Churadogs and Fois—I can see you’re still hoping the old paradigm will rally and come back to life, but I don’t see that happening. Newspapers have almost all shut down their book review departments, because newspaper reviews simply don’t move books much any more. Newspapers themselves are closing at an alarming rate. Ditto paper magazines. Even though a review in *People* can still make a bestseller, it doesn’t have the clout it used to. And buying the end cap or a spot on the front table in Barnes and Noble—which used to be the way the Big Six created bestsellers—isn’t working as well with so many people buying from Amazon.

    The NYT finally does include ebooks in the bestseller list, although it doesn’t review them. But if they’re going to stay relevant, they will. People are finding books through the Internet—from blogs and forums and sites aimed at particular genres. I’d say the last five books I bought I heard about on blogs. I think maybe I should do a post on this—and ask how people are finding books these days. It’s a whole new world out there.

    Mark and Jennie—thanks for coming back to the discussion. Jennie is a reporter for the Boston Globe, so she knows about the demise of newspapers. Mark is the top-selling Kindle author in the UK—and he got there without being published first by legacy publishers.

    Robin and CJ—Welcome—and thanks for bringing your own experience to the discussion. I hear of more successful indie authors every day. It’s prying me out of my old mind-set.

    Julie and Pj—Thanks!

    Cathryn—I sure hope hybrids will thrive in the new publishing world. I seem to write a lot of them.

    Rob—It’s so amazing to me to hear all that “horror is dead” stuff, since I don’t see Stephen King going broke. I think the problem may be that the elements of horror have been hijacked by paranormal romances, and made all sparkly and unscary. Let’s hope that scary comes back.

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  36. Veronika--I'm not sure paper books will be dumped entirely--any more than CDs disappeared with the advent of the iPod.

    As I said to Christauna, I prefer paper myself. And we'll always want something for when the batteries run down and the power goes out. And the Kindle has a glitch and you're on the phone on hold for two hours waiting to talk to the Indian tech department. Or when we drop the Kindle in the pool. Or we're sitting on the plane for hours waiting for take-off and we have to shut down all mobile devices. Older people don't love change and older people do a lot of reading.

    But the Kindle revolution has opened up the playing field no matter what format you want to read. It's broken the stranglehold of the multi-national publishing corporations. That's good for everybody.

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  37. No, not a reporter for the Boston Globe. My grandfather was, but not me. I'm an editor for a community paper in Virginia. But thanks for the promotion. ;)

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  38. Sorry Jennie--I confused you with another of my Twitter friends. But you are in the newspaper business. At least I got that right.

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  39. I would love to see (and be part of) a chick lit revival. I am about to test the waters with my indie published book, The Hazards of Hunting While Heartbroken. And I felt physically and emotionally unwell when I saw that WSJ piece. Thanks for a bit of perspective.

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  40. Your post refers to someone named Felter, but the WSJ writer is Eric Felten. I read his original article and he did not state that the content of all three of my Blueprint books was the same and it sure isn't.

    There is the original "Blueprint" and then there is "Blueprint 2". "The Complete Blueprint" is the original and 2 combined with some updates. The product descriptions state this clearly and all one needs to do is read before they buy.

    Beyond that, your post misstated what the original article is about. The only reference to me and to my books is in relation to an argument that ensued over on the "review swapping" thread in KDP. I was against review swapping.

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  41. thanks for this post. readers know what they want. period. and they don't need anyone to tell them.

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  42. Mari--I sure hope so, too. Good luck with your indie publishing.

    Vicky--Thanks for the heads-up! I did indeed misspell Mr. Felten's name in two places. I've fixed it now. I've also taken out the references to your titles. In re-reading, I see he didn't include you in the "identical content" rant, but the "phony reviews" rant. I hope your books do very well. I'm sure they didn't deserve his implied snark.

    Amie--I couldn't agree more!

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  43. Anne, back in 2005, at a romance writers' conference, the guest speaker, a big six editor said to a crowd of over 100authors, "Historical romances are dead and chick lit is on its way out."

    She also pinched me hard enough to leave a welt on my arm and then later gave me some chocolate. But that's another story.

    It bothered me that a select few 'elites' had so much control over the market, and I'm glad to see Kindle authors proving them wrong. PJ

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  44. Here's yet another vote for the puzzle mystery. I mean, it's not just that the nasty torture stuff that's out there, but the way both publishers and booksellers treat cozy mysteries as cannon-fodder -- totally missing the point that readers of cozies like a very LONG running series.

    I think I saw an informal survey once that said most mystery readers like to start a series when there are six or seven books in the series. But the big book distributors were killing series at three or four -- so lately cozies have been relegated to "hook" series. Feline catering services and Racehorse detectives.

    I miss when the "hook" for a mystery series was in the subtle joy of discovering the characters -- something which couldn't be put in a logline, but once there were several books out there, the logline WAS the character.

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  45. Great post, Anne. I appreciate your observation about how self-publishing expands the menu of choices that readers have available to select from, rather than being force-fed whatever the Corporates are pushing as they chase last year's dollars. I liked this enough to blog about it and linked to your post:
    http://betterwritethanwrong.blogspot.com/2011/07/tuesday-tantrum-will-we-really-miss.html

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  46. Just want to say, you have a great blog, I am glad I discovered it. Will definitely be coming back to read more posts! New follower on GFC n twitter!:)

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  47. I was just pointed to your blog by self-publisher Tommie Lyn who is having some success writing the thrillers the average-aged reader who is fifty plus would enjoy.
    I jumped into self-publishing because I had a unique idea for young adult books, and only after the hardcover from my small press publisher took off, but I still had problems getting it stocked in stores.
    I couldn't get regular placement in the bookstores, although every Barnes and Noble that stocked it sold out (except for two).

    The first ebook I released in the series has made it all the way to #11 in Teen Kindle Fiction, and up to #49 on occult fiction (even though it is a Christian book) after only seven weeks since it's ebook release.
    There is definitely a demand for what I'm writing. The third book in the series I will release November 1, 2011.
    Readers know what they like. Word-of-mouth is the only publicity my books have, and I'm thrilled with letting readers (including me) be the new gatekeepers for the publishing industry.

    Thanks for the post.

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  48. P.J. I think the agent/Big Six folks are especially afraid of humor, because humor is subjective, and doesn't appeal to all of the people all of the time, which is their holy grail. Your books look hilarious. Gotta get me one. Love "Flabio" on the cover of "Romance Novel."

    Daring--that's a very interesting statistic about series readers. Agents never want to hear about a series. They insist you query one at a time and not mention your other titles. But then the rejections say, "We're only taking series mysteries." Arrgh.

    Callie--thanks for the linkage. I love your point about chasing last year's dollars. Like old generals--always fighting the last war.

    Komz--You've got a great site and a wonderful post today about Amazon vs. Indie bookstores. Indie bookstores shouldn't expect loyalty when they're ganging up with corporations against indie authors.

    Lisa--I think bookstores started shooting themselves in the font when they refused to take small-press books. I had the same problem although I offered on consignment. As I said above--when indie bookstores team up with international conglomerates to squash small and independent publishers, they don't deserve our loyalty.

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  49. Anne,

    I'm glad you mentioned humor in the above comments as another necrophiliac genre. I'm finishing up writing a novel in that genre and many times I've wondered is anybody at a corporation going to think this is funny (and by funny I mean profitable)?

    For as much as people want to laugh, I think you hit it on the head, humor is subjective and therefore sales are tough to project. When you have that much overhead, you need some sort of projection.

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  50. Lordy, lordy. It's all too true. I was traditionally published for many, many years and remember two things:
    waiting for months for something to happen and then looking up in surprise and asking "What happened."
    Traditional publishing has one happy moment (the day you sell your book) and years of silence. The publishing part last for about ten days and then you need a little prozac to continue.

    I can myself a repurposed writer. I have six titles on Amazon and sell about 60 or 70 books a day.

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  51. I wasn't sure about this post, after reading about it on Kindleboards, but I was genuinely pleased to read this humorous and intelligent take on the same old arguments.
    No one talks about the niche markets that Amazon's Kindles gives us, except in a general way. Everyone is so busy bashing each other that they forget there is something for everyone, in both indie and traditional publishing. As a reader, I'm glad to have more doors opened for me to enjoy good stories.

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  52. I just have to add that the comments here are just as interesting as the original blog post.
    Niche books can finally have a place on the cyber shelf. Happy author-happy reader.
    Publisher?
    If they were visionaries, they would start picking up just about everyone that queries them and release their work as an ebook, immediately, then if they hit a certain sales target, put it out as a trade paperback.

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  53. Interesting post, Allen. I often wonder what the future of publishing will be.

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  54. Himbokal--You're so right. In the US, especially, publishers are terrified of humor. Always have been. Mark Twain self-published a lot of his stuff.

    Consuelo--Thanks for saying that. It certainly was my experience. First ten days after my book came out, I floated around to all those booksignings and the big launch party, feeling on top of the world, and then...nothing. And my publisher didn't even tell me when the second book came out. I had to find it myself on Amazon.

    Kate--I was so surprised by the reaction of that one guy on the Kindleboards. i don't think he read the post. Just decided what he thought I was going to say and then argued against it. People get so weird online. (More on that in today's post from Jeff Carlson.) Nobody's saying you can't stick to corporate books. There will always be readers for Snooki books and Newt Gingrich screeds, and that's what corporations do best. But I'm not sure why somebody would want international conglomerates to dictate what OTHER people are allowed to read.

    Lisa--I LOVE my commenters. They're all so smart and interesting.

    Bob, too. :-)

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  55. Add Christmas books to the list, or books about Santa Claus. Publishers aren't interested, but most of the readers I've spoken with, young and old, think it's a great topic for a well-written novel.

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  56. Rick--you're so right. Seasonal books "don't sell" because publishers want guaranteed year-round sales. (Maybe that's why Dickens self-published "A Christmas Carol"--not exactly "crap", in spite of the indie aspect.)

    Congrats on the release of your new MG novel on the origins of Santa Claus "The Man in the Cinder Clouds"!

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  57. Ruth--Amen! Bring back gothic romantic suspense! Also, family sagas. I don't write them, but I love to read them, and they haven't been published in eons.

    Puzzle mysteries without a hook? Music to my ears. My publisher stopped mine after five books because "you don't have a gimmick. You can't sell mysteries without a gimmick!" Oh, really?

    I am more than happy to let readers decide what THEY want!

    (P.S. Great blog, Anne!)

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  58. Edie--Thanks! And yes to family sagas! A big sweeping, multigenerational thread of stories in one book. Yay Thornbirds!

    I'm so tired of all those knitting/crafting/cooking mysteries. All gimmick and no puzzle. I'll have to check yours out.

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  59. I've always had trouble finding a good work of fiction to read - everything seemed so similar. After I started on my writing journey, I found out why. There are a small group of people deciding want I'm going to read. Since then, I've been looking at indie books and finding some great reads. If a get stuck with a lemon every now and then, so be it. There are many very popular books that I put down before page 50. Great post.

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  60. Rob: When you talk about the resurgence of horror, do you mean among indie writers? I have to say that the genre is still rather bleak in mainstream publishing, especially given the recent events with Leisure Books.

    I have heard the indie horror writers are doing fine. I'm heading this way myself, and I'm kind of happy that indie publishing allows readers to make their own choices, instead of having agents and publishers selectively choose the genres for them.

    Very interesting article.

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  61. Deb--I don't have a Kindle yet, because I have this pile of "to-read" books two feet high. But I realize I haven't "got around to" a lot of them because they're not really what I want to read. Decision: do I make myself read all of them before I get the Kindle--because I probably won't read them afterward?

    R. P. Horror is definitely indie territory, just like chick lit (which often dominates the top 100.) Amazing how many genres the Big Six tried to kill off--not because they weren't selling, but because they were mega-popular (w/Stephen King and Bridget Jones wannabes) and then became only very popular. Any step down means sudden death in corporate-land. Weirdest of all--books about zombies, werewolves and other horrific creatures are not considered "horror."

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  62. I love the post!

    I kinda wish there was a more diverse genre range in YA. I wish there were more psychological thrillers and horror/ghost stories that aren't cookie cutter.

    It's quite interesting to think about what the publishing world will look like in a decade.

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  63. I think those may be coming, since YA may soon be the only fiction genre published by the Big Six.

    I've been speculating on that too. I think I might have to blog about that soon.

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  64. Sorry, entering this after an absence, but what makes you think that YA will be the only genre published by the traditional publishers? That's an awfully small group. I would think romance, mysteries and thrillers would be pretty big for them still.

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  65. Kate--that would seem to be logical, I know, but it's because the big money is in YA, and they're only looking for blockbusters these days. Ever since Harry Potter made JK Rowling richer than the Queen, with Twilight and Hunger Games huge sellers as as well, adult genre fiction is just not that interesting to the corporate guys.

    And just today, Publisher's Lunch reported that sales of adult hardcover and MM paperback are way, way down. Everybody's buying them for Kindle, and they're going to go for the indie book for 2.99 instead of the corporate book for 9.99 and higher.

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  66. This was great! Exactly what I was thinking and the same thing applies to the music industry.

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