Very interesting news, which I first learned of courtesy of Nathan Bransford’s excellent blog (seriously, if you want to keep up-to-date on e-books, technology, self-publishing, etc. you’ll want to subscribe to Nathan’s blog).
Essentially, Amazon, which has already facilitated the bypassing of a big chunk of the traditional book process by offering e-books direct to Kindle, is now signing up its own authors, thereby bypassing agents and publishers. So interesting…
I think I love this story. Which is maybe surprising because I also really, really love all that’s good about traditional publishing. I love the care and love that goes into creating a book. I love that much of the dealing that goes on in publishing is based on codes of conduct and gentleman’s agreements and “it’s just not done that way.” (this drives my husband crazy when he asks me why I can’t just spend a day in Toronto and go knock on publishers’ doors – shock, horror, blacklisting!).
I love physical books and the places that hold them (libraries, bookshelves).
The thing is, ultimately I’m a champion of a good story well told and anything that doesn’t threaten that, and maybe promotes it is fine by me.
I have immense respect for the vast majority of agents and publishers out there. I worked for a publisher, selling university textbooks, and I heard all the complaints. Why are books so expensive? You’re making a mint. I can photocopy it for $17 so why do you sell it for $70? And so on and so forth. I go back to my earlier comment about love and care (and blood, sweat and tears) going into these books. $70 is a deal.
I think most publishers and agents love books too and are in the business for love and want to nurture new talent.
But. (Oh, another one).
From experience, I will say that some – a very small few some but still some – are quite, for want of a gentler word, rude. They emanate more than a whiff of entitlement. Their submission guidelines are dismissive to the point I sometimes wonder why have submission guidelines at all if you so clearly disdain those submitting to you?
I know, I know, I know they see tonnes of garbage. I know. I’ve sent them some garbage in the past (let’s be clear; not on purpose. I didn’t know. You never do until it’s too late…). And I have no problem with being clear about expectations and summarily dismissing those who, for example, submit cookbooks to a press which clearly says “NO COOKBOOKS”.
But there are some – and if you’ve submitted you’ve come across them too – who say something just shy of “you’re not good enough for us, god knows why you want to try, but if you still do want to bang your head against a wall, go ahead and send us the manuscript you’ve spent hundreds of hours slaving over.”
You know what? There’s no need for that. Most of the really reputable and successful agents and publishers I’ve come across are polite, businesslike and, sometimes, even friendly (I’m not saying they have to be friendly but it’s a nice bonus).
So I kind of like Amazon entering the fray because it offers another option. Another outlet. I’m not even saying I’d choose the Amazon route over a traditional publisher (not saying they’d have me either) but I am saying when there are more choices we all have to pull up our socks. The cream rises to the top. Democracy has a chance to rule.
I’ve already seen immense changes in just the last few years. My first round of submissions, just over two years ago, were entirely – yes, 100 per cent – on paper, by mail. The round I’m in now is entirely – also 100 per cent – digital. I think that change was driven by both those submitting and those receiving; it was more convenient for both.
I guess I feel like having more choices means, instead of being slavishly thankful that anyone will even glance at our work, authors can maybe read different websites, check out submission guidelines, see who feels like a nice “fit” for their project.
And if there are enough people out there who want to be condescended to and patronized and told they’re probably not good enough, that small percentage of presses and agents who do that will survive.
If not, power to the people.
Last word to Amazon:
“Amazon executives, interviewed at the company’s headquarters here, declined to say how many editors the company employed, or how many books it had under contract. But they played down Amazon’s power and said publishers were in love with their own demise.
“It’s always the end of the world,” said Russell Grandinetti, one of Amazon’s top executives. “You could set your watch on it arriving.”
ETA: Here is an example of one of the most lovely, professional and respectful sets of agent submission guidelines I’ve ever seen. Honestly, if I was ever so lucky as to be choosing between two agents these submission guidelines alone would be about a 90 per cent factor in my decision. In case you’re too busy to click through, here’s the clincher sentence: “we are grateful for all queries and submissions. We understand that your work is important to you and we thank you for considering us.” I hear this agent writes kick-ass rejection letters so I look forward to getting mine and possibly sharing that with you as well!