Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

02/09/2013

Publishing’s Past Not So Hot – Let’s Take a Peek


What am I going to do with all these damn books?

Many people often lament the ‘good old days’ of this or that (publishing being the key word tonight). You know what I’m talking about. These types are usually victims of what I call ‘stunted time warp’. They remember a time that was simpler (and clearer) to them — not because it really was, it just seemed that way to them because they were too young, naive and had no accountability to understand what was truly occurring in the underbellies and backrooms to make things appear perhaps more simple, righteous and clear-cut on the surface (for the uninitiated) — AND as they physically grew and aged, their mental understanding and education RE those specifics did not. They are ‘stunted’ and therefore believe in things that live in the fantasies of their own minds and were never reality in the first place.

This post takes a little insightful look at the small (and not so small) publishers of the so-called ‘golden age’ of publishing and resurrects some literary works that have been forgotten, out of print or never appreciated as much as they should have been in the past due to draconian shortcomings in the so-called traditional publishing (TP) system.

Just what are these draconian shortcomings? The main ones, in this writer’s humble opinion, were and still are:

1) Continuously undermanned  (even the big houses) to handle the awesome workload of incoming manuscripts (both talented and not so talented) from millions of submitters. This is evident by the numerous and often rude original rejections received by tons of later-famous authors for their exact, later-published manuscripts. 

2) Assuming the reading public were/is too stupid to know what they wanted or needed to read or would enjoy.

3) Having the audacity to assume a ‘gatekeeper’ role to protect the reading public from what they considered ‘bad literature’. This is actually a form of censorship — And just where did these self-appointed ‘gatekeepers’ receive their God-like abilities? I was unaware of any universities awarding degrees in supernatural powers 🙂

4) Nonexistent to poor marketing for contracted newbies. (This one never made sense to me as the more invested in marketing the more return realized).

5) Promulgating, perpetuating an unsustainable publishing model for years.

6) Denying most authors a semblance of fair profit margin (except in rare cases).

7) Denying most authors a proper say in literary rights.

What model/system solves these problems and empowers writers? Digital (and POD for those who enjoy print more) self-publishing, of course.

Is this model perfect? Not yet; but, it is evolving more perfect everyday. (Was TP ever perfect?)

Does this new publishing and literary openness and freedom scare some? Of course. Especially those victims of ‘stunted time warp’ as mentioned above.

Will they adjust to modern publishing? Those that are true writing professionals will — just like those in the past have survived past publishing milestones that stunned publishing in totally new directions.

David Streitfeld , The New York Times, writes this:

Publishing Without Perishing

In the old days, life for small publishers was a hassle. The economics were such that copies got dramatically cheaper when printed in bulk, but then the books had to be stored, which was expensive. Finding an audience was the hardest part; some independent presses took years or even decades to sell out a modest print run.

Now books can be efficiently printed in small quantities, like one copy. Amazon, meanwhile, is happy to do the job of fulfilling orders. The stage is set to allow everyone to become his own Alfred Knopf.

James Morrison, a 36-year-old editor and graphic designer in Adelaide, Australia, is an old-fashioned book enthusiast, with around 10,000 books in his personal library. In 2007 he began a blog, Caustic Cover Critic: One Man’s Endless Ranting About Book Design, which showcases and evaluates new jackets. Like any inveterate reader, Mr. Morrison would stumble across obscure books practically begging to be reprinted. For instance, he read an account by the historian David S. Reynolds of “the largest monster in antebellum literature,” which was “the kraken depicted in Eugene Batchelder’s ‘Romance of the Sea-Serpent, or The Ichthyosaurus,’ a bizarre narrative poem about a sea serpent that terrorizes the coast of Massachusetts, destroys a huge ship in mid-ocean, repasts on human remains gruesomely with sharks and whales, attends a Harvard commencement (where he has been asked to speak), [and] shocks partygoers by appearing at a Newport ball.”

Mr. Morrison concluded that “the audience for an 1850 book-length Monty Python-style doggerel poem about a socially aspirant sea serpent is probably just me,” but how could he be sure? The Internet is all about weaving people together with even stranger tastes.

The critic has published about a dozen out-of-copyright volumes using Lulu, which does the printing, and Amazon, which does the selling and shipping. He dubbed his venture Whisky Priest in homage to Graham Greene, himself an enthusiast of uncommon and unjustly forgotten literary efforts. On the Whisky Priest list are the Batchelder book; a collection by Edith Wharton; “Artists’ Wives,” Alphonse Daudet’s stories about the war between the sexes; and Storm Jameson’s “In the Second Year,” a prophetic look at fascism.

Read and learn more

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