Publishing has been changing in fundamental ways for several years now, and combined with the global recession, this change has impacted the industry dramatically. This essay, and others to come, seeks to understand the meaning of this change, it's effects, it's ethos, and what the future may hold.
To understand the rapidly changing publishing environment, we must begin with facts. America loves anything that is new. It's not clear if it's the media that loves newness or Americans themselves, but either way being new is no. 1 in America. So Americans are in an endless quest to find something new. Certain businesses, such as movies or music, are in a constant search for anything that is new. Mere mortals are gobbled up whole, should they try to somehow alter or play with this unyielding desire the new thing. There are numerous variations on this theme, such as the quest for the "next big thing."
Pop culture has ruled the American landscape since the mid-1980s, and its influence has only increased. As a result, things like literature or theater have been driven away from the lives of mainstream Americans, to the point of near-extinction. Books have been consumer by American's and media's desire for the new, so that the marketing of a new book has become more important than what is in the book. And, this means that the rules of marketing are now central to the business of publishing. Books and authors suffer as a result. Rules like a product's shelf life expires after 30 days, after which customers will grow disinterested and possible return the item, guide the publishing industry and how it markets books. I have found that this is an American problem. In England, for example, where my titles sell well, they never return books.
American academia has become political, primarily Leftist, and no longer a place that is part of greater American culture, and able to influence it, either through books published by university presses, or by the teachings of great professors.
The US government has grown to obscene proportions. President Obama has married the government with the media, and thus grown the government further. And, President Obama has expanded the government's role into the Internet, to include how Obama markets his "image" online. Back when the government was smaller, say when Kennedy was president, literature and culture had a healthy relationship with government, and the entire artistic community dined with the president. That is no longer the case, partly because it is unclear who is in the artistic community to begin with. In one sense, everyone is in the artistic community, and everyone is an "artist"--or think that they are.
American culture is extinct, and is possibly not even capable of being resuscitated. Into this storm comes the technical, drastic change to the business of publishing. It is understood among publishers of all stripes that print-on-demand technology is revolutionary. POD means that a digital file of a book is printed only when an order is placed for that book, and then the book is shipped in a matter of days. This is in contrast to traditional publishing, where a print run of books entered the market in the many thousands.
In these articles on this site, I seek to understand how publishing is changing and what the meaning of that change is for American culture and literature. At present, there are few rules to the publishing, or the old rules don't apply to new technologies. I am not following any of the old rules, customs, traditions or business practices of traditional. In fact, I take great joy in breaking any of those rules. For example, I may get scolded by a bookstore for not trade discount of 40-60%. But bookstores themselves have become obsolete in this new environment. A journalist might say that he does not want to review one of my titles because my front matter is not listed in roman numerals (I purposely start my page counts on p.2 just to be ornery, for this very reason). And yet, that very journalist is probably out of a job by now, and his newspaper is closed or closing soon. Furthermore, I have gotten a number of reviews in large newspapers and I saw no discernible change in my sales as a result. Conversely, a review from an influential blogger can make a real difference in sales. Oprah is still Oprah.
This book, if this is something you still want to do,is a great resource that will teach you everything you need to know about book publishing. I strongly suggest you read it.
Hopefully, after you’re done reading this, you’ll give yourself the best chance to get YOUR book published.