Every author knows that producing a book requires an extreme act of concentration, discipline, organization and stamina. It is an achievement requiring enormous effort, time and isolation rarely matched by other forms of artistic creation.
Despite all the revolutionary changes that roil the publishing
industry and are currently upending the old methods of presenting books
to the public, the bedrock fact remains that a published book, whether
presented on paper or on screen, still carries with it a measure of
prestige and achievement.
Despite the difficulties involved in a book's creation, there is no
shortage of people determined to produce works that reflect their own
vision, whether they are motivated by chasing the false gods of fame and
fortune or simply satisfying their overwhelming need to be heard and
their views, talents and interests projected beyond the confines of
their own minds and imagination. There are perhaps millions of people
worldwide currently bent over their desks composing works they hope to
share with others.
A few short years ago, the pipeline for these endeavors was strictly
regulated by time-honored methods of filtering. A band of
business-minded publishers, fed by a gaggle of first look agents, would
submit choices to publishing houses whose editors and marketers filtered
out their own choices. These choices were then cataloged seasonally,
and an army of salespeople was dispatched to book buyers of independent
and chain stores who subsequently made their own choices based upon past
sales, and perhaps a few gut choices of their own.
The road to marketing and publicity channels was well rutted. Mass
media outlets had their own filtering process to determine which books
they would feature in their review columns, and advertising sections of
books were well established. A few well-respected critics could be
relied upon to filter their own choices to public scrutiny.
Media outlets hit upon the idea to record book sales as a kind of
horse race of popularity, which helped them with their advertising, and
kept the sales pot boiling for those authors lucky enough to be
Roughly, this is the way the system worked for many decades.
Publishers supported their prolific authors with advances based on
projected sales and future royalties, and those books that didn't sell
went back to the publishers in an arcane system of consignment.
For those authors who didn't make the filtering cut, the only
solution was "vanity" publishing, which meant that an author could pay
to have his book published, and for the most part, try to get his book
into the system. A camel through the eye of the needle is a good
analogy. While there is no real statistic on author rejections by agents
and publishers, the real figure based on the amount of self-published
books being shoe-horned into the current offerings on e-readers
indicates that those numbers must have been staggering.
That publishing system has been completely overturned by time, taste
and most of all, technology. The industry itself has been sliced and
diced into categories and sub-categories and sub, sub categories. In
fiction, hundreds of genres and sub-genres have been created and built
around categories to appeal to specific tastes; categories such as
romance, mystery, fantasy, zombies, vampires, graphic novels, erotic,
young adults, children, etc. with new categories emerging like ever thin
slices of salami.
In non-fiction, the slicing and dicing has reached epic proportions
in areas such as politics, religion, popular culture, race, memoirs,
exposés, diatribes, self-help, pop psychology, nutrition, diet, health,
and sex -- especially sex. On that latter subject the recent Fifty Shades of Grey
category has jumped the fiction and non-fiction categories by building a
kind of story around a 'how to' guide to sado-masochism performance.
Because of technology and the remarkable innovation of visionaries like
Jeff Bezos whose Amazon currently dominates the book sales landscape and
other innovators who produced readers like Sony, Apple, Kobo and new
devices coming into the picture, an author can self-publish and put his
or her book in cyberspace without necessarily suffering the stigma of
having been "rejected" by the once vaunted filter mavens of the
In a nutshell, we now have a system best compared to a global warming
analogy. The ice floes have melted into the sea. The ice mass is
Big box chain bookstores are shrinking. Independent storefront
bookstores are becoming extinct. Book review critics in the mass media
have given way to thousands of book review bloggers on the internet,
each with their own following. Some may now receive remuneration for
favorable reviews, an ugly trend. Smaller publishers who had followed
traditional methods are disappearing. Libraries are under increasing
financial pressure and are cutting back on their book buying.
The big publishers have drastically shrunk the amount of advances
given to authors. Marketing has morphed into glomming on to current
celebrity names as instant authors, probably ghosted, and leveraging
their names as selling ploys and publicity angles before these names
lose their increasingly temporary luster.
Publishers are still getting financial traction from "factory" books
meaning books carrying names of popular authors like Patterson and
Cussler, written by others and supervised by those still living authors.
Sequels of popular titles by dead authors written by living ones have
also sustained a brief rally and will be tried again and again.
This is not meant as a tale of woe but an observation of swiftly
changing times. In a dynamic and creative society like ours, change
means new opportunities and new challenges. The fact is that the reading
public is expanding globally by leaps and bounds.
The author, too, must adjust to the new reality. The term "self" in
"self publishing" will eventually disappear as more and more authors
will have to take the marketing and selling plunge on their own. Even if
one is published in the traditional way by known publishers, one will
have to market one's books on one's own hook, in imaginary and often
costly ways. The self-published author will, in effect, be forced to
become his own entrepreneur.
An industry to help the presently self-published author is growing at
warp speed. Every conceivable step in the "authoring" process is now
available from embryo to finished manuscript to cyber conversion to
being listed along with every other author.
Making a book "discoverable" is now an industry in itself as thousands
of alleged social networking "experts" try new ploys to get authors
known through the burgeoning channels of so-called person-to-person
Indeed, the new business plan for the self-published author offers
manuscript conversion to a downloadable book along with a royalty
percentage on all books sold. Some of these new entrepreneurs offer
marketing and advertising plans for a price as well. While they
calculate that a new author might sell about 50 to 100 books maximum to
friends and family, the objective is to enlist as many authors as
possible since their ultimate survival depends upon how many authors
they can collect under their banner. Do the math. A small piece of
thousands of authors makes a profitable business.
It is, of course, possible for a self-published book to "breakthrough"
to the fame and fortune category but by and large the self-published
author's success will be measured by what can best be described as,
"circles of interest," those networks of various dimensions made up of
people who share the author's interests and appreciate his or her
Many authors will be more than satisfied with these circles of interest.
And many will be overjoyed and comforted by their own sense of
achievement, having created a work of artistry out of the whole cloth of
their own talent and imagination.
In the end, as far as this scribbler is concerned, this process of creation is all that really matters.
Warren Adler has just released his 33rd book "The Serpent's Bite." Best known for "The War of the Roses,"
his masterpiece fictionalization of a macabre divorce turned into the
dark comedy box office hit starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and
Danny DeVito, Warren Adler quickly became the fountainhead of Hollywood
screenplay adaptations, fueling an unprecedented bidding war in a
Hollywood commission for his unpublished book "Private Lies". While "The War of the Roses"
garnered outstanding box office and critical success with Golden Globe,
BAFTA and multiple award nominations internationally, Adler went on to
sell movie and film rights for 12 books, all noted for his character
driven and masterful storytelling. Produced by Linda Lavin for PBS'
American Playhouse series, Adler's "The Sunset Gang" was adapted into a trilogy starring Uta Hagen, Harold Gould and Jerry Stiller, garnering Doris Roberts an Emmy nomination for 'Best Supporting Actress in a Mini-Series.' "
You can find the original article at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/warren-adler/decoding-the-selfpublishe_b_1852605.html
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