Thursday, June 27, 2013

Extreme Measures


There is no point in debating anymore the merits of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing and which option you might chose. I think the direction we are headed is that most authors will attempt to do both. And if there is a going to be a choice of one over the other, I think unfortunately traditional publishing will lose this battle among newer authors. Totally my opinion and this comes just from my conversations with other authors, professional loops etc, but I think I’m right.
The currently successful authors only doing traditional publishing, I imagine will continue to do so. I don’t think Nora Roberts is worried about getting her name out there by releasing self-published novellas. But she probably should be prepared for a pay cut if Wal-Mart decides to stop selling books altogether and her publisher doesn’t start to reconsider her digital price point.

Regardless I think any new author who wants to reach that level of success is going to feel the pressure to self-publish as a means of marketing/advertising at the very least.
And this is starting to have an impact on the community. We found out that authors were purchasing reviews. Recently I heard Goodreads was having an issue with authors participating in review swaps. We will give books away for free. Hours and hours of hard work and investment into a project only to give it away in the hope readers will find you and eventually decide to buy you.

As self-publishers we can no longer rely on the Traditional Publishing marketing department, but I think we’re learning even traditionally published, we can’t count on them. What we all thought was this massive department doing all the “right” things was just an overtaxed department, not doing much and instead they put the burden on the author.
By forcing the author to become her own advocate, they created a skill set that serves the self-published. My experience with savvy authors today is that they think they can do it better. They care more about their project. They get to spend their advertising dollars where they think it has the most impact. They can control social media and as I mentioned above they can set the price point and control when it goes on “sale.”

None of this is news, but I do think we’re starting to feel the impact. A skilled, talented and amazing storyteller who could give her story over to an editor and simply let her publisher handle the rest, that person will not survive in this new world. A shy person who wants to avoid all social media and only wants to tell stories, will have the GREATEST challenge.
On the flip side, a less skilled, less talented storyteller who figured out that if she rigged the review system she could sell more books, has a greater chance of getting ahead. I’m not going to lie. That’s a little sad.

I read yesterday on Dear Author that there is speculation that Tammar Webber’s breakout new adult novel Easy was plagiarized. But how difficult does this all become in this new world when the biggest breakout book of 2012 was a fan fiction of Twilight. I’m sure some will debate that character stealing isn’t the same as scene stealing, but again we’re all acting on our own. There is no gate. There is no filter. Everyone into the pool and may the smartest writer win.
Buying reviews, review collusion, stealing characters, stealing scenes, stealing dialogue. All extreme measures to catch a wave of success. I’m sad for that book that I’m probably never going to read, because the author couldn’t survive in the new world. I’m worried I won’t survive either. I don’t think in terms of marketing my book. I only think in terms of writing it and that puts me behind in the race.

If traditional publishing is going to compete, they are going to have to find a way to give something to those authors who chose to remain with them otherwise in a decade, maybe two I really do see a world in which we all will self-publish.
Survival of the fittest, not survival of the most talented will succeed. And those willing to rig the system will reflect poorly on all of us.
Enough doom and gloom... it's summer. We should be optimistic.

  

10 comments:

Sinead M said...

Great blog post, Steph. It's such a difficult line to walk, because more and more Publishers are doing very little for the smaller author, at least in terms of promotion and print distribution channels are getting smaller and smaller, so at least self-publishing an author gets a bigger piece of a smaller pie.
But, how does a self-pubb'd author break through the noise to get noticed by potential readers. For that matter, how does a trad pubb'd author do so?

But you're right. Will we lose the chance to read some amazing books because we never found out about them?

Maureen McGowan said...

"By forcing the author to become her own advocate, they created a skill set that serves the self-published."

EXACTLY!!! So well said. U R smart. :)

Stephanie Doyle said...

I don't know how smart I am because after reading it back I'm not even sure I made my point.

I guess I had this belief that before you had agents/editors (professionals) picking books they thought they could sell. And for the most part everybody picked felt like they had a shot. Maybe some covers were better, maybe some go co-ops, but at the end of the day the success was going to be determined by the reader.

I just feel like after hearing about so many "tricks" self-pubs used to get themselves noticed. (Both legit and non-legit) that the readers aren't going to determine success anymore - but instead just how well the author can work the system.

I guess ultimately the readers do have to keep buying, so they have to like it enough to come back to more. But I just feel like if you're on the outside of these tricks, your book doesn't stand the same shot as others.

Eileen said...

It's a brilliant post, Steph, and I think you made your point very well.

Here's the other thing, though. THere are "tricks." Eventually, everyone will know what they are. Then what? THere will have to be new tricks. With more to learn. Finally, our energies are half spent trying to keep up on all the tricks before we even sit down to our real work: story telling.

Sigh.

Maureen McGowan said...

Yeah... it's interesting, Steph.

It's not like the publishers don't use "tricks" to game which books do better than others. But you're totally right that there's something more comforting (as an author) in thinking that the pros were deciding which books merited those marketing tricks.

Now it's about which authors are best at that stuff, rather than best at writing...

To an extent.

I do still think that readers have fallen in love with *most* of the books that have become huge bestsellers, though. The ones that don't have great writing still captured *something* that spoke to readers... Otherwise the "tricks" wouldn't work for long when the horrible customer reviews started coming in on Amazon....

And that most recent outed plagiarist might have sold a lot of books, but her book's been taken down now... And I'm hoping she has to pay her royalties back, or that Katie McGarry can sue her...

Of course, reading the excerpts on Dear Author made me sick to my stomach, because I have a "boy drawing a girl" scene in my new WIP. But I have never read McGarry. (I bought Easy... just haven't gotten around to reading it, yet.)

I might be the victim of hive mind.. But I certainly didn't lift passages from anyone's book!

Stephanie Doyle said...

Maureen - but that's different. 10 different people can write a scene about a man drawing a woman.

It's not plagiarism until you steal the words. The chunks of whole sentences lifted exactly.

And I made the same point on Dear Author. We opened a Pandora's box when the biggest book of 2012 was originally a self-pubed fan fiction of another published book.

And now the justifications start.

Well yes, it's based on someone else's characters, but it's my work and because I changed the names it's okay.

Well yes, I took the basic plot structure, with all the same plot points, but it's all my words so it's okay.

Well yes, I took some of the words but the story is different so it's okay...

Obviously plagiarism happened in publishing. Nora Roberts knows this well. But it was rare. I think it's going to be much more common. And thank goodness DA found it, but if you are a self-pubbed author, and another self-pubbed author steals your stuff, are you going to have the $$ and the time and resources to sue?

What punishment is this person going to face. Because they estimate based on her ranking she made $10K at least. If her only punishment is to take the book down, then she's laughing all the way to the bank.

Change her name, she can show up on Amazon again if she wants.

We're like the French Revolutionaries - we toppled the king, (for good reason) but now no one is in control.

Eileen said...

Maureen, I agree with Steph about the drawing scene. I mean, after all, Lionardo drew Kate in Titanic, too. It's sexy. It just is.

Steph, you're scaring me.

Stephanie Doyle said...

I'm scaring myself! But then I remember I can't control anything... but my own book.

Just keep writing books. Because you love it. That's all it's about.

Maureen McGowan said...

Re: plagiarism in this digital age... I've even heard of entire books being stolen, retitled and another cover slapped on.

It's all very scary.

And I know my boy drawing girl scene isn't an example of what you're talking about. But it still makes me feel ill when I hear a popular book has similar scene or a similar premise to mine... Even if I know I didn't copy it.

Plagiarism is terrible and the lowest a writer can stoop, I think. But another problem is that the general public doesn't even understand what it means... People accused Suzanne Collins of plagiarizing Battle Royale, just because The Hunger Games had the same premise. And Yann Martel was accused of plagiarism for The Life of Pi, because some Brazilian author also had an animals in a boat story... And remember Dan Brown's case re: The DaVinci Code?

So all these people having to fight off false charges, and meanwhile books and words are being outright stolen....

Sad.

Maureen McGowan said...

I just realized I had Katie McGarry and Tammara Webber mixed up in my comments. My brain has been on vacation this week.

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