May
26
2012

#rsrh The publishing industry keeps missing the point.

In the process of noting the bizarre nature of the publishing industry (throwing fundraisers for the President whose administration is suing them*), the National Journal makes this comment:

Consider Robert Caro, who just released The Passage of Power, the latest in his Pulitzer Prize-winning multivolume biography of Lyndon B. Johnson. It is project that Caro has been working on for close to 40 years. Before that, Caro won a Pulitzer for The Power Broker, a biography of urban planner and developer Robert Moses.

Caro had to sell his house to get the money to finish The Power Broker, and without the advances and editorial support given him by the Knopf publishing company, he could never have taken on the challenge of capturing a figure like Lyndon Johnson, with all his rich complexities.

If the publishing industry collapses, will Amazon or Apple pay the kind of advances that allow a writer like the young Robert Caro to tackle such an ambitious project, with no guarantee of success?

I dunno.  Do they like money?  Because if those companies don’t have the elementary business sense to encourage new authors – particularly somebody who will eventually write a book like The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, which is currently #20 on Amazon – then some company will come along that does, and who then proceed to kick the first companies’ butts.  It’s all part of this new “free-market capitalism” thing: it’s pretty radical.  The publishing industry should check it out.

Seriously: I’m tired of people, companies, and entire industries not even making a pretense towards trusting the market.  Here is a brutal truth: I have a basic expectation out of the publishing industry.  I want good books at the cheapest possible price.  I am also not interested in subsidizing the portions of the publishing industry that do not actually make a profit.  These two factors, combined, are why I buy more and more books in electronic form: either on the Kindle, or via companies like Baen Books.  If the publishing companies do not like that, that is their problem, not mine: while I understand that cartels are quite naturally concerned whenever something comes up that could disrupt that cartel, I am not actually sympathetic.

Put another way: the publishing industry is using a 19th Century model in the 21st. It truly sucks that they are abruptly noticing that said model isn’t working, but: evolve, or die.

(Via somebody or other; I had my browser crash.)

Moe Lane

PS: Full disclosure: I am an Amazon.com affiliate for Maryland.

*Strictly business, on both sides.  Nothing personal.

5 Comments

  • BigGator5 says:

    The publishing industry will never truely collapse. Just take on a different form if current publishing companies collapse.

  • Bruce says:

    “Caro had to sell his house to get the money to finish The Power Broker”

    Why? If he released it on Kindle, may he would only have needed to sell his car. Or TV.

    Why do you need to sell your house to publish one book?

  • acat says:

    http://www.webscription.net. Free samples. (and then there’s the free library…)

    Yeah.

    Mew

  • Murgatroyd says:

    If the publishing industry collapses, will Amazon or Apple pay the kind of advances that allow a writer like the young Robert Caro to tackle such an ambitious project, with no guarantee of success?
    Two thoughts:
    *This is the sort of thing that Kickstarter is already handling rather well.
    * In the past, the people who ran Big Publishing gave lavish advances to authors who were Important People, or who were friends of people in the publishing industry, or who had already written best-sellers, or who were writing Liberal Politics Affirmations. Other authors … not so much.

  • Anotheridea says:

    Can anyone really explain why it takes 40 years to write a 4 volume set on one individual? What can be said in 4,000 pages could probably also be said in less, with little loss of veracity or necessary detail.

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