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11 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

The other two aren't necessarily losers, Wes, most of the time they're just low margin books.  And look, they know the rules of the game when they get into it, and really it's not the writer's problem.

Hey, SW!!! Sorry for the length of what's coming... I'm gonna agree with you, BUT...

 

  1. Writers can easily make it their problem, if they make unrealistic expectations of the publishing industry. I understand that many writers just wanna write, and compartmentalize themselves away from the Real World. They're adults and can do as they like, but they can better prepare for the future if they understand the larger machine that they've chosen to become a part of. I might offer some tools to help us to look ahead, and individuals may choose to do with them what they will.
  2. Everyone in the publishing industry knew SOME of the rules of the game when they got in, but those rules are changing, fast. Many embarked aboard a stable, seaworthy ship, and now are scrambling to weather the storm, put out fires, and pump out sufficient water, to keep from sinking. The industry will certainly survive in some form, but it's seeking a new level as it sinks. We can't predict how deeply it will go, but understanding those changes may influence the decisions some writers may make.
  3. I was reeeeeeally careful to avoid any words like "losers," because the situation is more complex than that. Saying that the publisher didn't consider the books worthwhile would also include situations where the publisher could have made more by investing their money in some safe stocks or bonds. No one starts a business, taking risks and expending sweat, unless they stand to do significantly better than safe investments, which require them to do no work at all. While low margin books may be an acceptable option for some writers, they're almost poison to the publishers. And we must remember that we have a deeply symbiotic relationship with the industry; if they're not healthy, we're not either. That's a really big deal, but again, we can use that info as we wish.

A story in comparisons:

 In the early 1800's, William Proctor made tallow (animal fat) candles. With the onset of the Civil War, he added the capability to make bars of soap for the soldiers, as soap is mostly produced out of fat. He continued the soap business after the war, which was fortunate, as Mr. Edison's light bulbs ravaged the candle industry. More fortunately, Proctor had teamed-up with chemist Henry Gamble, to make fancier soaps, and while Proctor & Gamble won't sell you any candles today, they can sell you lots of soap.

 

Later in the 1800's, Richard Sears and Alvah Roebuck started a mail order company, and Sears & Roebuck became huge. With the growth of cities, they expanded into retail stores, and became the country's largest retailer. So far, S&R sounds like P&G, but...

 

While you and I remember their huge catalog, and the vast amount of merchandise we could order from it at their stores, they neglected internet sales, until it was too late. They had everything in place to have allowed themselves to morph into Amazon, before Amazon itself could have gained a foothold. They could easily have become one of the most valuable companies in the world. 

 

Instead, they're selling off parts of their business in struggles to keep the rest out of bankruptcy. Unlike P&G, they needed to stick to their roots, and keep it healthy. They backed the wrong horse.

 

This is a lesson for writers as well as publishers. The world changes, and we have to change with it. To better our chance of doing so successfully, we have to understand as much of it as we can, and right now, the waters are way too murky to see through. Nonetheless, the better our understanding, the better our chances of handling whatever comes next.

 

Again, people can do as they like, but I'd suggest at least consideriung trying to understand the mess that the industry is in.

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13 minutes ago, Wes B said:

This is a lesson for writers as well as publishers. The world changes, and we have to change with it. To better our chance of doing so successfully, we have to understand as much of it as we can, and right now, the waters are way too murky to see through. Nonetheless, the better our understanding, the better our chances of handling whatever comes next.

 

Very true! I attended an author agent presentation about 20 years ago. He summed up the publishing industry as a slow moving dinosaur, which was in reply to a question about how long it took a book to get published. That was well before Amazon & eBooks transformed self-publishing. So it's no surprise to me how the publishing industry was caught off-guard, and gutted by the self-pub revolution a few years later.

 

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12 minutes ago, Accord64 said:

So it's no surprise to me how the publishing industry was caught off-guard, and gutted by the self-pub revolution a few years later.

 

While self publishing runs some interference around the traditional publishing industry, I think what has really gutted it is a dearth of customers. If self-pub was simply taking all the business, then the brick and mortar bookstores would have continued as usual. Instead, bookstores are becoming harder and harder to find.

 

The further we look back in time, the fewer alternative forms of entertainment were available, the more reading thrived. Back before the internet offered everything, bookstores were everywhere, and the industry was holding its own. Back before video games, the number of publishers was enormous. Back before television was common in homes, the dime novel and pulp magazine industry was astounding, with new magazines appearing all the time, each hungry for author submissions to fill their pages.

 

Go into a vintage bookstore (if you can still find one...) and look at 1940's issues of Amazing Stories, and you'll find stuff so poorly written and sloppily edited, that you're transported into a world where virtually anything that was written could make money, once it was put into print. There were entire magazines like Doc Savage, that were centered around a single character, written largely by a single person! (Many authors then were in a constant NaNoWriMo mode.)

 

With reading being a primary form of entertainment, most everybody read, a lot. The myriad forms of entertainment we can choose from today are both a blessing and a curse. As writers, we may not feel as blessed as some might...

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55 minutes ago, Wes B said:

While self publishing runs some interference around the traditional publishing industry, I think what has really gutted it is a dearth of customers. If self-pub was simply taking all the business, then the brick and mortar bookstores would have continued as usual. Instead, bookstores are becoming harder and harder to find.

 

So true, @Wes B.

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1 minute ago, Wes B said:

While self publishing runs some interference around the traditional publishing industry, I think what has really gutted it is a dearth of customers. If self-pub was simply taking all the business, then the brick and mortar bookstores would have continued as usual. Instead, bookstores are becoming harder and harder to find.

 

Bookstores are becoming harder and harder to find because of operating costs (heat, rent, water) and taxation.  Having a bookstore means holding a massive amount of inventory, which if often taxed.  On demand printing and Just In Time inventory chain methods literally make most mass-market bookstores irrelevant.

 

The ironic thing is that moving to things like JIT and on demand, along with ebooks and audio books, these publishers should be making a mint.  A huge chunk of the cost to publish a book literally goes away, while having next-to-no impact on the content or quality of the product.  The cost of pre-production pretty much remains fixed.  

 

13 minutes ago, Wes B said:

The further we look back in time, the fewer alternative forms of entertainment were available, the more reading thrived. Back before the internet offered everything, bookstores were everywhere, and the industry was holding its own. Back before video games, the number of publishers was enormous. Back before television was common in homes, the dime novel and pulp magazine industry was astounding, with new magazines appearing all the time, each hungry for author submissions to fill their pages.

 

This is correct in one sense, and wrong in others.  Yeah, there are more forms of entertainment.  But take a good, long, hard look at the source of those newer forms.

 

Video games have evolved significantly from their original inception.  They include a LOT of storytelling these days, some of it good, most of it horrible.  Much of it is team play, which requires a certain amount of scheduling and organization.  So this is not a 24 / 7 thing.  This coincides with the explosion of streaming services which is, essentially, a replacement for the movies and cable.

 

Where do most of those movies come from?  Comics and books, almost exclusively.  The Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America, Justice League, the upcoming series Sandman, Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow, Dune, The Color out of Space, The Hobbit, the Narnia movie, and the list goes on and on.  While I am hesitant to say that the days of movies being original (Star Wars, Alien, Indiana Jones, Jaws) are over, it is quite evident that virtually no one in the mainstream movie studios is going to take risks on properties that don't have a fanbase behind them.  This is part of the reason why they keep doing reboots, and extending franchises well beyond the talent available to make them viable.  Star Wars is a prime example of that.

 

Many video games spawn their own book series.  Diablo was one.  Warcraft is another.  Here's a list of those:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_novels_based_on_video_games

 

Also, consider movies like Star Wars that have spawned additional video game implementations (Star Wars The Knights of the Old Republic, and so on).  These have gone one to create whole extended universes, which find their way into books and comics.  While people may know of Palpatine, Darth Vader, Dooku, and Darth Maul, there is a whole chronicle of Sith lords that span hundreds, if not thousand of years in the Star Wars legendarium.  Names like Darth Bane, Darth Plagieus, Starkiller, Revan - these all exist in comic and book form, and still are being churned out even now. 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Star_Wars_books

https://www.starwars.com/news/category/books-and-comics

 

The Alien series also created a bunch of video games, along with novelizations.  The Predator franchise as well.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Alien_(franchise)_novels

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Predator_(franchise)_novels

 

From one of the entries:

Quote

This official prequel novel leads into the new PlayStation®4 video game from IllFonic. This novel is a bridge between Predator 2 and the current day continuity.

 

Dungeons and Dragons is another one:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Dungeons_%26_Dragons_fiction

 

Then take a look at things like Creepy Pasta on YouTube (and others).  There is a ton of that content out there.

 

Stories are still being told.  Books are still being read.  Video games and movies are NOT supplanting books - they just aren't.  In fact, it's the other way around in some cases.  They are either using existing books and stories as a base, or they are opening new doors for writers to get published.

 

In my opinion, we need to stop talking like we're obsolete.  The data just isn't there, from where I'm standing.  Books are built on stories, and stories are built on ideas, not words.  And ideas never go out of fashion.  We just need to adapt.

 

And when I say adapt, we need to take Christ's message, and insert it back into the market.  But if we sit around and proclaim that the pool is dwindling, and there is nothing we can do about it, then our fates will indeed be sealed.

 

 

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27 minutes ago, Jeff Potts said:

In my opinion, we need to stop talking like we're obsolete.  The data just isn't there, from where I'm standing.  Books are built on stories, and stories are built on ideas, not words.  And ideas never go out of fashion.  We just need to adapt.

 

And when I say adapt, we need to take Christ's message, and insert it back into the market.  But if we sit around and proclaim that the pool is dwindling, and there is nothing we can do about it, then our fates will indeed be sealed.

 

Who said that?

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Let me give you a different take on that.  The world of fictional books, for the average male reader, I think, is largely dead or dying.  We just don't know it yet, and people are afraid to talk about it.  They cling to their dreams as writers, hoping for to connect with readers, but honestly, men are going away from the fiction presented in books, and I think it is a good thing.

 

Writing for men is writing for a dying market, thereby making fiction for men obsolete.  Despite the fact that the stuff I've mentioned in my long post is primarily fiction written for men.

 

Not to mention that there are "other things to do."  Indeed.  Those other things also have men reading books.

 

I'm not upset at all, by the way.

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1 minute ago, Jeff Potts said:

Writing for men is writing for a dying market, thereby making fiction for men obsolete. 

 I think you're misinterpreting me, Jeff (I'm glad you're not upset at all, by the way).  The market for men is dying precisely because of the stories we are telling.  In order to revitalize the market, we have to think, really think of what new ways there are to write.

 

We can't go on endlessly bashing traditional publishing (and ignoring indie publishers by the way) and extolling the benefits of self-publishing.  That's really boring and not the answer.  And frankly, that's the hallmark of writers who miss the mark. 

 

The answer is in the stories we tell.  How to make them more vibrant and alive so that men will want to read again.  That's really how we win them back heart and soul.  When we writers are crying out against the main stream publishers versus the self-publishers, who are we really talking to?  We've got to concentrate on writing quality fiction.  If we do that, who will care if we traditionally publish or self-publish?

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Just now, suspensewriter said:

We can't go on endlessly bashing traditional publishing (and ignoring indie publishers by the way) and extolling the benefits of self-publishing.  That's really boring and not the answer.  And frankly, that's the hallmark of writers who miss the mark. 

 

First, I'm not extolling the benefits of self-publishing.  For me to properly self-publish, I'm looking at $1,500 out of pocket, right off the bat.  Traditional publishing is less expensive, but way more selective.

 

The problem with secular traditional publishing is that they are stuck in a bubble.  They are risk-adverse, and they are chasing after stuff a huge segment of the population isn't going to read.  They are sacrificing story for agenda.  It is VERY clear to anyone who wants to see it.  Hence my Star Wars analogy.

 

And Christian publishing?  It seems to be hung-up on non-fiction, devotionals, self-help, literary, and romance.  The desire and representation for other genres is nearly non-existent.  There are a bunch of us out there who do not want to write that kind of fiction.  So, we are left to find a spot in an increasingly hostile secular publishing market.

 

The fact is, the Science Fiction and Fantasy markets are something like the 4th largest market in fiction.  Horror is #6.  Mystery and Suspense is #2.  While I don't know much about Mystery and Suspense, I can say that there is next to no one in the Christian realm that actively pursues SF/F and Horror.  Men read these, especially Science Fiction and Horror.

 

You can say I'm "missing the mark,"  but I went and researched all of this.  Some of this stuff I knew well before I joined here, some of it I learned along the way.  But the one thing I do know is that you can't say the industry is crumbling, or that the industry is losing markets, then then say in the next breath that the experts know what they are doing.  If the experts knew what they were doing, the industry would be thriving, and you wouldn't be losing market to video games (which, as I've already shown, you're really not).

 

But you know what is thriving?  The self-publishing market.

 

I'm 54 years old, and I've written software - non-stop - for nearly 30 years.  I'm an old man in a young man's game, and I can still run rings around the young whipper-snappers.  I've done that by riding trends and adapting to change wherever I could, mainly because the industry turns over every 5 years.  I know what that adaptation looks like.

 

Traditional publishing ain't adapting.  Christian publishing exists in a bubble.  While they won't go away entirely, the market will ruthlessly strip away what won't hold.  

 

58 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

If we do that, who will care if we traditionally publish or self-publish?

 

The difference between a successful author and an unsuccessful one is marketing, pure and simple.

 

You think 50 Shade of Gray was a masterpiece of storytelling?  No?  Well what separated that piece of trash from the rest of the Erotica market?  Answer: exposure and marketing.

 

The problem with self-publishing is the fact that you're left to figure out marketing for yourself.  Some do it successfully, and most do not.  You're right in that Traditional publishing offers a leg-up in marketing.  But that's only if they are really behind the product.  The rest is either word of mouth, or the author pays out of pocket.  That is the ONLY reason why I'm going down the traditional route, so the funds I would normally sink into pre-production can be funneled straight to marketing.  But if that avenue is closed to me...

 

The trend I'm seeing in Fantasy is going to change, and I want to be there when it does.  Right now they're getting literary junk food - retellings of Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and Snow White with added graphic titillation.  Dark fantasy and morally gray characters.  Markets saturate.  After a while, most people get sick of that, and will start looking for something with a little more substance.  But that ain't going to happen if a) no one will pick up my book because they're still chasing the current trend, and b) it takes nearly two years to get to market.  By then, I could be well behind the curve.  And that means I'll have to do twice as much marketing to catch up or catch on.

 

Now you can still tell me I'm wrong.  Fine.  We'll see in five years what happens.

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5 hours ago, Wes B said:

While self publishing runs some interference around the traditional publishing industry, I think what has really gutted it is a dearth of customers. If self-pub was simply taking all the business, then the brick and mortar bookstores would have continued as usual. Instead, bookstores are becoming harder and harder to find.

 

I'd have to disagree with you on this. I think self-publishing did a lot more than merely run some interference. It ushered in a new industry paradigm.

 

Three things occurred back in 2007 which reinvented and propelled self-publishing into a major industry force.

 

1. Amazon rolled out Kindle.

2. Amazon started Kindle Direct Publishing, which allowed individuals to publish and sell their eBooks on Amazon -  competing side by side with traditional publishers.

3. While Amazon purchased Createspace in 2005, they introduced expanded distribution. This allowed self-publishers to not only sell print books on Amazon (beside their eBooks), but to a wider variety of retail outlets.

 

After this, many other retailers/aggregators jumped into the new self-publishing retail model. Smashwords founded in 2008. Draft2digital started in 2012. Apple, B&N (nook), & Kobo soon jumped just after KDP launched. The "Indie goldrush" began.

 

Since then, the "Big Six" became the "Big Five," and recently the "Big Four." Along the way they swallowed up many mid-list traditional publishers, while many more folded. This was caused by numerous mid-list authors who opted to self-publish so they could keep a greater percentage of book royalties for themselves.

 

I do, however, agree with you that alternative forms of entertainment have also contributed to the decline of the traditional publishers.

 

Overall, the publishing industry keeps changing. The "indie goldrush" is long over. Everyone is struggling to find readers and build their brand. It's a tough marketplace these days.

 

3 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

We can't go on endlessly bashing traditional publishing (and ignoring indie publishers by the way) and extolling the benefits of self-publishing.  That's really boring and not the answer.  And frankly, that's the hallmark of writers who miss the mark. 

 Ouch! That was pretty insulting. 😧  

  

 

  

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@Accord64, @Jeff Potts, @lynnmosher, @Chris Brown, @Shamrock, @Wes B, @suspensewriter

 

Thank you all for sharing your information, experiences, and insights. I see that getting published is a very tough process to maneuver through.

 

I pray that you all are blessed in your writing and that Christ meets you when pen meets paper (or in this case, fingers meet keyboard).  😃

 

Blessings,

 

E.T.

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