Friday, March 19, 2010

Random Thoughts on a Friday

No time for random thoughts? Ha! All my thoughts have been random this week!

Actually, the biggest thing on my mind has been the future of publishing, not simply my own publishing, although that's there too, but the big picture as well. So many writers wonder about e-books, about digital publishing, about self-publishing...what will happen to us? Will we continue to publish? Will the internet be the Great Equalizer? Will there be publishing houses with marketing budgets and so on to support us?

Here are some of my random thoughts on the subject:

1. We're looking at the wrong model. Everyone has been pointing to the music industry as an example of what could happen to books and writers: authors posting music for free on YouTube or selling for a buck a song on iTunes and then making money back on t-shirt sales and live appearances. Instead, look to the film industry and screenwriting. Back in the early 80s when computers were hitting the marketplace and there were software programs like Final Draft, everyone thought they could be a screenwriter. Pros were worried the crap would flood the marketplace and overwhelm the good stuff. Well, 20 years later, has it? No. Big movies are still financed in big ways but the rise of the independent filmmaker has meant smaller movies get seen too.

This is what will happen with publishing: the big houses will continue to support the (few) big authors and their books but we will see more indie presses going digital - saves money on printing that they can use to promote books.

2. Agents will be with us for a long time. As with big film studios, big publishing houses will lay off workers, simple as that, as they struggle to streamline. They already have and they will continue to do so. They still will publish and they still need gatekeepers. These are the agents who will continue to sift through the flotsam of manuscripts and proposals to find the gems.

This is what will happen with publishing: houses will declare a no-slush policy across the board and agents will be more important than ever in discovering new talent.

3. Follow the Slamdance model. Sure there are the big film festivals like Cannes and Sundance but all over the world, in small towns and large, there are film events that allow indie filmmakers to present their wares. A small film that might not get noticed at Austin might get some acclaim in Akron. The same is true of books: smaller book fairs can promote smaller books and debut authors who could go on to bigger and better things.

This is what will happen with publishing: more authors will be discovered in smaller towns' festivals and their books can then be promoted on the web, rather than with big marketing plans.

4. Lose the stigma of self-pubbing. When I lived in NYC, I worked on a bunch of films that were independently financed: money from friends and family, shot in a short time with non-union crews. Some of those scripts were utter junk while some were terrific and the directors went on to do bigger things. But no one batted an eye when you said where the money came from. The goal was to make a good movie. This is like self-publishing. Who cares if the book is good, right?

This is what will happen with publishing: the wheat will be separated from the chaff by the public.