Wednesday, February 26, 2014

New publishing

I've been really excited about the new publishing model that seems to be generating a lot of steam these days.  Here's an article on Publisher's Weekly about it (although you probably can't read it, because it's subscriber's content only.  I couldn't.)

I did, however, find an excerpt from it that was available, shown below:  "For decades, aspiring authors were taught to bow before the altar of Big Publishing. Writers were taught that publishers alone possessed the wisdom to determine if a writer deserved passage through the pearly gates of author heaven. Writers were taught that publishers had an inalienable right to this power, and that this power was for the common good of readers. They were taught rejection made them stronger. They were taught that without a publisher’s blessing, they were a failed writer.

And it was true. Without a publisher, the writer was doomed to failure, because without a publisher the writer couldn’t reach readers. Six years ago publishers controlled the three essential legs of the professional publishing stool: the printing press, the access to retail distribution, and the knowledge of professional publishing best practices. It was a print-centric world where e-books were but an inconsequential glimmer in the eyes of a few delusional hippies, me included. A writer could self-publish in print, but without retail distribution these writers were destined to fill their garages with unsold printed books, all the while lining the pockets of vanity presses who exploited their dreams of authorship....

Today, the myth of traditional publishing is unraveling. The stigma of traditional publishing is on the rise.

The author community is growing increasingly disenchanted by Big Publishing’s hard line on 25% net e-book royalties, high e-book prices, slow payouts, and insistence on DRM copy protection. The recent news of major publishers touting record e-book-powered earnings only adds insult to authors’ perceived injury.

Authors are also disappointed by Big Publishing’s misguided foray into vanity publishing with Pearson/Penguin’s 2012 acquisition of Author Solutions, a company known for selling over-priced publishing packages to unsuspecting writers. Multiple publishers have formed sock puppet imprints powered by ASI: Simon & Schuster’s Archway, Penguin Random House’s Partridge Publishing in India, HarperCollins’ Westbow, Hay House’s Balboa Press, Writer’s Digests’ Abbott Press, and Harlequin’s Dellarte Press. These deals with the devil confirmed the worst fears held by indie authors who already questioned if publishers viewed writers as partners or as chattel.

This, along with a number of other articles and posts and discussions with authors about the state of the publishing industry, speak to a very changed (and still evolving) environment that benefits both authors and readers at the expense of the middle-man.  For example, here's another fascinating post by Michael Sullivan, an author I've read a little bit of and reviewed here before:

Here's an entire series of posts on the subject:

Of course, my excitement for this new movement has been tempered by the fact that my forays into ebooks has not gone well.  Of course, I've been really cheap and only picked up (so far) Kindle books that were free, and that probably skews my experience downward.  I've read some great ebooks... but they were public doman, and I already in fact own print copies of many of them.  And then I've read--or tried to read--a number of ebooks that were the free first offerings in series with pay for sequels.  Until now, my experience there had been fairly dismal.

I freely admit that my selection process was informed more by abject cheapness than by any kind of rational process that I'd have used for books that I was buying normally, but still.  It was a sad prognosis of the state of the self-published and electronically published world that hinted that finding good material was going to be more difficult than I'd hoped, which of course, strongly argues against the movement in the first place.

I was able to break this sad streak with Jonathan Moeller's Demonsouled, a first book in a sword & sorcery series that I not only happily read from beginning to end, but enjoyed quite a bit, and will probably go on to pick up the pay-for sequels to it.  Probably (although in the meantime, I still have a lot of material to wade through.)  The book is free, and I read it on my phone's Kindle app, often while sitting around waiting so I got it in fits and spurts at times when I otherwise wouldn't have been able to read at all.

Now that I've finished it, I'm reading The Complete Works of H. P. Lovecraft, another free ebook that I picked up on Cthulhuchick's website, and then sent to my Kindle.  The title is somewhat misleading, as it doesn't actually include any of his collaborations or ghost-written stories.  Keen-eyed observers may note that on my to-read page, I show a variety of Lovecraft collections.  This suggests that I haven't read Lovecraft, which given the focus of this blog would seem very odd.  Of course, I have read an enormous quantity of Lovecraft.  I added those books because I picked them up on Amazon and hadn't ever read those copies before.  Also, because although I've read many Lovecraft stories, including many that I've read many times, I've never read all of them, and a casual glance at the table of contents of each of the volumes all show at least one story that I've never read.  So I added them.  And then I got this Kindle collection, which will make them somewhat obsolete, but still.  Included in my print copies is a volume of most of Lovecraft's collaborations and ghost-written stories, only a few of which I've read, as well as a good collection of Mythos stories by other early Mythos writers.

And actually, my "relationship" with Lovecraft is much more complicated and complex than merely saying that I'm a fan.  I've often claimed that he's my favorite terrible writer, and that I like many of his stories in spite of themselves, not because they're so good.  On the one hand, the idea of horrible, alien monstrosities, lurking just below the surface, an entire "secret history" that invalidates everything we think we know about science, philosophy and more, are all right up my alley. On the other hand... Cthulhu himself is kinda limp, if you think about it. I mean, he just sleeps all the time, lurking at the bottom of the sea. Apparently, if he rises, rather than it being the apocalyptic end times, all you have to do is thump him on the head with a boat. Many of the rest of the ideas in Lovecraft's corpus, as well as that of his imitators, is similarly just silly rather than scary. Non-Euclidean geometry? Huh? I suppose that's scary if I have to remember any parabolic or hyperbolic calculus, but otherwise, so what?  The Hounds of Tindalos live in the angles of time rather than the curves? Wha...? Even the Elder Things, in "At the Mountains of Madness" are surprisingly humanized and robbed of any "tooth" when it comes to being frightening. This "masterpiece" starts of great and atmospheric, and then completely falls apart under its own weight, so you almost have to read between the lines to actually get a good story out of it.  And all of this, of course, says very little about Lovecraft's writing craft, which often rendered his works anticlimactic and faintly humorous despite his intentions.  The finale of "Dagon" in particular comes to mind, although it's not a unique failure.

In fact, that is so often a failure of his monsters and horrors that it's almost a running joke.  They're just not really horrible.  You can't not eventually have a reveal of your monster--that's kind of the whole point from a reader's point of view of reading a monster/supernatural horror story.  And yet, Lovecraft either sidestepped it on occasion, or more likely, had disappointing and anti-climatic monsters that were limp and silly when actually revealed.  Acute angles that behaved as if they were obtuse angles just isn't a scary concept.  It's a silly one.  Plus, horror works because it stimulates the imagination (over-stimulates it, possibly) and it's a bit hard to actually imagine these weird angles in a building.

No doubt, he was on to something--and later writers and fans could sense it--but somehow he failed in his execution.  He grasped and something perpetually out of his reach.  But we, as readers, could sense in a way, what he was grasping at and applaud the effort--and want to see it somehow successfully reached by someone.  So we keep coming back for more.

1 comment:

Joshua Dyal said...

Another selection of the PW article. A bit of overlap.