In Response to Kristen Lamb’s “An Industry on the Brink”

Kristen Lamb‘s “An Industry on the Brink—Five Mistakes that are Killing Traditional Publishing” got my gears a’turning. Want my humble opinion?

I think publishers must reach a delicate balance for effectiveness in a digitally driven world, which is why I enjoyed reading this article. Ms. Lamb’s points about traditional publishers are spot on, and everything she mentioned makes complete sense to me.

However, while I do agree traditional publishers must make some changes in the way they do business and quit stomping their feet like tantrum-having children, I don’t necessarily think they are on their way out if they don’t change. People will still want quality books by professional authors.

I’m a fan of traditional publishing. Granted, I’m just starting out and I’m really only going on what I’ve heard from other writers/authors, but it seems to me that the more (inexperienced/uneducated/uncommitted) authors self-publish, the more readers will think, “Those books suck. I’m going to buy a real book from an author who knows how to write well.”

Now, I’m not so naïve to think e-publishing is superfluous. We live in a digital age where it’s just so darn easy to click the ‘Buy Now’ button. But, how many of these readers will buy the next book from an author who didn’t invest their time or money in a professional editor or cover designer? Who wants to read crap? I certainly don’t, which is why I favor the traditional route—it’s automatically built into the model.

Now, I want to clarify, I know e-publishing and self-publishing are two completely different dead horses to beat, but I am also aware that they tend to go hand in hand. One doesn’t typically think, “I’m going the traditional publishing route so I don’t have to e-publish.” You can go the traditional route and still e-publish. But one also doesn’t automatically think, “I’m going to self-publish because I want to see my books in print.” That just doesn’t happen, or it does–but for the wrong reasons. If you’re self-publishing these days, then you are e-publishing. True, there is the Print-On-Demand thing. But, it seems to me that this is just an after-thought; it gets thrown in the package of e-publishing.

One other thing pops into my mind—what writer really wants to use enormous amounts of energy for marketing and promotion? It seems to me the more energy you put into something, the less time you have for other things, like writing. (Thanks, mom, for pointing this out.) While I do understand the value of self-promotion, I don’t wish for it to consume my life. Writing already does that, thank you very much.

I’m a big fan of community before commerce, and I must look into Ms. Lamb’s books. I have so much to learn about the writing/publishing world and I’m sure her wisdom will prove instrumental.

What are your thoughts on e-publishing vs. traditional publishing?

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Categories: Musings, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “In Response to Kristen Lamb’s “An Industry on the Brink”

  1. I’ve been having this same struggle- trad pub vs epub/small pub. I’m staying away from self-publishing because while it IS possible for a self-published author to actually produce fantastic work, it cost more money than I can afford (hiring an editor, layouts, book design, plus if you want a print run, reformatting and printing costs).

    I’d initially thought trad pubbing would be the way to go. After all, I’m not in this to make money, or at least not a living. I’m vain. I freely admit it. I want to walk into a bookstore and point and jump and say Ha! That’s MY BOOK! ON A BOOKSHELF! For the most part, traditional publishing is what would get me on store shelves. Sure, there are some indie bookstores (POWELL’S!) that might put in a small order with a small publisher, particularly if it’s a local author, but it’s not quite the same.

    Then I started taking a look at the works I was producing and I realized, for a few of them, traditional publishing was just not happening. They’re too short. And after I sat and thought about it, I began to research epublishers, or publishers that do ebook first, print run second. I plan on querying them directly, because I keep running into this issue where agents take one look at the word count and pass.

    And keep in mind just because a book is from a traditional publisher doesn’t mean it’s quality work. And that’s aside from the books that get hyped and turn out to be disappointing (and therefore are bad). I can think of one imprint for a major house who’s proven to be just as money-grubbing as the rest of them, and released a book that’s been widely criticized as poorly written and is STILL flying off the shelves (can you guess which one I’m talking about? 🙂 )

    I feel like for a noob like me, epubbing my first couple of efforts would be worthwhile. The royalties are higher, and having a backlist makes people want to look at me, at least in theory, and pushes sales. The higher the demand, the more likely a primarily ebook publisher or small publisher is to lay out funds for a large print run.

    • Hi, Amanda,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I suppose there is no right or wrong answer on this debate, only the right one for each person, or for each book.

      I enjoyed getting your feedback and learned a little more about the publishing world.

      And yes, I think I know to whom you are referring. I’m pretty sure I bought the book. 🙂

  2. Great post, Stacie. You’re not alone with the fear of self-promotion consuming the important writing time. Luckily there can be a balance between social media and writing, with the latter always getting the biggest slice of the time pie. Kristen Lamb’s books offer great advice on how to make this work.

    After all, social media is a necessary part of even a traditionally published writer’s life.

    And it starts in the querying phase. Most agents search you on Google. If you don’t have a blog and a Facebook and Twitter account, you will likely lose to someone who also has a promising book concept AND a presence online. You have a headstart here with this blog 🙂

    Then when you get a publishing deal, you’ll realize how little the Big 6 helps out with marketing. Only the biggest names get help from a publicist. For first time authors they might send out some ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) to reviewers and book bloggers but that’s pretty much it.

    The rest is up to your marketing footwork.

    And your next book, and the next after that. Because a writing career is a marathon, not a sprint. Most successful self-published writers are a proof: they are the folks who have a back-list and name recognition through that.

    • Thanks, Reetta. You have a great blog; I bookmarked it. Fantasic advice.

      I’m still searching for the balance. I haven’t read Kristen’s books yet, but they’re on my to-do list. She seems like a lady that has got her shit together (Please excuse my language–I’m working on this too).

      Thanks so much for your comment. I thoroughly enjoy hearing other authors’ experiences. I realize I have a long way to go, and I appreciate getting input from folks who either have been there or are there.

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  4. Hi Stacie, I have to admit that I’m not against self-publishing, so long as the standard is kept high. Also I don’t believe being traditionally published guarantees a high quality of writing. I’ve read some books recently with atrocious sentence structure and dreadful grammar. That said, I put up with it because the content was good. It was the kind of story I wanted to read.

    As you say, some people consider self-pubbing the quick, easy route to success. I know other authors considering it because the stories they write don’t fit neatly into a publisher’s peg. I’m a member of RWAus and I know one of the authors had several books written – all rejected by publishers – until that genre became vogue and suddenly they couldn’t get their hands on them fast enough.

    So it seems it’s not just a matter of writing well and writing a good story, your genre needs to be what publishers are seeking. Unless I suppose it’s an exceptionally well written, entertaining work.

    And I wholeheartedly agree with you on the time factor. I’m an author not a publicist. We had this discussion recently on an e-loop of which I’m a member. The consensus seems to be, go with what you’re comfortable with. A debut author scheduled time and money aside to add to the promotion her publisher’s were doing. A NYTBS said she’d hardly done any self-promotion and that word of mouth got her books sold.

    Then there’s the quality of the publisher. Should you go with a small press simply because they’ve accepted your ms? Will it be best for your career?

    So many things to contemplate… At the moment I’m just concentrating on writing the best darn story I can. 🙂

    • So very true–traditional publishers don’t necessarily mean great writing. I hadn’t given this much thought until now. Good point. Actually, that’s partly why I started writing again in the first place; I read a book and thought I can do way better than this.

      You have another great point about not fitting neatly into a publisher’s peg. I must admit I’ve worried about this a bit. I suppose I’ll never know for sure which way it will go until I try one way or the other.

      Yes, there are A LOT of things to contemplate, but like you, I will do most of that after I finish writing the ‘best darn story I can.’

  5. Author Kristen Lamb

    Yes, Stacie, I agree there is a lot of junk but there are also a lot of REALLY GOOD writers defecting. There are some aggressive indie houses that have got serious game and they are luring away the mid-list authors because New York isn’t taking very good care of them. Stonehouse Ink. is one indie that is chock-full of award-winning authors, authors who were best-sellers in traditional publishing before they got fed up and left. If you look at their website, the covers are just as good as anything coming out of NY and the writing is just as good, too.

    One of Stonehouse’s new authors is an award-winning writer who used to be an agent AND an editor for Doubleday, J.L. Fishman. Stonehouse has superlative quality in every sense and they are going to take up the slack if NY doesn’t get its act together and update.

    I think we are in a time of transition and NY’s resistance to changing is causing it to hemorrhage talent. They can only rely on the Sandra Brown’s so long. The mega authors of tomorrow come from the mid-list and they are about to defect in droves. There are NYTBSAs like Bob Mayer, Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, etc. who all write very good books and who are now self-published.

    Within the next year to two years, readers are going to figure out which indie authors are good and also which indie houses are putting out great material. This is sort of like the dot.com era. We had the BOOM, the BUST and then we did business with the tough dogs that remained.

    Same here. Publishing is being redefined, but NY needs to get on it if they still want to be part of the picture. I do feel many readers want quality and the Big Six do have a brand that we can trust, but they have so much cost, they can’t pay writers very well. And when writers–good writers with a brand and a reputation—find out that they can make FIVE times what they used to make, AND get paid quarterly and on time instead of having to get an agent to beat up a publisher to PAY them what they MADE? Won’t take long for writers to do the math.

    I know a lot of people want the trads to stay, but if you want to make any money at this writing thing, they aren’t necessarily the best choice. And, as gas prices rise, they are incurring more and more and more costs and the writer is the last to get paid. There is a lot of expensive overhead that goes into the price of each book. They need to change this and they need to start treating writers better and paying them better.

    • Hi, Kristen,

      Thank you for replying. I very much enjoy getting input from authors more in-the-know than I am. You left me with a lot to think about. (That’s a good thing.)

      I must admit I haven’t given indie houses much thought; I didn’t know to think about them, actually. They definitely sound worth looking into.

      I agree with you about the time of transition we’re in. Is it wrong for me to hope so many people will want to e-pub that traditional publishers will be eager for new talent and that I will manage to squeak my way in? 😉 I suppose not so much if they do go bankrupt…

      I’m still looking into your WANA concept, but so far I’m loving it.

      Thanks again!

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