Home » Big Publishing, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, The Business of Writing » Buggy Whips, Pollsters, Collisions, and Us

Buggy Whips, Pollsters, Collisions, and Us

29 February 2016

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I’ve been very frustrated in the last several weeks because some of my preconceptions got blown out of the water. I’ve been dealing directly with some traditionally published writers for various projects, and some of the things I’ve encountered have been head-shaking. I’ll be blogging about a few of those things in the future, with the names changed to protect the—innocent? Ignorant?—I’m not sure which label to use.

Suffice to say some of the things I’ve run into are simply and completely unbelievable to me, in 2016.

At the same time, I’m being approached by a number of traditionally published writers who believe they will never get another book deal, and their careers are ruined forever. Ruined! They’re lowering themselves to consider self-publishing, and are wondering if I can tell them how to do it, step by step. They get peeved when I show them entire books on the subject, not just mine and Dean’s, but several other books.

And then there are the writers who are giving up their writing careers entirely, because they can’t sell another book traditionally, and they have been told by the agent who helped them self-publish their books that the books aren’t selling because of piracy.

. . . .

I got so frustrated with one writer recently that I had to walk away from my computer. The writer’s career was hurt by theft, but the theft wasn’t the pirating site she had found: it was her agent.

But I’m not going to say that in e-mail, although I did point her to several blogs I wrote about agents and agent agreements and how easy it is for a middleman to embezzle and/or not send royalties she doesn’t know she’s entitled to, particularly when she signed documents letting the agent get all the paperwork.

. . . .

One writer actually said that they believed there was no way Dean or I could have been telling the truth about the terrible contracts, the bad royalty statements, and which companies/agents to avoid. So that writer decided to test all of that out themselves. And then ran to us when that writer’s career imploded a second time, all because they had done the opposite of what we said.

. . . .

If writers want to earn a long-term living in fiction these days, the best way—and I’m beginning to think the only way—is to go indie.

. . . .

This week, the all of the realizations that came to me were about how difficult it is to dismantle a worldview even if it’s in someone’s best interest to do so. Even when the evidence is so overwhelming that it should be (note I said “should be”) impossible to ignore.

. . . .

Most people don’t seem to have the ability to step back, see change, and extrapolate what that change means. They are able to see the change. They might even know it’s massive. But they can’t figure out how that change will impact them even as it is impacting them.

. . . .

Writers who came of age after ebooks surged already have a different perspective on the publishing world than those of us raised in a monolithic publishing environment, where the path to publishing was so set that Dean and I could teach it in role-playing game form and be relatively certain our game mimicked the world exactly.

. . . .

We hurried to the new technology and struggled to understand it. Most of the writers in the world ignored it completely, letting their traditional publishers and agents tell them how the system “actually” worked.

That perspective was filtered through the ancient infrastructure by people who wanted to lasso sunlight. I keep thinking of it this way: It’s as if these people are hitting their Model A automobiles with a buggy whip in order to make the cars go faster.

. . . .

Does that mean I believe paper books will go away? Heavens, no. I think they’re a good technology, unlike, say, CDs. Paper books will be around for a very very long time—which is why some of this stuff I’m reading about the music industry does not apply.

But traditional publishers? Their portion of the industry will depend entirely on how quickly they can dump that lasso-the-sunlight model they have in their heads and can actually work within the world as it exists now.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Big Publishing, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, The Business of Writing

13 Comments to “Buggy Whips, Pollsters, Collisions, and Us”

  1. Adapt or die. They just don’t think it means ‘them’ too …

  2. I like this pearl of wisdom:

    You can lead a writer to knowledge but you can’t make her think.

    Although to my kids I’ve boiled this down to: “Advice given is worthless; advice taken is priceless.” (With the unspoken caveat that the advice is actually any good in the first place.)

  3. Definitely recommend the book about the music business she mentioned– Ripped. I read it close to the time it came out– actually listened to it– and I thought it was interesting to compare the throes the music business went through and what was happening in the ebook business.

    • @ Arachne

      On Amazon, the ebook price is $9.99. A used hardback is one penny. Of course, shipping is extra, but still…

      TradPub agency & e-book pricing is doomed, IMHO.

  4. Doing the opposite of what you said. Yes, indeed. Years ago, I was a systems administrator at a big insurance company in Denver. We got the Melissa Virus, and I was tasked with figuring out where it came from and then getting rid of it. I found the source (not as hard as you’d think.) I asked the person why they’d opened it after we sent warnings to everybody. “I wanted to see what would happen!”

    “So,” I thought almost out loud, “how’d that work out for ya?”

    Curiosity is a good thing, right? Right?

    Thanks for the smile.

    By the way, I am thinking Indie big time these days, for the reasons you cite, and maybe some others. Hey, if you don’t try something, you’ll never know if it works, right? Say, is that the same logic that . . .

  5. This blog post tangentially points to a problem of world views. If you are not primed to “see” something or you you don’t have enough context to understand it, you won’t “get it” even if it hits you in the head. When Columbus discovered the “New World,” the natives literally couldn’t see the large ships anchored in the distance. They had no frame of reference for “ships.” From their point of view, the vessels could just as easily have been flying saucers.

    And we humans don’t like change. Once we believe in something or something has worked for us once or twice or ten times, it becomes hard to adapt and change. Change is uncomfortable, difficult to accept and requires hard work. And some folks just aren’t as entrepreneurial as others. They need to fit into “the system.”

    It’s easy for us indie-folks to discount the amount of information that one needs to assimilate and digest to understand what is going on in publishing. The amount of information I picked up from this blog alone over the course of a few years is amazing. And then there’s Author Earnings. Some people see this type of information and literally turn away from it. They’re not interested, it’s all baloney. If indies were any good, they’d all be with the Big Five.

    And finally there is the nuts and bolts of putting the book together in the right ascii-html format and researching the right software and learning how to use it. It is second nature to me and it’s easy for me to say “anybody can do it.” But maybe it just ain’t that easy for everybody.

    Indies are special people. Not everybody knows what we know and not everybody can do what we do.

    • Not everybody knows what we know and not everybody can do what we do.”

      I run into that almost very day.

  6. Producers who cannot prosper in a changed market will go do something else.

    New entrants who can prosper will take their places.

    Consumers won’t notice.

  7. “Ripped” for Kindle, $12.99. I don’t wanna be the one ripped, thanks. Too high a price for an e-book. Thanks anyway, Simon & Schuster.

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