I have a business plan. It's a nice and neat dissertation on the past, present, and future of the publishing industry. I wrote it three years ago, before I started all of this. It has a Gap Analysis, and a Fulfillment Analysis, and a Stakeholder Analysis, and...what's that? You don't care? Good. You shouldn't. It wasn't for you anyway, it was for me. Business ventures are strange beasts; they take a ton of work and planning, but the way you can tell if they're on the right track or not is if they don't look planned or overworked.
When I left you last I was saying how I thought I could smack it out of the park to begin with. Overconfidence is a hallmark of MBAs, and it's annoying, but it's also necessary. One of the things I did do right all those years ago was just to jump in the pool and start swimming. I didn't drown (or at least haven't yet) for a few reasons: The first is an unwavering belief that just doing it is vastly preferable to milling about the shore, fretting and frittering, dipping a toe in every now and then but scampering away; few things are as annoying to me as over-preparedness.
The second reason I'm still standing is because of the nature of the publishing industry itself. Crazy, insane things are happening in publishing. Ground breaking things. The renaissance that is happening now in publishing has been compared to the creation of the printing press, accurately.
Here's how publishing used to go:
1.) You write a book. This may take many months, or many years. You pour your soul into that book, and your time, and (in some cases) your money. You edit that book and belabor every comma and the nature of every metaphor. You stay up late wondering if your characters have the right names. You have nightmares about dialogue tags and proper subject/verb agreements. In short, you're a mess, but in the end you have a finished manuscript that you are secretly enormously proud of.
2.) You submit that book to agents that you've researched.
3.) You never hear back from any of those agents.
4.) You return to your job at Dunkin' Donuts.
Yeah, yeah, I know it turns out differently for one in a million people. Excuse me if I don't break out the champagne. Now, here is what has happened in the past couple of years in publishing.
1.) You write a book, this may take months or even years or blah blah blah...that you are enormously proud of.
2.) You may decide to query agents, but you realize that you no longer have to because...
3.) You can also decide to self publish and get distributed through all of the same outlets as a traditionally published author, save perhaps the brick and mortar stores like Borders and Barnes and Noble. You know the one's I'm talking about? No? Well, they used to be everywhere but they're all closing.
What has happened here is that whereas once the barriers to publishing were agents and publishing houses, now they are you. That's right. Just you. The only thing keeping your work from the world is yourself.
Fortunately, it's as easy as it looks, at least for ebooks. If you have a word document of your manuscript you can convert it in five minutes and have it for sale online through Barnes and Noble and Amazon in 24 hours.
Unfortunately, it's as easy as it looks, at least for ebooks. If you have a garbled mess of a piece-of-junk manuscript that's essentially one long run on sentence about a man/unicorn love story, you can convert it in five minutes and have it for sale online through Barnes and Noble and Amazon in 24 hours.
And there we have the crux of the debate about the legitimacy of self-publishing. But that debate doesn't really matter, because like it or not, here it comes. To the tune of hundreds of thousands of books a month.
There are those of the opinion that all the new way serves to do is open the sewers and flood the market with crap. These people have a strange, aristocratic loyalty to the old way, and argue that agents were doing just fine picking out the winners and pitching them to the houses. I don't buy it. I say if the agents were finding one diamond amongst ten thousand pieces of coal, if you flood the general market with tons of coal, the consumer will find thousands of diamonds themselves.
So how do you distinguish yourself? How do you turn your piece of coal into a diamond and get it in front of everyone? That's what I hope this blog helps to illuminate. My company will use our resources to publish some of the great stuff overlooked every year by the major houses, we'll take on projects that we feel create real, lasting experiences for readers and we'll package them and market them and we'll tell you how we do it: What pitfalls to avoid, what worked for us, and what didn't. We'll tell you this in the hopes that you buy our books, sure, but also so that you can, should you want to, better publish yourself.
Don't you see? We're a publishing company that is trying to tell you that you don't need a publishing company anymore.
This might sound crazy, but it's the way it is. The boat has sailed. There ain't no train comin' back. This changing role is a reality that the publishing industry is going to have to come to terms with, or risk becoming slowly irrelevant, like that that huge book store in the strip mall down your street. The one that they turned into a Best Buy, and then turned into a foreign supermarket, and then boarded up altogether.