The Permanent Floating Publishing Apocalypse

August 9, 2010

Cue REM.

Dorchester Publishing looks at its bottom line and decides OMG we can’t afford to do this anymore, switches to e-publishing launching the Greek Chorus chantingdeath of print, death of print.”

This is premature for a number of reasons. (Not the least of which is the technical reasons I listed in an earlier blog post.)  But the primary one is the fact that this maneuver wasn’t an attempt to make money, it’s a last ditch effort to stop hemorrhaging and keep the doors open.  As such, it probably has a 50/50 chance of staving off bankruptcy.  It has little, if anything, to do with e-publishing vs. print.  It is a desperate attempt to cut costs, which may in fact backfire if the authors who are being screwed (and getting e-pubbed with a print royalty is being screwed) decide to start with the lawsuits.  This is only an indicator of the death of print insofar as it is a marker of the financial health of the publishing industry. . . And I think someone somewhere might have noticed that we’re in a major recession where just about every industry across the board is suffering from sudden overcapacity, red ink, and the need to downsize.  Everything’s readjusting, and everything is volatile.

If you’re a writer my suggestion to weather the economic storm is the following:

  1. Grow relationships with as many publishers as possible.
  2. Hang on to every subsidy right as you can (foreign sales, audio, e-pub).
  3. Avoid committing to projects with deadlines more than 18 months out.
  4. Get the option clause as narrow as you can (i.e. strike out “right to see next book,” in favor of “right to see next urban fantasy,” or even better “right to see next series title featuring this particular protagonist.”)
  5. Get as much money up front as you can.

Bottom-line: Negotiate every contract as if the company is going into Chapter 11 tomorrow and all your future contact is going to be with a court-appointed lawyer who doesn’t particularly like you or your agent.


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