James JosephWriting can be difficult and it can be fun. Here, I can write about anything that comes to mind, modern or ancient. I hope you'll join in with your comments.

June 1, 2009

New Fiction Will Be Dominated By The Internet

The internet has had a phenomenal impact on publishing houses. Most people already realize that many newspapers are struggling and converting to online news centers. Likewise, magazines are becoming more expensive, and losing circulation as they’re replaced by web-based counterparts. For these two venues, the cause is related to advertising revenue.  For publishing houses, the problem is related to marketing avenues, choice, and control.

Knowing how publishing companies work (or, have had to work in order to succeed) is key to understanding their “devaluation” in the internet age. Typically, major publishers do not publish fiction that falls outside of mainstream genres. They prefer romance, mysteries, historical novels, science fiction, fantasy, detective and a few other very limited categories. In fiction, publishing companies do not necessarily choose their authors and books for originality, or even the quality of the writing. They choose fiction based on how well it fits into their marketing programs.

For instance, science fiction must fit into a certain formula that appeals to a small but predictable audience. These novels must get good reviews in a number of sci-fi magazines in order to sell at a profitable level. This is due to the way business works. In literature, there’s a reversal of value from concept to sale. To demonstrate this, the author who comes up with the concept and writes the entire novel gets the smallest share. Next, the publishing company that edits the novel, lays it out, creates the bookcover, pays for the printing, and markets the new novel, gets a larger share. Next, the distributors that send the books out to retailers get a very sizable share. And the largest share in the sale of any book? That goes to the store that puts it on their shelf and sells it.

As you can see, the books you end up with are those that have a marketing and sales avenue from beginning to end. As a reader of fiction, you end up with an endless stream of the same stories told in different styles with different characters. Readers have to wait for mutations and fiction-evolution to slowly get new material.

Consider the murder mystery novel. Most of us would be shocked if a murder occured within our own personal circle. Yet, we expect a murder and solution as to how it was conceived or hidden in one of these novels as part of the entertainment. At one time, this was shocking and new in the publishing world. That was way back in time, when quality writing and originality were of great value. But now, it’s a form of entertainment, because a marketing avenue was developed.

It does seem quite strange as to how it would become normal for a human being to read stories about murders, and buy them on a regular basis. And, it’s not just the novel. It goes on to movie and television rights. Many of the most popular television shows revolve around murder and deception. If you think about it, it’s very similar to what most would consider the very gruesome and barbaric “games” played out in the Colliseum during the height of the Roman Empire.

The internet is now having it’s way with Publishers in the same way it has with Newsprint and Magazines. It’s changing everything. It’s eroding the heirarchy. Authors can now have their own books printed … one at a time … no high upfront costs, no waste. They can hire an internet marketing firm on a very reasonable budget. Or, they can market their book themselves. And, they can sell their books from their own web site. Indefinitely. Most large publishers will mothball a book if it doesn’t succeed in the first year.

It seems we’re coming to a time when authors will most often become their own publishing company. Consider that most publishing companies are not interested in what the author writes best unless it fits neatly into their marketing program. Consider that a first time author must limit the size of their first novel, whether it fits their style or not. Consider that all the things a publishing house used to do can now be done by the author, with less money up front, and practically no overhead. My guess is that the publishing industry is extremely vulnerable right now. And, readers are in a position where they’ll have an infinite selection of fiction, but no guarantee of quality. But, we’ve lost that anyway.

It is the authors who rise to the top on their own that will truly make it in the coming years. In the near future, publishers will become obsolete, and broken down into specialists. Internet rights will become more important than book, television and movie rights as we move into an age where just about all of these mediums will be controlled by your computer. Good or bad, big changes are coming, and most are already in motion.


2 Comments

  1. Very good points, and I tend to agree. I am “web publishing” my own fiction. While my writing is technically future science fiction, the setting involves mostly ancient style technology. My latest project, a short “facebook style” of fiction involves a hunter with a boleadora — you can read it in only a couple of minutes here: http://tinyurl.com/lr6bpc

    Comment by Robinson Mason — June 25, 2009 @ 2:21 pm

  2. I enjoy this site, it is worth me coming back

    Comment by Kelli Garner — September 29, 2009 @ 8:40 am

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