Sunday, December 2, 2012

Trends in Publishing

Publishers started out many, many years ago hand copying great books, stitching them and encasing them in leather with gold leaf. Beautifully bound they would last for generations and be passed down because of their superb story, writing and obvious care that went into the creation of the novel. Since then the printing press was created, books went from leather bound to hard copy, to soft copy. Though on the outside this may seem a shame that the original glory of the written word held in such high acclaim was reduced to a throw away copy, it in fact allowed the economies of scale and production to take hold allowing all classes and income levels to enjoy books when before it was an elitist past time.
We saw a huge decrease in illiteracy, the search for knowledge was held back only by ones desire to learn and not income level, the knowledge of others customs and religions were free and open for all to investigate. Science, the arts, everything in fact became literally an open book. First papers, then TV and radio narrowed the time it took to disseminate information to a wide audience and then the internet was created thus essentially eliminating the time lag of information.
Through the last fifty years though the book has remained the last bastion of reflective thought, contemplation, a quiet evening spent with oneself  reading a great story wrapped in wonderful prose. It has always been the careful years spent writing the perfect novel, ones sole displayed on the page for all to see that has so enraptured readers from the beginning.
We are now at a crossroads as to where the modern novel will eventually find itself. Some unscrupulous publishers for a price will sell authors the illusion, the dream of being a great author having an author website without proper editing, design, layout and guidance on how to improve their manuscript.
 Thomas Wolfe, one of the great American writers would show up to his book editor with a million word manuscript that would have to be pieced together and whittled down to readable hundred and twenty thousand words. Upon asking to edit a page he would return days later with another thirty thousand words to replace only fifty. F Scott Fitzgerald would go years unable to write while pleading for an advance on a book editing not yet started, constantly to be prodded and coached by his editor back to a productive mental state. The point is, even the truly great authors need an editor.
There's been a trend for e-businesses calling themselves publishers to outsource everything overseas including their editing, which works little better than if you simply hit your spell check, no offense to those working overseas but it would be no different than my editing a French novel. Mon français est. très malle. You don't need to go into very many author's forums or discussion groups before you are inundated by authors with horror stories, thousands of dollars spent and two books sold. 
If poor editing continues the e-book market will find itself in decline before it's had a chance to take-off. Readers will stop purchasing self-published novels, the publishing house will be forced to hire editors before each book is published to try and win readers back, prices will be pushed up and once again the industry will begin to be closed to many authors due to high entry costs.
For the e-book industry to see the growth that it deserves it is time to ensure that authors are getting what they pay for and consequently readers are once again getting a great read.

Rick Momsen is the CEO of Pegasus Publishing