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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Book Substance vs Book Packaging

I, and really most folks associated in any way with the publishing (and by extension writing) industry, have understood for many years the deep inequities in that industry.

Traditional publishing (TP) has always stood on a foundation of pure jelly, sinking little by little from it's very birth. TP's survival was sustained, not by any inherent brilliance, but by a lack of any alternate, competent competition.

TP's jelly foundation really turned into liquid juice back when the main consideration turned away from the written words on the pages of a book to the eye candy of packaging and the celebrity of the authors.

Simply put, traditional publishing lost it's soul.

Dan Agin (Author/Neuroscientist), writing a blog for HuffPost, has an interesting take on the demise of publishing...A little oversimplified RE the eReader technology being the core cause...but, he nailed the shallowness of the so-called publishing business pros in the writer-to- reader chain RE not reading and just packaging books.

Dan Agin:

American Publishing: A Lesson From Tolstoy's Inkwell

My first published literary effort, an article about New York City, appeared in 1945 in a magazine called Gotham, the house organ of the New Yorker Hotel. Since this is 2011, I claim 66 years as both a participant and observer of American publishing.

The magazine Gotham folded.

The New Yorker Hotel eventually also folded.

Traditional American publishing is in the process of folding.

From the standpoint of philosophy, everything folds eventually, so what's the big deal?

Well, the fact of folding is usually not as important as the reasons for folding. Looking at reasons, causes, provoking events, often helps us understand how the world works.

For the folding of traditional American publishing, the most provoking recent event is the appearance of the new technology of hand-held E-readers, especially the Kindle, which at present outclasses them all.

But aside from this new technology and its consequences now apparent to almost everyone, there are other reasons for the present collapse of traditional American publishing.

I say "collapse" because the collapse of Borders is akin to the collapse of Lehman Brothers on Wall Street, and like that collapse the collapse of Borders suggests that too many people in American publishing don't know what the hell they're doing.

Why is that?

After 66 years of watching the American publishing circus and publishing as an "author," my personal views are as follows:

•Most publishers don't read books, they just display them on shelves in their offices.
•Most acquiring editors don't read books, they just acquire them and negotiate contracts.
•Most copy editors don't read books, they use software to locate possible grammar and punctuation problems.
•Most literary agents don't read books, they just read opening chapters or proposals for books and sell books to editors based on the book's apparent "handle", its "take-away", its "feel-good" score.
•Most marketing and publicity people in publishing don't read books, they read blurbs and look at book jackets and attach a book to market demographics.
•Most publishing accountants don't read books, they just add up the profits and losses of the various imprints of a conglomerate.
•Most booksellers don't read books, they sell books the way most people in publishing acquire books -- as physical objects with "handles."

Read and learn more
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