Blog No. 33 The Best/Worst of Times to be a Novelist
The Rubik Memorandum by Jeremy Logan
We are in the midst of the most disruptive period in literature in the past couple of hundred of years. The dominant publishing houses are killing each other off, making fewer Random House's. Many small to medium sized publishers are simply scratching out an existence, or going the way of the dinosaur. The job market for a journalist sucks. Great talent is walking the streets without a regular job.
Life is good for Amazon, but their business model doesn't include many positions for journalists, editors and authors. So, where is all this laid-off talent going? They are incubating the next publishing business model. They are incorporating publishing houses based out of their basements. They are writing blogs, poems, short stories, and novels. They self publish their own work and help other struggling authors get published.
In the past, when Random House and the rest of publishing house world rejected your manuscript, you simply gave up and found a job that pays the rent. Now you can find hundreds of self-publishing vendors on the internet competing for your manuscript. The author pays the entire freight. It's his/her investment, and the self-publishing vendor has no stake in the success of the product or the revenue it might generate.
Some mom and pop operations that are run by talented editors that know a good book when they read it, actually read the better-looking offerings and try to make a deal with the authors whose raw product has the makings to be a diamond in the rough. A sharing agreement of sorts is what is the usual result. The indie publisher edits it, improving the story, re-writing the awkward sentences, and throwing out all the passages that distract from the drama. They get their illustrator buddies to make an attractive cover, and then they use all their connections in what's left of the publishing world to get the book placed before influential reviewers.
The resulting reviews are picked up by all the news media that report on new efforts. When one respected reviewer praises it, the word spreads until the New York Times picks up on it and prints its review. Boom, your book is in demand on line and in all the bookstores. If all goes well at this point it will start its way up the best-selling charts. The author is choosing what TV offers for interviews should be accepted. Movie industry scriptwriters are reading it to judge if it will translate to a marketable feature film. You know the rest.
Are you wondering where I am in this scheme? I'm at the point where independent, out of the home, publishers are considering taking a chance to share in the costs of getting it in front of the newspaper reviewers and media. About five are considering me. All who have read The Rubik Memorandum say they love it, and believe it has a chance to make it. That will take a substantial investment in their time and money. In dollars, it might cost the author and publisher $25K a piece. And that's not counting the time and care needed to make it as good a novel as one could expect. On top of this are the marketing costs by a publicist and agent, perhaps another $50K that they share or the publisher advances on the prospect of getting it back when it becomes a success.
What am I thinking? I'd rather not put up $50K out of my pocket to take it to the next step. I'm keeping it self-published in paperback until I get picked up. Right now I'm paying a publicist to create a grassroots campaign to entice a publisher to take me on. I'm appearing all over Georgia signing and reading my books. I need a publisher to take notice of my resolve and make the investment of time and money in me. That way they will have a dog in the fight in return for a piece of the action.
I'm willing to virtually contract away all the profits from TRM as a book for the chance it will become a best seller and launch my brand in front of the public and publishing infrastructure. You ask why would I be willing to do that? It's because of the new normal in the industry. Once you have established yourself as a marketable entity, publishers will compete among themselves to publish your next novels. TRM might get picked up as screenplay, and then a movie. I can retain all the rights to that.
All that sounds lofty and ambitious, huh. It's a plan. If the book is worth the effort it will all pan out in the end. I just need to be relentless. Relentless is what I do best. What that means is that if you are on my publicist's mailing list, you will hearing of my appearances for another six months. I hope you don't tire of getting the emails.
If I could only find the time to devote to my next novel. Check out my next blog to find out how that's going.