How a deal between a self-published novelist and Simon & Schuster is resetting the rules for book publishing.
The Wall Street Journal counts 60 self-published authors picked up and even courted "furiously" by traditional houses. Nice!
What stands out for me in this article is that Mr. Howey kept his digital rights to Wool. I find this particularly delightful because schadenfreude, though it makes me a bad person, is also fun.
Not so long ago, several famous agents and big publishers stated clearly that if they were going to do the self-published the favor of publishing their books in paper and distributing to bookstores, everything was on the table. Publishers would, always and forever, get and keep digital rights, too (even if they were unprepared to do anything much with them.) That door, we were told, is closed.
Except, of course, it wasn’t. The thing that disturbs me about that state of affairs is:
1. Smart business people do not assume the world is static. Only change is constant. Old-style publishing had a good, long run and that unfortunately made some of the runners arrogant.
2. Good agents aren’t so damnably passive and argue for the publisher and against their clients. We don’t need namby-pamby Old Mother Hubbards going to the cupboard and telling us poor dogs the cupboard is bare so suck it. We need lions fighting for us, or we don’t need agents at all.
3. Being the Party of No doesn’t work as business (or any other) climates change and dinos go extinct. If there’s still money to be made without digital rights, smart publishers will exhibit flexibility and negotiate.
4. "Because that’s the way we’ve always done it," is never a valid answer. Winners dare to ask, "What if we did it differently?"
5. These old attitudes betrayed a misplaced sense of entitlement to all publishing rights and condescension to the self-published. Smart publishers are getting over that prejudice. Not-so-smart publishers will soon be selling real estate.
I do not condemn all traditional publishers and agents. Many are wonderful, adaptive, and bring us great books. They love literature and do not fetishize book glue. They understand that greed screws up win-win and, in our information culture, the greedy are more easily identified than ever.
I’ll leave it at condemning those find themselves portrayed in Exhibits 1 through 5 and ask,"How’s that taste? Yippee-ki-yay, Mother Hubbard."
See on online.wsj.com