Monday, February 14, 2011

The Was that Will Be

First, kudos to Walt Kelly and the fact that I could steal and pretty much destroy his title for this very important blog post.

Once upon a time, the publishing business didn't really exist. After Gutenberg's invention of the press, authors would pay printers to print and bind their works, and then they would deliver them to local bookstores for sale. There wasn't that much reading material available, so stores were happy to take whatever books they could get, and readers as well. So what came to be known as publishers were just a hired service, and authors made only what they could get stores to pay them for books. If the author couldn't afford printing costs, well, that was just too bad.

Somewhere along the way printers found that they could take on the costs of publishing, thereby attracting popular authors and make a tidy profit. I don't know how this came about, but I do know that Charles Dickens became widely popular by having his stories serialized in magazines, then afterwards published as full books when the audience was well established. This was the mid-1800s.

So who cares? Nobody. But it appears we're back at square one, as traditional publishers struggle to squeeze out a profit while thousands of would-be authors pay self-publishers to print and bind their books for a fee. The catch again is whether these authors can get bookstores to carry their books, now in a culture where not only is there no lack of reading material, but also the broad audience would rather watch Hulu than read anyway. The growth of e-readers will only increase this cacophony of information. This is where I am with "The Job", although I add the twist of being my own printer. How to get notice remains the greatest challenge.

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