ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs Serial storyteller, poetry pusher, digital doodler, flâneur.

Publishing Hatchet Job

Just over a year ago Digital Book World‘s Editorial Director, Jeremy Greenfield (@JDGsaid), helped “leak” a Hachette Book Group internal document reminding the team why traditional publishers remain relevant. The outline sparked a wildfire, igniting debate and speculation.

Perhaps we’ll be able to discuss their 12-month review soon. Until then, here’s a lighthearted mashup — a mostly-found ode to publishing past, curated with a graffiti poet’s irreverence — to help prime the pump.

Publishing is complex,
Finely tuned machines
Whirring behind the scenes
Despite calm, collected facades.
While uppity “self-publishing”
Is a misleading misnomer,
A slipshod hodgepodge
Of hyped-up author services,
Our full service publishing
Connects content creators
And content consumers
In meaningful, pedigreed
And value added ways.
We all but guarantee
Widest possible readership.
Have you forgotten how?
Here’s a helpful cheat sheet:
We discover outstanding
Talent (with jumbo platforms).
We cull the best from the rest.
We invest in our authors,
Funding their creativity and
Fueling content collaboration.
We invest editorial expertise,
In-house publicity gurus and
Spendy strategic marketing.
We leverage global retail
And distribution partnerships.
We’re a new market pioneer,
An agile, risk-taking innovator
Exploring and experimenting
Even when a positive outcome
Isn’t 100% iron-clad guaranteed
(Such as those gimmicky apps
And enhanced digital books.)
We build author brands and
Protect intellectual property.
We have nicely appointed offices
And lots of employees just like you
Because it’s worth it. You’re worth it.
Go, team, go! No, wait…
Stay, team, stay. Please?

Apologies to Hachette (who deserves credit for catalyzing critical if overdue debate about why traditional publishers are relevant in today’s publishing wild west) and Jeremy Greenfield who after all, was just the messenger. Actually, he’s an always-timely, almost always sage messenger who has emerged as one of the oracles of the Post-Gutenberg Paradigm.

Apologies as well to you, my tolerant reader. I’m a perennially curious flaneur, not an expert on the rise and fall of publishers. You’ll find no wonky wizardry here. I’ve taken liberties aplenty. My mission, after all, is to entertain, not dispense wisdom. For that you’ll have to hunt elsewhere… Sorry!


Among the throng responding to Hachette’s internal memo, J.A. Konrath’s advice to publishers stands out.

Publishers should stop trying to convince themselves and others that they’re relevant, and start actually being relevant. Here’s how:

  1. Offer much better royalties to authors.
  2. Release titles faster. It can take 18 months after a book is turned in to be published. I can do it myself in a week.
  3. Use up-to-date accounting methods that are trackable by the author, and pay royalties monthly.
  4. Lower e-book prices.
  5. Stop futilely fighting piracy.
  6. Start marketing effectively. Ads and catalogue copy aren’t enough. Neither is your imprint’s Twitter feed. (Digital Book World)

Thank you, J.A. Konrath (@jakonrath) and thank you Hachette. A year later, where are we?

Productivity, Publishing & Apex Predators

Amazon is going to destroy the Big 6, destroy bookstores, destroy 95% of all agents, destroy distributors (Ingram, Baker & Taylor), and revolutionize the publishing industry by becoming the dominant force… Blaming Amazon for your eventual downfall is like blaming a lion for being king of the jungle. (Joe Konrath)

The Chama River Canyon Wilderness. Scull Bridg...

The Chama River Canyon Wilderness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m graced with one more week writing with Benedictines and coyotes in a desert canyon. What a life! It’s hard to believe that almost three weeks have already flowed past with the burbling Chama. Productive time, but it’s passed in a blur. Twelve to fifteen hours of writing, rewriting and editing every day except except for Saturday. Yesterday was an exception. I cut out late in the afternoon and drove in to Santa Fe to celebrate a friend’s birthday. An inspired and inspiring evening with new and old friends. When asked which of the trails I’d hiked and ruins I’d explored during my stay in Abiquiu I surprised myself by responding, “None.” Not a single adventure! And despite the missed opportunities (fortunately I’ll be back), I was amazed to realize that I’ve actually managed to stay focused and on task. Totally on task! For a change.

That said, there’s still ample toil ahead. I habitually underestimate how much time projects will take, but I have the growing sense that one of the lessons I’m meant to learn during this sequestered month is to let go. To find closure. To move on. And with the storytelling and publishing worlds evolving faster than ever in history, I’m accepting that it’s critical to launch Rosslyn Redux and move on the the next project and the next and the next. Time. To. Move. On.

Time will tell whether Joe Konrath‘s much cited assessment of Amazon’s role in the future of the publishing industry above is clairvoyant or bluster. But the lesson isn’t just in his bold prediction. The lesson is in the jungle. And the harsh desert. And I’m learning to listen… Not just to the coyotes who sing outside my window each night. But also to the muddy old Chama.

Ol’ man river,
Dat ol’ man river
He mus’know sumpin’
But don’t say nuthin’,
He jes’keeps rollin’

He keeps on rollin’ along.

A quick post before I wind my way back into the Chama canyonlands. Thanks for your indulgence over the last few weeks. Anticipate me back to my noisy self in April. Cheers!

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