The news this week that Barry Eisler snubbed a $500,000 publishing deal to self-publish and that self-pub phenom Amanda Hocking is negotiating a $1 million+ deal with a publishing company has created a lot of discussion among authors, agents, editors and pundits. Even Hocking herself has weighed in with her reasoning:
I'm writer. I want to be a writer. I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling emails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full time corporation. As I said before in my post – Some Things That Need to be Said – I am spending so much time on things that are not writing.
I like writing. I even like marketing, especially when it comes to interacting with readers. And I don't mind editing. I just don't want to run my corporation, because that takes away from writing and everything else that I actually enjoy doing.
Booksquare offered some interesting analysis, crediting both authors for making shrewd moves based on their unique situations in the publishing universe.
Eisler and Hocking are making the right choices, but, if you were to corner me in a bar and ask me which author is following the right path right now, I’d say Eisler.
He’s taking a riskier path, for sure, and there is no guarantee. His history suggests he has some talent when comes to calculated risks. And while he’s burned some publishing bridges, he also has a track record in the industry.
Hocking, however, is more of a publishing dark horse. She’s done the indie thing amazingly well. I cannot over-emphasize how critical this is, and how well she’s done it. But there is a gap between indie publishing (especially self-publishing, without a lot of professional editorial input) and corporate publishing.
The biggest challenge, and the reason I’m putting my money (virtual because the husband hates it when I bet cat food dollars) on Eisler is that the publisher who signs Amanda Hocking today will likely not have a book on the shelf before 2012, more likely 2013. Note my nouns.
The Hocking zeitgeist is right now. Her audience is right now. Her moment is right now. Can this buzz be sustained a year or more? Can her audience be engaged for that long? Yes, if she’s continually giving them the books they want…at the price point they want.
What's interesting to me is how many editors and pundits still don't see how fast things are changing, in many ways for the better, for writers in this new, digital landscape. The media that covers publishing…Publishers Weekly, Publishers Lunch, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, etc… seem to be even slower to get this than the publishers are. Some of the coverage of Eisler and Hocking, and the ways the economics, sales, and distribution of self-publishing have changed in the last twelve months, has been totally inept.
4 thoughts on “Eisler & Hocking”
That is such a great comment about the lead time on the print versions of Hocking’s books.
I’ve been published in print since 1995 and have had to be patient with the slow turnarounds. I wonder if print publishing will be a shock to Hocking.
As for me, I found that publishing my reverted books was a joy. I’ve even started publishing some books that never saw the light of day, but that I loved.
Interesting days to be an author.
Very thoughtful post, Lee, especially your observations about the establishment being ultra-slow to snap to what’s going on around them.
This was driven home to me at Sleuthfest in Fort Lauderdale, which I attended a few weeks ago. There were traditionalist standard-bearers all over the place–publishers, agents, authors–and almost none of them seemed aware that the barbarians were right outside the doors of the hotel, banging them down.
I wrote a detailed blog about this myself on my website. It’s pretty stunning what went on. Check it out at http://mikedennisnoir.com/sleuthfest-more-like-denialfest/1738/
One reason the WSJ isn’t writing about print publishing may be that Rupert Murdock owns both the WSJ and HarperCollins. He is notoriously secretive about the current affairs of his businesses.
For fun, I looked at the Quarterly Report for News Corp, the quarter ending Sept 30, 2010. In a seven page letter to shareholders, Murdock did not mention print publishing at all. He’s keeping mum. But when I looked at the revenue figures they are not bad. So far, HarperCollins is taking in more revenue and making more money than in previous quarters, with a dip, of course, for 2008-9 due to the recession. The rise of ebooks has not yet been felt.
However, Murdock runs NewsCorp much differntly than Redstone and Moonves run CBS Corp. Murdock wants to declare high earnings, but is $13+ billion in debt. Redstone and Moonves want to pay down debt and therefore declare lower earnings. Their debt is only $6 billion. Therefore, all things considered, S&S and HarperCollins are eaching making about the same money, maybe $20 to $40 million a year or so. I may be low-balling it a bit.
We’ll see what the revenue figures are for the current quarter in early April. If revenues fall, it’ll be due to the sale of ebooks. So far, though, they basically haven’t yet reached the tipping point.
Oh, and three cheers for Barry Eisler and Amanda Hocking for showing us the way!
You know one thing that keeps being left out of this discussion, Lee, is the writing itself. The traditional publishers (I find the term ‘legacy publishers’ patronizing and silly) served and continue to serve an important function as gate-keepers. They weren’t always right, of course. But by and large good books got published and the “tsunami of sludge” that we’re seeing now was kept offshore.
Book reviewers had their role in all this, steering readers to ‘literary’ novels and maintaining or trying to maintain some conventional standards. Again, reviewers often got it wrong, and their bias toward a high culture novel often missed the books that people were actually reading and loving. Books like Peyton Place, say, which was an incredible success despite terrible reviews. That list is endless.
Anyway, with the huge sea change underway, neither reviewers nor publishers have the power they once had and many will say we’re better off for that. I’m not one of those. I lament the loss of quality writing in this deluge of self-publishing. Being a hustler is now more important than writing well, creating rich, dimensional people, plots that are both full of surprise but are also coherent. Writers interviews and blog posts are becoming all about cover art and social networking and the masterful manipulation of Internet outlets.
I’m trying to learn my way in this new world even as I keep one foot solidly in the establishment publishing world. I read more than half the books I read on my iPad and my Kindle and realize these new delivery systems are inevitable and very positive in many ways.
However, in our rush to embrace what’s good about the new, there is far too much dismissiveness and self-congratulation by the emerging New Media stars.
In all this discussion about Hocking and Eisler and Konrath, everything seems to be about the marketing and profitability issues. I’ve yet to see any real discussion of the aesthetic issues, of storytelling, of graceful style, of all those features that writers and readers used to hold dear. Getting a 70% profit on every book sold is fine. More power to all of us. Karen’s comment above is right. These are interesting days.
I simply hope that what was good in the best books of the past will survive. And that in our hurry to embrace and celebrate the new forms of delivery, we will not abandon our love for good writing and the well told story and solid, three-dimensional characters. And the discussion of literary values will someday again be about more than 2.99 versus 1.99.