By Porter Anderson | @Porter_Anderson
From January 10, 2013
Part of my series of columns on publishing, Writing on the Ether, appearing Thursdays at the invitation of Jane Friedman at JaneFriedman.com
- Old drivers are trying to find new routes but are too proud to admit they’re lost.
- New hotshots are cutting in, trying to find ways to capitalize on the confusion and get ahead.
- Pundits keep jumping out in front to wave everybody through—“follow me!”—but can only hope nobody realizes they don’t really know the correct turns from their asses.
- All maps were outdated before Borders was forced off the road. Your GPS says nothing but “recalculating.”
- And then there are these cyclists between the company cars, like Copenhagen at 5 p.m., ridden by frequently bellicose self-publishers.
Watch carefully. At times in our publishing gridlock, you can glimpse something akin to “phasing,” a concept familiar to motorists stuck in traffic jams.
Think of cars stopped with their right or left turn indicators on. Blink, blink, blink. Every now and then, those blinks will synchronize for a time.
If you’re willing to set aside some emotional investment and look around, you’ll see several issues sync-ing up around us, and in a pretty romantic way.
Blink, blink, blink. Are you batting your eyelashes at me?
Here’s a new snootful from the sainted John Sargent of Macmillan. Jeanne d’Arc to DoJ haters. David in the Valley of the Bigger Five. We duly Etherized him just before Christmas, you may recall, in Macmillan’s Sargent: ‘In the Land of Giants.’
Now, Sargent is announcing he’ll be distributing English-language lovey-doveys from digital romance publisher Liz Pelletier’s Entangled–ment. Sargent has Entangled even St. Martin’s Press in a plan to bring some of those ebooks to print.
Blink, blink, blink.
Faithful Laura Hazard Owen writes it up, declaring Power of the indie: Macmillan strikes partnerships with e-publisher Entangled in that World War III-size headline font they love at paidContent. (Alas, no fault of Hazard, the site’s new mobile redesign renders the Entangled Publishing’s logo “tangle ublishing.”)
Entangled is one of a growing number of “boutique” publishers that seek to strike a balance between the freedom of self-publishing and the structure of working with a traditional publisher…Entangled doesn’t offer advances and pays authors royalties higher than what they’d receive from a traditional publisher but lower than they’d get if they self-published.
Have a look. Shirtless men kissing beautiful women. Blink, blink, blink.
E.L.James’s Fifty Shades books sold over 14.4 million prints units, and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games books sold over 9.6 million print books. Together, these two authors accounted for over 4 percent of all print sales for the year.
For additional perspective, 2011’s top 15 nonfiction and fiction books combined sold about 18.3 million units; and Collins’ 2012 total is only slightly lower than all the top 15 children’s books in 2011 (which sold roughly 10.2 million books altogether).
Related reading: Deirdre Donahue at USA Today reports that Fifty Shades of Grey gets its hardcover publication on January 29—“just in time for Valentine’s Day,” as Donahue puts it. Somehow, one feels it’s better not to ask.
Donahue also notes “a discreet warning on the back guaranteed to keep little eyes from prying: ‘EROTIC ROMANCE: Mature Audience.’”
Donahue’s story is ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ will be published as hardcovers.
And at this writing, Amazon is showing a pre-order price of $50.94, the list being $80.85. Enough to make you blink, blink, blink.
In some related reading to your related reading, Owen has an interesting take on the hardback release:
With their availability in hardcover, 50 Shades will complete an almost entirely reversed traditional publishing cycle. The books started out as Twilight fan fiction posted online. A tiny Australian publisher then released them as ebooks and print-on-demand paperbacks, selling about 250,000 copies. Random House snapped up the rights in a seven-figure deal, rereleased the ebooks and made 50 Shades widely available in paperback for the first time — where it achieved stratospheric success. Finally, a little under a year later, the books will be released in their most expensive format: The hardcover list price is $26.95 per book, USA Today reports (though that will surely be slashed by retailers like Amazon and there will be a three-book bundle for $80.85.
Then here’s the discerning agent Jason Allen Ashlock of Movable Type Management at DBW’s Expert Publishing Blog with a series of Q&As intended to reveal traditional insiders as “smart, indefatigable, book-loving people who are doing the very hard work of making the old new again.”
Certainly, there are some who have forgotten, I’m sure, that the majors are peopled with intelligent experts who have an ocean-deep institutional memory for something you’ll now miss if you blink: literature. And yet, even this exercise goes right into our flashing red-light district: more romance.
In his first installment, The Change Agents: Amy Tannenbaum, Ashlock asks the highly regarded Simon & Schuster editor to talk about self-publishing titles with which she has done “some exciting work,” books for which she has given demonstrably successful self-publishing authors traditional contracts.
- Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire.
- Love Unrehearsed by Tina Reber.
- The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay.
Blink, blink, and blink. We’re sync-ed right up again with more romance. Note that the Atria division is hardly limited to romance, far from it. But these recent selections mentioned by Tannenbaum happen to trend that way.
At this rate, by my calculation, we can expect to do away with men’s shirts in publishing entirely by around May of 2014.
What I’d love to see Ashlock add for his upcoming Q&As with folks inside legacy publishing is a question about whether they got into the business expecting to work in romance.
And by the way, the answer from some industry folks to that question would be yes, and that would be OK. It should go without saying that some people, indeed, are eager and happy to work in romance and its subgenres, and this is fine. I’m not disparaging the choice. What I’m questioning is the prevalence of romance in the business right now.
UPDATE: Jason Ashlock tells us that he accepts our “Ether Challenge” and will indeed be kind enough to ask his interview subjects whether they got into publishing to work in the kind of material they find themselves handling today.
And, of course, this is not the whole story. Read on. And don’t blink.