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Friday, March 25, 2011

Self-Publication: The Debate (Stage Version)

                                        A Brief One Act Play With No Resolution


Scene
(Tidy home office full of books and manuscripts.  A baseball bat leans prominently against the desk of middle-aged male WRITER.  He is motionless, hands in lap, as he stares at blank computer screen.  He appears frozen. Standing to his left, dressed darkly in jeans with shirt tails fashionably out, is EVIL TWIN.  To the right, wearing pressed khakis, light colored shirt and tie, is GOOD TWIN.  They are arguing.)
Evil Twin
. . . But just weeks ago you wrote “Don’t Do It."  A commentary all the world see in the Huffington Post books section, am I right?

Good Twin
Yeah.  But I was talking about self-publishing real books.  The ones with hard covers, paper, glue and ink.  Self publishing E-books might be a whole different thing. . . .

                                                            ET
That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!  I do not see why you stay with your New York publisher.  Those bricks and mortar house are going the way of the telegraph.  The steam engine.  The cassette tape.  The–

                                                           GT
Hey, I like having professional editors.   Writers can only take a piece so far; then we need a pro to help us see it through.  And copy editors–they save us writers from looking stupid.  I couldn’t do without them.

                                                            ET
Are you kidding?  You can hire all that shit done.  There are a million freelance editors out there begging for work.  They’ll work for food.

                                                            GT
And how am I supposed to feel about that?

                                                            ET
That’s you’re problem, don’t you see?  You’re too . . . too moral!   
        
                                                            GT
(Shrugs).  Various editors have taken a chance on me over the years. Some of them have made money—big money—for their publishing houses.  Others have gotten stiffed or maybe even lost their jobs when one of my books hasn’t sold. So yeah, it is kind of a moral–or at least a loyalty thing.  Plus editors are bright, fun people, the kind you want to have drinks with.

ET
And then these “nice people” take years to bring out your new book.

GT
(Shrugs again.) Big ships turn slow.  But they’ll get you there safely–and in style.  Publishers like  HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster and Farrar Straus & Giroux put out high quality books, not the amateur crap you see online.
                                                            ET
But you’re not an amateur, don’t you see?   You could do all of it yourself:  write the novel, hire an editor and a copy editor, pay an artist a few hundred bucks to do a great cover, a computer geek to format the e-book, and launch the thing next day through an e-distributor.  I ask you, how long has your upcoming young adult novel, The Survivors, been in the pipeline with your precious New York publisher?

                                                            GT
                                                (greatly annoyed)
That’s a special case.  I was way late on delivery, and they're repackaging the prequel for a simultaneous release with the prequel, Memory Boy–it's gonna be a very big deal.

                                                            ET
Dude, you sound like Willy Loman.  It's been almost three years for The Survivors in editorial and production, am I right?  The woods are burning, man! 

                                                            GT
(silent but clearly agitated)

                                                            ET
And royalties–what is your precious old school publisher paying you?

                                                            GT                                                    
About 10 percent on hardcover and 6 percent on paperback.

                                                            ET
Self-publish through Amazon and you get over twenty percent–which is a major gouge and is not going to last.  Do it all yourself, and you keep up to 70 percent.  You could sell your e-book for under five bucks–think of how many more copies you’d sell.  Think of the money you’d make!  You've got kids in college–think of them.

                                                            GT
                                                   (swallows)
Now just hold your horses.  Sure, I get lower royalties from the old-school publishers, but they’re also going be there when some fly-by-night e-platform or e-agency, whatever you want to call them are long gone.  Do you actually think some e-distributor is going to keep paying me–or my kids– royalties when their business, which is probably run by 20 year olds, doesn’t have a fucking address?

                                                             ET
Whoa!  I'm sensing some anger here.

GT
 Bricks and mortar publishing houses are like the bond market– unspectacular but safe.  E- publishing  on the internet is probably like investing in a hedge fund–the returns look great, but there’s a 20 year old Bernie Madoff lurking in the shadows.

ET
Yeah, well, you’re not getting any younger, my man.  Remember how you thought “Pong” was a really great game, and how your little green screen Apple IIC was the coolest thing since  toaster tongs?  But, circa 1975, you didn’t buy any stock in Apple or Microsoft?  Well we’re back to the future, amigo.  Don’t be stupid. The big wave is here–you want to miss it again?

GT: 
         (grabs baseball bat)
Now you’ve gone too far, you %Y&%@$&_&*!  Come here.  I've got something for you!

(GT and ET, shouting, chase each other around and around the writer’s desk.  He remains motionless, staring.  Curtain falls)


2 comments:

  1. food for thought! I think there are a few more considerations to be reckoned with... E-publishing isn't quite so bad as you make it out; not sure how stable those bricks and mortar publishing houses are. I still want your books -- in print and/or electronically -- so I'll bide my time whichever way you go! I'd like to have a whole panel of authors, publishers, and readers discuss this. I think it would be a lively discussion.

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