By Steve Weddle
Yesterday, Joelle Charbonneau took a look at the books that pass through the gates of the publishing industry versus those that go straight to the reader. Her insightful post is here.
Joelle, whose delightful debut novel was published by Minotaur (a Macmillan imprint), was using the recent Amazon pedophile ebook horror as a jumping-off point. And, speaking of Joelle's publisher, the Weddles picked up a number of Macmillan/Minotaur titles at the bookfair this weekend. Duane Swierczynski. Ken Bruen. Ian Rankin. How cool is that? I love these folks. Heck, I think the only book I got that wasn't from Minotaur was a Steven Brust novel on Tor. Hooray for Minotaur.
Joelle's argument about having editors and publishers help select what goes to market is a solid argument. I'm glad Big Publishing decides what goes to market, how many are printed, and how they are distributed. If not for that, I wouldn't have been able to get 32 books for about $30 yesterday. All hail the marketplace.
I picked up a handful of Scott Wolven books at a bookfair this year. Some copies of John McFetridge's Dirty Sweet, too. And some Jim Thompson. And a ton of those fancy re-issues of Nabokov that Vintage did. You know, the ones with the expensive, pretty covers.
Having so many books available from big publishers is great.
I'm not here to bury Caesar; I'm here to say that Brutus guy has some cool ideas, too.
Check out Chris F. Holm's fantastic short story collection, 8 Pounds. Chris took his award-winning and published stories, edited them for the Kindle format, got a gorgeous cover from John Hornor Jacobs, and started selling that ebook on Amazon for 99 cents. The book contains the Spinetingler-Award-winning "Seven Days of Rain," Derringer-Award finalist "The Big Score," and "The World Behind," which originally appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. You can't do that with big publishers. Why? Because Traditional Publishing tells us that short story collections don't sell. Except, you know, they do. Because I buy them when available -- as 99 cent downloads. And you buy them. Chris has been selling the Kindle collection pretty well as word of mouth keeps them moving. And he doesn't have to pay to print 10,000. Or have them stored in a warehouse. Or have them shipped to a bookfair in nine months to sell for a dollar each.
How about Discount Noir, a collection Patti Abbott and I put together with stories from more than 40 fantastic authors? Flash pieces about blood and murder in a big discount store. No big publisher wants that. A book of 45,000 words? That's tough to move off the shelves. Unless there are no shelves.
Traditional publishing works great for many things. I was in a bookstore last week just walking around, not planning to buy anything, and picked up Daniel Woodrell's Tomato Red. Without the physical store, I probably never would have run across the copy. But, dang, what a good book. Hooray for Busted Flush Press. And hooray for traditional publishing
Ink on paper works great. That's one reason we started Needle: A Magazine of Noir. Because the physical book is still a wonderful thing. And the big houses and the independent publishers know how to make this work.
But, you know, once we decided on the national level that all our citizens needed to be able to read and write, we pretty much opened things up for self-publishing. Everyone writes.
Just ask Charles Bukowski:
he WRITES TOO.
he has plenty of time and a
postoffice box in town
and he drives there 3 or 4 times a day
looking and hoping for accepted
Everybody writes and everyone can put out ebooks. Fine. Everyone can make pizza, too. Doesn't mean I wouldn't rather have pizza from Vinny's than that crappy canned-sauce spread on canned-dough crap you and your kids made for "together time" last weekend.
The point is this -- Having ebooks as an option seems pretty cool to me, especially for those collections that traditional publishing doesn't want to handle. This allows us a Chris F. Holm collection. Discount Noir. A really cool sperm-bank-thieving collection from our own Byron Quertermous. And John McFetridge's own excellent collection of stories here. (pdf download)
Are ebooks the solution? Heck, I'm not sure what the problem is. Ebooks aren't the reason all those people got fired when Dan Brown's new book was late. The problem there was that publishing is set up for the next bestseller, not the mid-list authors. This isn't news to anyone. This is How It Works, you know? If I'm the next bestseller, that's how the damn thing should work.
But the other way it works now is this -- if Chris F. Holm wants to collect his stories, now he has a way. He can do that himself, relying on the quality of the work, the prior periodical publication of those stories, and word of mouth. And that works out just fine.
Traditional publishing is great for so many things, but we're in a time now in which ebooks offer us options that we have to be ready for, another outlet for books traditional publishing isn't interested in.
Oh, one more thing. The Do Some Damage collection of airport stories is available this week -- for Kindle over at Amazon. The book is called TERMINAL DAMAGE and you might be able to find it here. I uploaded this ebook on Sunday and it will take until Monday to become available. Which seems like a long time, you know, in the ebook world.