Welcome back to the Oracle series. Sunday and Monday we explained the first two predictions Carlos and I shared in the Writer’s Companion about where the publishing industry will be in ten years. For the entire list (so you can properly build your argument for or against our predictions) check out my guest post over in Rita’s World.
Today, let’s share bottle of Crown Royal while we look at predictions 3 and 4. Why whiskey? Because it’s always a good conversation helper, right?
E-publishers will only accept submissions through literary agents.
As in the past with paperback novels, traditional publishers will pass onto agents the onus of sifting through the trash because it makes economic sense to make the writer pay for the selection. Publishers eliminated a sizeable chunk of their staff by compelling writers to submit their work through an agent—and foot his wages.
Professional e-publishers will follow suit because it doesn’t cost them anything and removes a considerable burden from their shoulders. Besides, literary agents have to live. Their role as critics and reviewers doesn’t change because the format of the final buyer’s product changes.
Personally I don’t see this as a terrible thing. Quality control has to begin somewhere and why shouldn’t agents have a piece of the electronic pie? Survival of the fittest, and all that fun stuff. There’s sharks out there in Agent Land and I’d prefer having one of those looking after me and my interests, rather than fending for myself, thanks very much.
E-books will be rated by an agency, as to their literary and editorial merits.
Again, this is logical and sensible. No, we don’t mean literary agencies. We mean a separate agency built for just this purpose. Why? Through the argument about other forms of publishing, we have taken into consideration the writer, the publisher and other forces involved in the merchandising of books. But there is a most important and forgotten player: the reader. As a consumer, the reader will demand protection, and we wouldn’t be surprised if our predicted rating agency comes imposed by circumstances. In the U.S., a country with such a zest for litigation, we’re surprised no writer has been dragged through the courts and made to pay damages. A book is a product and a reader its consumer.
There comes a point when a book is so badly written as to be unreadable. An unreadable book is not a book. Extracting money for an object that doesn’t fulfill its natural usability is fraud, misrepresentation or whatever the correct legal term is. We have spoken with many readers who bought a book and felt cheated because they couldn’t read it.
Imagine buying a Whopper from Burger King, only to discover there’s no meat in the bun. Most people would demand to receive their meat or have their money returned. Others would sue.
Just as most products have a stamp of approval certifying its usefulness to fulfill a given task, we think that something along these lines will be mandatory in self-published books. We don’t mean a label rating the story, voice, style, plot, or characterization but a stamp certifying the book is written in accordance with current standards of grammar, syntax, and a limit on typo contents. This will be good news for all writers: the professional ones will see their work certified, and the others (without quality stamp) will have a level of protection against litigation since the reader will have purchased a product without that guarantee.
What do you think? If this happened, would it be good or bad for writers? Have I lost my mind completely to see this as a fantastic change? Please, share your thoughts. If you’ve got a rant, well you can share that too. Whiskey makes everything okay.
And come back to The Edge tomorrow to spend some time with Rita Webb, who will be here with Clive, discussing her journey to publication and the decision to self-publish. On Thursday we discuss Prediction #5 with me. What is it? Go on over to Rita’s World and check it out.