The Oracle Series Part 3: The Future of Publishing…and Whiskey

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?
Prediction #3
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.
Prediction #4
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.

7 thoughts on “The Oracle Series Part 3: The Future of Publishing…and Whiskey

  1. Prediction #4 sounds rather brilliant, actually. Sure hope it will come to be. From a reader's perspective, there's nothing more annoying than buying a book with a glossy cover image, a smashing pitch-line and a promise to rattle your wits, cuddle into a fluffy blanket in front of your fireplace with it and maybe a glass of wine or a bag of steaming butter pop-corn, only to discover it's a friggin' puddle of letter-vomit! Typos flocking on every page, grammar mistakes the size of King Kong's derriere, and a feeling of being bitch-slapped for giving a chance to self-published writers. Who cares if the thing cost only 2 bucks, if it's 2 bucks you've spent supporting people's negligence! I'd love to have an Agency take care of that for me, thank you.

  2. Perfect way to phrase my sentiment, Vero. Agreed, absolutely. Not only does is protect the reader, it also gives the writer a boost, "Look! My work has been certified Fantastic. Read it, dammit."Prediction 3 is also inevitable. As you stated, Renee, the agents deserve a piece, too. I would much rather have someone who KNOWS the ins and outs of the publishing industry and how to navigate my work through them than have to attempt it myself. BUT that doesn't mean I would NEVER go thr self publishing route… but that's another post for another time over in the Nonsense zone. :)Once again, this is Katrina and blogger apparently still hates me.

  3. Interesting predictions but there are inherent flaws in them.#3 Who's paying these literary agents? The represented author? Most people don't make enough to warrant that kind of revenue, which means e-presses will either have to pay excessively more or pay the agents directly to bring them talent.#4 Again this comes down to money. Who's paying this agency and why should I think he'd be a good judge of quality?It's the money thing that's going to affect these issues.

  4. Good questions, Maria. To be honest, I'm not sure. I really feel agents will stick around. Will they be as numerous and profitable as they are now? No. I don't think so. But they will adapt as traditional publishers will adapt. Honestly, if I could sell enough to pay one, I'd want one.As for the agency, you've got me there. Perhaps it'll be a collaborative effort of volunteers? *snort* Okay, more realistically this may be wishful thinking on our part. We'll have to wait and see. 🙂

  5. I am also wondering how #4 would work. Currently, we have book bloggers and people in the general public who make themselves available to read & review books. Do we need a separate agency to handle this?

  6. Yes, but how trustworthy have these current resources been up to this point in terms of self published books? Not very, in my opinion. There are some excellent reviewers out there, I agree, but they're not judging (for the most part) on the elements that make a book a book.We need a trusted body that has more than just a subjective opinion of a book. We need one that can say "Yes, this book contains this percentage or less typos, it has a plot that makes sense and is a real book with a word count of at least ___ words. Right now, we don't have that. Part of my research on the industry for an article I wrote a while ago included buying several self published books. Some were random purchases, bought if the blurb intrigued me. Some were bought because they had excellent reviews. Others because they had horrible reviews. In total, I've read 14 books. 6 of those were novellas. The results? Only a handful had a reasonable amount of typos that I could just ignore. All of them contained at least 5 typos. Most had a decent plot, but the shitty dialogue, formatting and/or grammar made them unreadable. I think there were only two that I considered completely plotless. There wasn't a single one I'd give more than two stars to. I felt like I'd just tossed the money I spent outside in the ditch. It angered me. As a consumer, I think we have the right to an honest, unbiased body that can say, "This book has the elements of a book worth buying". Not that it's good or any commentary on the subjective factors that makes a book appeal to one person and not another, but that it meets a certain criteria making it a product worth buying. And I don't believe I'm alone in wanting this and that is why I think that if self publishing continues to rise as it is right now, something like what we've predicted will follow.

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