There seems to be a growing sense of resentment amongst authors and agents toward the publishing industries heavy handed approach in dealing with writers. There are a few articles and a couple of blogs on the Bookseller website that voice these concerns, including Tom Holland, the chair of the Society of Authors. This leads me to question whether the current crisis in publishing is solely caused by the impact of the economic downturn, or whether its suggestive of a more endemic concern; the reluctance to change.
This is not to suggest that the publishing industry isn’t looking at new ways of providing content, indeed, a lot of publishers are tripping over themselves to jump on the iPad and eBook bandwagon, but rather, as the articles collectively indicate, a reluctance to change attitude. I’m sure there are many unpublished writers, myself included, who are tearing their hair out, not realising that we may be knocking on a door that is highly unlikely to open for us, simply because we are not celebrities, we do not have a huge following of readers and we’re too big a risk at the moment to invest in (in marketing terms, rather than the cost of printing books). From a business point of view, that makes complete sense. I wouldn’t want to spend my own money and time promoting something that may potentially fail to launch.
But that doesn’t explain why contracts are stacked in favour of the publisher, as Holland points out, or their insistence to short-change authors over eBooks, or indeed, pass control to Apple and other device providers over pricing. Its easy for people to say that ‘you’re not published yet so what does it matter to you?’ But as ‘new’ writers we need to be mindful of how the publishing and bookselling industry develops, because its our future on the line too.