The once and future mid-list

December 29, 2008

Given what bleak news has been coming out of the New York publishing world lately — executive, editorial, and other layoffs, an acquisitions freeze at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, etc. — it would be easy to believe that these are indeed the worst of times for emerging writers. As I’ve long maintained, the smaller, leaner, smartly run indie presses, unstymied by old-think marketing strategies, corporate board agendas, and the need of Hollywood blockbuster-style success for each and every title released in effort to offset the bloated advances paid for whatever latest celebrity train wreck’s memoir or political windsock’s rant gets flogged, has become the more viable choice for authors.

Over at Salon.com, Jason Boog makes a good case as to why we may in fact be heading toward the best of times for writers.

Who will survive publishing’s Ice Age? Undoubtedly, the companies that can command developments in the impending digital book revolution. Early next year, Amazon will release the second generation of the popular Kindle, and the Sony e-Reader currently has more than 300,000 users. But the biggest shift might happen on cellphones. Lexcycle has created an e-reader platform for the iPhone and iPod Touch called Stanza. Since the application debuted in July, it has built up 600,000 users. So far, Lexcycle has partnered with big publishers like Random House, Pan Macmillan and Harlequin, as well as self-publishing companies like Smashwords.

Neelan Choksi, Lexcycle’s chief operating officer, agrees that the midlist will suffer in coming years. “There’s going to be less support for smaller writers in the traditional publishing model, in the big buildings in Manhattan,” he explained. “But self-publishing and digital books haven’t been considered. This upheaval will cause many authors to look at the alternatives more seriously.” The Stanza reader, for instance, stocks thousands of e-books at varying prices, from free public domain books to self-published titles to 40,000 titles from Fictionwise, one of the leading digital book vendors. That list includes a variety of bestsellers like David Wroblewski’s “Story of Edgar Sawtelle,” Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series and the nonfiction hit “Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. “

Read the entire article




  1. Interesting article, Michael. Recently attended a webinar re: Social Media for Publishing.

    Biggest ah-ha I took away was how one should define what publishing is today. Start rethinking of publishing as an info exchange business. A book is only one format in that scenario.

    One may agree or disagree with this definition but it’s worth thinking about.

  2. MSG,
    Right on. We’re in the state of change and it’s too close for many to see-I lump agents and many publishers into this vision impaired category.
    Greed blocks vision. In the post Frey era, no publisher should be caught with fiction manuscripts passing for narrative non fiction and yet just last week, we learned of one more when the holocaust memoir debacle was outed. Why? greed…the chance to have an author on Oprah bragging about film deals et al that they just snagged…
    It’s about greed but the times they are a changing so hang in there, writers. The best is yet to be as cyberspace merges with real space and a whole new frontier opens up.
    Marla Miller

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