If you’re white and work in publishing, the path to creating a more diverse industry that represents the real world is actually a lot clearer than it is for those who are underrepresented. You’re the default; you have access and influence and the ability to drive change from the inside. And thankfully, I know many who are doing exactly that and I appreciate their efforts. But what about the rest of us? How can we help drive change in this industry we care so much about, despite it so often not caring all that much about us?
In these final days of 2015, here we are, with a traditional publishing industry that’s evolved to include new players and business models, alongside an independent publishing industry that’s steadily growing and continually evolving, too. What we haven’t seen are the radical disruptions that so many predicted were right on the horizon…
In the beginning, when I was trying to sell my first novel, I had a weird experience of editors really wanting me to write, sort of magic realism set in the Caribbean, or about recent immigrants with a magical ability (I’ve had two editors actually give me that logline and ask if I’d be interested in writing that story, but it’s just not there for me, I’ve got other stories still to tell). There was a strong sense that, hey, this is how you can be marketed as a Caribbean novelist.
Being sold for only slightly more than the revenue you brought in the prior year isn’t exactly a signal that anyone believes the company has a lot of growth potential, especially not one whose roster theoretically covers the full gamut of shiny author services so many seem to believe are publishing’s revenue streams of the future. Plus, ASI was apparently on the block for a while with no buyer, so I find Penguin’s CEO John Makinson’s claim odd, as reported by Publisher’s Lunch, that he expects there will be a “new and growing category of professional authors who are going to gravitate towards the ASI solution rather than the free model.” So then, what’s the real angle here?
We are not anywhere near the digital future yet with comics. There is so much exciting ground to be staked out! We just need a new publisher, or a collective of coders, comic writers, and artists. I think the latter is more likely than the former.
Inspired more by friends like Chuck Wendig, Will Hindmarch and Jane Friedman than Joe Konrath, et al, and emboldened by everything I learned from working with Joshua Tallent while running Digital Book World, my goal for the project was two-fold: do enough of it myself to have hands-on experience of what it takes, what’s “easy” and what isn’t; and to get the monkey of finally publishing this particular book off my back!
Right now, the relative ease of digital publishing — not yet the equivalent of blogging, but getting closer every week — and the exceptional successes of a relative handful of authors masks the larger challenges ahead for authors and publishers alike, regardless of their business model: discoverability.