Once upon a time, when I was frustrated by constant rejections by big name publishers, (and this after I’d have my first book published) I said to my writing coach, “what if we all went on strike and stopped sending our manuscripts to publishers?” I think I was inspired at that time by the screen writers strike in the USA.
The answer from my writing coach was much the same as what happened in the US – the big studios had enough screenplays in hand to keep them going for some time. So it was with big name publishers whose slush pile stretched from here to Mars. Striking would hurt the writer more than the publisher.
That was back in 2008.
How the world has turned since then. While screen writers still need studios to bring their creations to life, writers of books no longer have that restriction. We no longer need the big name publishers in order to publish our books. To reach our market and therefore our readers, we just have to push a button and our book is available for all who care to read it.
All we need big publishers for, as Barry Eisler said, is as a “paper distribution partner”. In other words, if we want a printed book distributed to big chain stores, we engage with a big publisher to distribute that book. Any other service they provide can be out-sourced to a variety of experts. Publishers often out-source these services anyway.
We have effectively gone on strike. We are no longer sending unpublished manuscripts to big name publishers by default. We have a choice. And how long before the big name writers go on strike too? They already have an established market for their books and don’t necessarily need a ‘paper distribution partner’ to reach their audience.
Let’s see how long the big name publishers last before they change their business model. I suspect that we will see many big names fold before they adapt.
I’m still not sure whether that is a good thing, after all there are still occasions when we need a “paper distribution partner”. However, what I would like to see is writers being treated with a bit more respect and getting a bigger slice of the money pie. We are the creators after all, and without the creators, the publishers have no source material.