The future of publishing

44880_guten_press_lgThe standoff between Amazon and Hachette seems to be over, according to this story in the New York Times. A dispute over pricing had ballooned into a fight about publishers versus the Evil Empire of Amazon – or, according to some writer friends of mine, the Evil Henchmen of Publishing versus the Forces of the Free Market.  Apparently all parties are satisfied with the result but  there may be more of this kind of battles ahead.

As a book author, I have been watching the changes in the market with apprehension and hope. When I first started writing books, I was amazed at the disparity between the compensation for  best-selling authors and upstarts published by small press. To my amazement, I found that companies like  Arcadia and History Press — to some degree — build their model on selling TO THEIR OWN AUTHORS who buy books at a low rate to resell to audiences in talks or tours. I received an advance from History Press for my first book with them — the company no longer does that!   I have also done books for advance and royalties AND a set fee. I have only praise for Union Park Press, which published my Drinking Boston book, a small but effective enterprise that knows how to promote books AND really supports its authors. As for my other publishers, the record is a bit more mixed.

Thus, I am more convinced that self publishing — for certain kinds of books — is a good option for the entrepreneurial minded, particularly in today’s wired world.

All these changes have me considering designing a course for the MAPW on “Publishing and Self-Branding.” Academically, the course would plum the history of publishing itself — starting with Gutenberg and looking at issue of copyright and production. Later classes would examine the process of the pitch to publishers and agents — how do you get attention for your project?  Lastly, the class would look at options in self publishing — what are the advantages and disadvantages. Additionally, the class would look at how all writers — even those destined for an agent and hefty contract — need to create their own “platform.” My plan is that the class practices building a blog/site  on Word Press or another free option to see how this works.

That’s the plan. What do you think?