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April 2nd, 2011

Publishing's tectonic plates are shifting

This past month saw saw some epic developments in the world of book publishing. In some ways, I think it was a bit like the earthquake that rocked Japan; the question is, will a tsunami follow it?

In an almost amazing display of synchronicity, a well known author opted to walk away from a half million dollar contract and go with self-publishing in digital form, while an author who had enjoyed spectacular ebook self-publishing success signed a four-book, two million dollar deal with a major publisher. It was amazing! But one point that hasn't gotten as much attention is that Amazon was a bidder for those four books. They had a print publisher lined up as a partner, but they planned to publish the ebooks as Amazon, making the company over into a publisher in a bigger way than in the past.

I'm speaking, of course, about the deal Barry Eisler abandoned and the one Amanda Hocking signed. To carry the synchronicity further, they were both with the same publisher, St. Martin's Press! Also interesting is that the Hocking (One smart cookie, by the way! She has her head screwed on the right way) did not go with Amazon even though their bid was reportedly higher. Added info: This post on the Teleread blog explain why Hocking and her agent did not go with Amazon. There is also more info in this post by author Kristine Kathryn Rusch, via a_r_williams, that gives even more details.

You could see these developments as contradictory, but in some ways they're not. I see them as illustrating two points. The first is that authors now have more choices. The second is that the definition of “publisher” is changing.

And I don't think there will be a tsunami. I think the coming change is more akin to rising shorelines than a tidal wave. Publishers who are savvy will have time to adapt.

But then what do I know? What do you think?



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