19 October 2010

Publishing Link Sausages

All of the links today are about publishing, in one way or another. That's sort of like making sausages out of sausages, isn't it?
  • Here's a real shock: Spanish media conglomerate just as disingenuous as American media conglomerates over royalty accounting. The real problem is that — contrary to the implications spouted forth made by the spokescreature — this is not at all new to Gruppo Planeta. And notice that those implications were closer to a nondenial denial than to a denial of wrongdoing:

    Through its 60 years of existence, our prestigious company and sisters, have never given cause to face a claim of this sort and our professional practice is based on ethics and respect to third parties rights. An evidence of this is our market presence that has reached more than 25 countries

    Really? Market presence is evidence of trustworthiness? I wonder what BP, Enron, and Gazprom would say about that?

  • Dean Wesley Smith offers an interesting take on electronic publishing of backlists that requires a couple of caveats to make any sense. First of all, realize that what he's saying applies primarily to category commercial fiction. To give only one obvious counterexample, a heavily illustrated book requires a lot of highly trained (and poorly paid) attention — regardless of the kind of book it is — prior to publication, ranging from permissions checking to reproduction palette adjustment (even for greyscale and pure monochrome!). Nonetheless, I think DWS's underlying point is valid: That large print publishers have outsourced too much... including the advantages they did have over self-publishers, and particularly for slowly-but-continuously-selling backlist works. Of course, I tend to work with the better class of agent, so some of DWS's disparagement of agents seems a bit excessive (even to me), even if on balance he's right as to its effect on commercial category fiction publishing. And yes, this does have more than a little bit to do with the next item:
  • Realms of Fantasy is dead — again. I won't say "good riddance," because the magazine did publish some good work, and it's never good to see markets for authors fail. However, I would point the finger in a different direction than did Mr Lapine; consider this the polite version of that finger-pointing.

    Sure, the economic environment didn't help. What really didn't help. though, is that the magazine never learned the lesson of fifty years of periodical publishing in print and a decade in bits: What seems like overspecialization usually isn't, and overdiversification is deadly. The overly rigid editorial categories within each issue ultimately sank it, because there was never enough editorial room to allow the quality of what was available in a given month to determine the table of contents. Instead, there was the overemphasis on having exactly one game review article, of a given length; exactly one book review article, usually trending toward the new-and-kewl-otherwise-categorized-as-YA, which further pigeonholed the magazine for marketing without actually specializing; exactly one article, of a given length, discussing folklore (and over the last few years, too often in that awkward gap between the anthropologically/scholarly credible and the Bowdlerized crap shoved into high schools, and reflecting the worst of both); etc. Further, too many of the reviews were fanboyish/fangirlish, and reflected too much fear of offending advertisers to be useful in the first place (except, that is, film reviews). And then the fiction tended to be edited to a subordinate length and buried in the middle of the magazine. In short, a magazine is not a newspaper.

    Like I said, that's the polite version. The inept design (admittedly, Lapine's regime improved it a lot) didn't help; failure to reach out to libraries didn't help; reliance on cosplay advertisers didn't help; and... well, I did say I was going to keep this polite, so I'll stop there...

  • Also along the same line, the 1709 Blog offers a fascinating revisionary tale on the razors v. blades nature of content and hardware... which only gets more interesting when one realizes that the Gillette razors v. blades "strategy" is apocryphal and was driven by pecularities in intellectual property protection and enforcement in the early part of the twentieth century.