Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rise Of The Indie Press

It is good to be an indie press.

I had a real eye opener while attending the World Fantasy Convention up at Calgary. At its core, this is a literary business convention for those in the field of fantasy and science fiction. You don't get Klingons running around. Instead, you find agents, publishers, writers, and readers enthusiastic enough to pay the rather stiff entrance fees in order to see the industry's latest offerings.

The news that was on every one's lips was the recession. The traditional publishers - those relying on book stores, are in serious trouble. They aren't just bleeding money, they are hemorrhaging it. The reason is simple - they are tied into a monopolistic distribution system where unsold books are returned and refunds expected. During recessions, not enough people will buy books and cash-strapped companies suddenly have to pay the difference as thousands of books are returned to them.

At the convention, the dealer's room was all but taken over by independent presses. Indies don't rely on book stores for the most part. Indies are not death-locked into the vicious cycle of returns. Indies are currently making money - not losing it. Suddenly, the traditional industry's maligning of both e-books and print-on-demand comes back to home to roost. Rumor has it that one major New York publisher rushed a representative out to the convention simply to figure out how the independents were thriving amidst the ruin. I tend to doubt the rumor when the answer is so obvious. It's the business model, stupid.

So what impact does this have on you as a reader? It means less selection at the book store. It means, as layoffs pile up and new acquisitions wither, a reader is less likely to find something truly new and refreshing on the shelf. They are at the mercy of marketing departments who have long since taken over from editors much of the decision making process of who and what gets published.

For the writer, the impact is straight-forward. You don't get accepted at one of the big houses. Period. They simply can not afford to take the risk. Now, it's not how good are you - it's who you know.

Welcome, both of you, to the independent presses, who are thriving! New authors, new stories, and a selection...well, just run by Fictionwise or Amazon. E-book? They got em. Paperback? Yep! Pick your media from paper to Kindle and it's out there. While New York slams its doors shut to all but a networked few, the indie publishers are out hunting new talent.

Some may call this a recession. I like "renaissance" better.