Yes, as I noted, it's clear you've been paying attention to the SP gurus (they're the ones who typically can't discuss self-publishing without derogatory statements about trade publishing, as in 'jurassic'). If you hadn't paid quite so much attention, however, you'd realize that trade publishing is not going the way of the dinosaur, and that trade publishers are just as 'into' the new technologies as the self-publisher. The only differences are 1) they have tens of thousands of books to deal with, not just a handful, and 2) they're actually making sure these books are properly transitioned from paper to digital, not just randomly checking a page here or there - ie, quality assurance. So yes, it took a little more time. But they're hardly dying on the vine.
I have to respectfully disagree with a couple of points.
The first agent that represented me in a non-fiction publication had a background and education in business. In fact, during that time if you looked at the backgrounds of most agents prowling the streets of New York, you saw very few "under-40's" in terms of age, a majority had degrees in business or economics with minors in English or communications. A large number of them came from working-class families with blue collar backgrounds. Their job was to find, market and represent salable writers to the publishing houses.
If you look at today's crop of literary agents, almost all of them have backgrounds in academia with degrees in English, literature, MFAs from no-name schools in "fine arts writing" with the majority having never been published in anything outside of a closed society campus writing club (translation: no real world experience), are well under forty years of age, have never held a "real" job outside of pitching manuscripts, and come from families in which they could afford to do free internships (in NYC, that's expensive, by the way) and live on a commission-only job until they got settled in, etc.
The above didn't come from me, by the way--it came from two of the writers I've mentioned who are enjoying tremendous success in self-publishing and who consigned the research project comparing literary agents today with agents of forty years ago.
Nothing against academia. I've been a guest lecturer and a visiting instructor at four different major universities in their journalism and advertising programs (I do not have my PhD, so cannot be a full-fledged professor). I thoroughly enjoyed teaching the students what the world of advertising and marketing held for them and the challenges.
Now. . . as for as trade publishers not going the way of the dinosaur? Look again. Whenever you see mergers occurring (ie Pinnacle and others being absorbed into Kensington), mergers do not happen because a business is financially sound and strong. Mergers are almost always predatory--the stronger taking over the weak. Business has its own Darwinistic rules and they are just as unforgiving as those in the jungle.
However, the intelligent will always outlive and outlast the strong. Smart people find ways to get strong people to work for them. There ARE publishers out there who ARE polishing up their crystal balls and making great strides into the future of e-publishing, as it makes just plain smart financial sense.
But ink and paper books ARE going the way of the dinosaur, and not just in fiction, but in trade categories as well.
We live in a society, and world, of instant gratification. I want it now. I NEED it now. I will HAVE IT NOW. With iPhones, iPads, laptops, e-readers, the internet, a cell-phone tower every hundred feet, etc., technology is allowing for instant gratification.
Couple of weeks ago, Apple sent out an upgrade for OS10.6 that basically crashed every computer in the world that was running apps that used a Rosetta format. Long story short, it was catastrophic for a lot of folks who relied upon their computers for business and income. They were dead in the water. Apple came out with a patch some forty-eight to seventy-two hours later, and it worked.
BUT, within hours of the crash, there were already groups of independent computer programmers and enthusiasts identifying the problem and coming up with their own solutions--and posting them on online venues where the information and fix were instant.
Two things to this:
1. If the programmers had taken the "traditional" route, they would've contacted Apple, gone through the "process" and waited to see if Apple actually believed them, listened to them, or summarily rejected them--even though they had a viable, provable, workable fix to Apple's problem.
2. A lot of folks, moi included, lost a lot of faith in Apple. I was at an agency in New York when we got our first Macintosh computers in 1985, and have been a fanatically loyal Apple guy ever since. I'll still buy and own Apple computers, exclusively, but I've thrown out my kool-aid.
This is a pretty good analogy to today's publishing industry.
Used to be that agents and editors were the only way to get your novel published and you had to trust them to represent your best interests. Those days are gone.
If you write a fiction novel that is based upon something current, such as an election, a world conflict, etc., by the time you go the traditional route of two to three hundred rejections, sending in partials only to hear nothing for months on end, then get rejected, OR after all of that, you get represented then the process starts over with a publisher (writes, re-writes, hurry up and wait), any semblance to the current event you've written about is long gone. You can THEN be rejected for "Well, this novel just isn't relevant."
Now, if you're writing literary fiction or romance or historical fiction, then your time ratio for query to publication means little. But if you're writing for young adult (where trends and fashions and even language can change from year to year) or contemporary fiction or political thrillers, then there are times you need to be in print far quicker than what the traditional avenue have ever allowed for most folks.
This is where the (publication) industry is behind the curve--they can, and often do, do this for non-fiction, but never for fiction.
Our society is moving quicker, not slower. This is where self-publishing, in my opinion, will overtake the traditional ways of publishing.
I do agree with your last statement - the wise author will look carefully at both trade and self-publishing. And they'll learn who to listen to and who's just blowing hot air to justify their own decisions.
Oh, and just a slight correction - it's just "novel", not "fiction novel".
(contemporary novel, fiction novel, YA novel, thriller novel. . . I'm from Texas. We butcher language something awful.)
Agree completely. A writer should look at everything they've invested in their book--be it non-fiction or fiction, and then explore and research the avenues open to them AS WELL AS their own abilities to help facilitate getting their manuscript published.
Example: You get a $10,000 advance. Your agent gets 15% or $1500, and that will be less any mailings or photocopies they make (which I don't understand how all these "green" agencies can rack up so much in photocopying expenses when they "recycle" all paper queries and correspondences. . .
). For that $1500, you get an agent who has reviewed your contract with the publisher, the publisher has given your book an IBSN, cover art and an editor to work with you. The publisher will pay you 10% against your advance for the first five thousand copies sold, then 12.5% from five to ten thousand copies, then 15% for anything over ten thousand copies--provided they EVEN PUBLISH additional copies. No guarantee of that, by the way.
For $1500, you can:
--have an attorney who specializes in intellectual property rights review your contract with the publisher for between $200 and $350.
--get an IBSN for $125
--hire an independent or retired editor to review your manuscript for between $300 and $600.
--hire an art director to design your cover for between $100 to $200.
That's $700 on the low end $1275 on the high end--still less than the commission you just paid an agent, who basically only read/re-read your manuscript and suggested revisions, then got you sold to a publisher. And yeah, getting sold to a publisher IS a big deal and probably worth the commission alone.
For many writers, having an agent is the best way to go. For many other writers, having an agent is the most stifling, non-profitable way to go. It's up to each writer to decide and determine what is best for them and the project they're wanting to see into publication.
I quit drinking kool-aid back before I turned ten-years-old, and you don't want to know how many decades ago that was.
So I'm not blindly hyping self-publishing or viciously degrading literary agents and publishers. Instead, I'm trying to get writers to think, to explore, to research on what is best for them.
Self-publishing is a lot of work. A LOT. My three friends and former colleagues devote no less than three to five hours a day to their publicity and networking efforts, but again, all three are reaping over $100,000 apiece for their efforts, and they have retained ALL rights to their work, with one getting ready to negotiate screenplay rights and another just having sold his foreign rights to a traditional publisher in the UK.
Would that have happened with the traditional literary agent and publisher? Absolutely not, and between them, they have the almost one-thousand rejections to prove it.
Competition is good, and for decades and decades, publishers and literary agents have had no competition, no other way to get your book into print, to get read, to get paid for it. Now there is a new way and many in the old guard don't like it. It's making them re-examine how they look at things and how they do things.
(By the way, I'm enjoying the conversation. The more we look and learn, the more we prosper and grow. Good stuff.)