Saturday, June 09, 2007

Rabbits, rats and romance--are you following the r-strategy?

Those of you who studied biology probably know about r and K strategies, specifically:

"In order to maximize fitness in a predictable environment, it pays to invest resources in long-term development and long life (K selection); in a risky environment, it is better to produce as much offspring as quickly as possible (r selection)."

For most authors, epublishing is in many ways a risky publication strategy. Books may be very low yielding in terms of sales--and most epublishers are new small companies with shaky long term prospects. In response it seems many ebook writers become r-strategy. Let's consider, ebooks tend to be shorter, ebook writers more prolific and they "mate" with more than one publisher. The publishers themselves obviously release more books with less heavy investment in each one and that being the case the writer is often wise to match that strategy as best they can.

What is the other option. If you put K investment into a book when the publisher is putting in r investment is that wise? If you stick with only one publisher while they release almost a book a day by anyone whose feathers are shiny enough what is the benefit? As usual I am better with questions and glib metaphors than I am with answers. I think that it pays to match strategies with the publisher though, if it is an r-strategy world then choose the publisher with the biggest... sales figures. If you detect the publisher, or your editor, is investing in you--then maybe you should match that effort as best you can. I am encouraged by signs of some limitations such as publishers with fewer authors and releases, and yes--being closed to submissions can be a good sign.

And surely there should be some kind of middle ground out there, e-publishers who choose to make more from each book rather than make more books? Or is that just my own little knight-on-a-white-horse fantasy with no reality in the real biological world...? Perhaps the best I can hope for is not to become a K-horse, but the best r-rabbit I can? I mean some parts of the r-job description suck, like "short-lived, small, weak, waste a lot of energy, less intelligent/experienced, care little for offspring, small birth weight" etc etc etc. But at least there are two things the r-types do have that the K-biddies don't -- they grow up fast and have a hell of a lot more sex ;)

1 comment:

Arin Rhys said...

I think it would be best to do a mix of the two. E-pubs are shady places at times and it seems smarter to get a lot of quality goods with a decent variety in length so if your e-pub folds you can move to the next or go to NY. If you can build up a fan base then they will follow you wherever you go.