Saturday, March 01, 2008
James D MacDonald coined Yog's Law: Money Flows Toward the Writer. The point of the law mainly being to help novice writers avoid scammers that charge money to publish a book.
In the traditional publishing model, books go from the writer to the reader and money goes from the reader to the writer. The publisher basically facilitiates the transaction. On either side of the publisher the agent and the distributor might play further intermediate roles. The driving force of the supply chain is the desire of the readers for the book. Traditional publishing is a pull economy. It only works when this desirefor the book is present or evokable in a readership.
Now there are a number of 'push' situations where the author steps in from the terminus of the chain and partially or entirely takes over the role of publisher. This happens whenever the author financially supports any activity that drives the book towards the reader. That certainly includes any part other than writer in producing the print-ready manuscript, putting the manuscript into print or distribution.
Now, my opinion is that there is nothing wrong with being a traditional 'pull' author, or being an 'push' author-slash-publisher of some kind, be it co-op, subsidy or any other bill- or fee-paying scenario. I would, however, maintain that the difference between the two is not trivial and the distinction should not be blurred.
There are two reasons for this. One is that 'pull' supply chains are more effortless. If there is no reader demand they tend not to work at all--if there is they tend to possess certain privileges that extend beyond not putting your hand in your pocket. The degree to which this is true depends somewhat on format, as small, e-format presses reqire very little 'pull' to get going but also generate proportionately modest amounts of cash in most cases. The thing is that adding any 'push' to the supply chain reduces the amount of 'pull' required for a viable chain. In the case of a small e-publisher it requires very little 'push' to remove the need for there to be any 'pull' at all. Thus the ebook writer asked to pay a fee should immediately wonder whether this press accesses any significant readership at all, and seek out evidence of sales figures. The absence of fees is the only native evidence of the existence of a readership at all, and that applies only to publishers that have been open long enough for the lack of 'pull' to have lead to the collapse of the publisher. [edited to add: I hope I made myself clear here but have received at least one email that suggests otherwise.]
The second matter is that some authors are good at writing, but they suck at any publishing-type role and should avoid taking it on. That would include me, in case you were wondering. That is why I write about self-publishing only from the point of view of a reader.
In terms of EREC, I am debating over the issue of fee-charging presses. What exactly consititutes a fee? Are there any areas where paying money to a publisher be it compulsary, voluntary (solicited or upon request), or necessary to secure a certain benefit or option, is okay? Should charging a fee add a simple $! to the listing, or drop a press straight into the smoke or even not recommended category? Any input appreciated.