Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Writing Week: Issue 43, Year 4.

Hi all,

Amazon’s Latest Publishing Exploits.

In the past couple of weeks two articles about Amazon’s publishing ambitions have backed up my thoughts that they will soon dominate the publishing industry. The first article in Publisher’s Weekly was about the launch of Amazon’s new publishing imprint called 47North. This imprint will publish Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror.

47North had signed 15 titles when it launched and included a series by Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear. All titles will be available in print, Kindle and audio formats.

The article also mentions an author who signed up to Amazon publishing because of their better ebook royalty rate. Traditional publishers, it would seem, are going to have to raise their 25% ebook royalty to compete with Amazon.

The second article appeared in the NY Times. It starts by announcing that “Amazon will publish 122 books this fall in an array of genres, in both physical and ebook form.” “Publishers say Amazon is aggressively wooing some of their top authors. And the company is gnawing away at the services that publishers, critics and agents used to provide.”

Literary agent Richard Curtis is quoted as saying “everyone is afraid of Amazon”. Amazon is offering authors the opportunity to cut agents out. One of Amazon’s executives says “the only really necessary people in the publishing process are now the writer and the reader”.

I have been thinking that agents are probably going to have to reinvent themselves if they are going to survive into the future.

As for book reviewers (critics) there are thousands of them on the web, but will they disappear from the press? I know I have yet to buy a book based solely on its reviews on Amazon, but I do look at them. I am aware that the five star reviews for a book could be written by friends or aliases of the author. While the zero star review might be written by a disgruntled writer who is angry at the world. In last week’s blog post I listed books I want for Christmas. I read good reviews of all the books I wanted in The Age.

The article also said than an author’s contract with Amazon forbade her discussing its details. This is worrying.


While watching Contagion I pondered what viruses the person who packed the lollies I was eating may have had. The film could make a person as paranoid about germs as Jaws made people scared of sharks. I found Contagion engrossing. Its one of those rare films, for me these days, where my attention only briefly wandered.

It’s a story about the outbreak a flu type virus that kills millions around the world. Stephen Soderbergh directed it and it is very like another movie of his Traffic. The story is told from multiple viewpoints in a rather unemotional style. But it is deceptively subtle. You need to watch and think.

I left the film wondering if I had just watched a science fiction film or just a medical thriller. For a story to be classified as science fiction, science has to be essential to the plot. In other words, if the science is taken out, there is no plot. If the science was taken out of Contagion, then a fair bit of the plot would have gone with it. There would have been no search for a vaccine. The film would have been mainly about the civil attempts to contain the virus, so about a quarter to a third of the film would have gone missing.

If the film had been science fiction, it could have gone the way of the Andromeda Strain and remained mainly in the research labs. I think such a film would not have been as good. I doubt whether Contagion will be judged as science fiction for the Hugos.

My Writing Efforts

After a lot more research, I have all but finished my article on weight loss for people with disabilities. The research has made me feel fat, but at least I now have a lot of information about losing that fat. I hope to submit the article to Divine by Wednesday. I only briefly worked on the short story I am writing.


Karen Tyrrell said...

Thanks Graham for this very enlightening post on the latest exploits of Amazon Publisher.
Very interesting insights into the future of Agents.
Haven't heard of the movie, Contagion but it sounds worthwhile. I'll keep an watch out for it .. Karen T :)

Graham Clements said...

Its a good film when you're in the mood for something that explores an issue - in this case the outbreak of a Spanish Flu type virus. I was reading the other day that at the start of last century the Spanish Flu killed about 12,000 Australians.

I really can't see much of a long term future for agents. Those with a list of established authors might hang around for a while until their authors wonder what they are paying them for.

In the brave new world of publishing, most authors are going to be self-publishing on sites like Amazon. Traditional publishing won't be able to compete with the margins on ebooks, so the primary reason for getting an agent, is gone. Authors sign up to agents to get book contracts from publishers. But if the publishers are not there then the agent's role as a negotiator between author and publisher no longer exists.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Very interesting re 47North. I may try to submit to them. I agree, agents are becoming redundant. I havent been rejected by publishers as i'm too busy getting rejected from agents. It's driving me crazy. Probably wasting my time. I know if more publishers made themselves available, authors would bypass agents. I guess the worry is that authors could be taken advantage of. I see it as basically good news, but there needs to be competition. Hopefully we will see more of that.

Contagion is directed by Stephen Soderburgh so I imagine its strong on character. I've heard its very good so I'm looking forward to it.