Saturday, 27 February 2016

A Brave New World - Preserving the Printed Word

I am pleased to welcome Donna and Alex Carrick of Carrick Publishing, as I continue to explore the changes in the publishing industry and impact of those changes on the various stakeholders.

I’d like to thank Joan for featuring Carrick Publishing today at her blog site.

Much has been said during recent years about the changing industry landscape. Alex and I made the decision that, rather than witness these changes as bystanders, we would become involved on a pioneering level.

We’ve been able, in some small way, to help shape the changes in our publishing industry. We offer options to talented authors who might otherwise not be able to reach readers.

In your dual role as an author and publisher, what changes have you seen in recent years?

The changes our industry has faced so far in the 21st century have been much discussed by authors and industry leaders. My comments stem from the grass-roots level, my gut reaction to what we’ve witnessed in the past 10 years.

Most notably, there have been the closures. Closures of large publishing houses. Closures of brick and mortar bookstores.

Talented authors have been advised their publishing contracts will not be renewed.

The rise of e-books, which should have offered salvation to the struggling author, has yet to realize its potential.

In a free-market society, one expects the best and brightest to rise to success. This has not, for the most part, been the case. We still see only a marked few authors gaining reader recognition. And this success, while in part driven by talent, has not been a true gauge of the “best of the best”. Too many skilled, worthy authors still sit on the sidelines, unheralded and unrecognized.

Alex is an Economist by profession. Naturally, with that background, we do believe that eventually the reading public will seek out new talent. Meanwhile, though, the extremely alluring distractions of video and internet media are giving authors a run for their efforts.

Books, whether print or e-book format, may never regain their former glory, floating as they do upon a public that is pulled in other directions. But we must believe that reading will, with the continued effort of publishers and authors, find its place within the recreational options open to young people.

I target young people in this comment because I believe the “over 50” crowd already understands the importance of reading, both as it relates to intellectual and emotional development, as well as for the pleasure it can bring the reader.

Young people, though, are a tougher market nut to crack.

Reader by reader, it is our job, those of us who love this industry, to bring them into the fold, kicking and screaming if necessary. If we fail in this mission, we will have failed our industry. We’ll have let our fellow authors down, our publishers, both traditional and Indie…in short we will have failed our art.

How have your roles been affected by the changes?

My initial role in this industry was as an author of literary thrillers.

Writing is my first love. I can recall as a very young child being deeply moved by the great books of the time. My mother saw that love in me. She made sure, even though she was of middle education herself, that our house was filled with children’s classics. She took pains to encourage that love, even though she did not share it. I credit her with this passion.

Having said that, timing is everything.

I always knew I would write novels. I even always had an idea of the themes I would try to address in my work. What I didn’t necessarily anticipate was the quicksand-like force of these industry changes. Suddenly, agents and publishers were no longer enjoying wide profit margins. Without profit margins, they had little, if any, incentive to champion new talent.

The upheaval caused by this economic sinkhole meant that a new author, such as myself, would not be judged on merit, on talent, or even on effort. The stories and themes that I hoped to bring to readers would, in short, never reach the public, even on a modest level.

As an artist, this was unacceptable to me.

If I could not find a publisher, it seemed the alternative was to become a publisher. Hence, the birth of Carrick Publishing. Alex and I perceived a need in our industry, and we set about trying to fill it.

What is the impact of these changes on authors? on readers? on the book industry overall?

Authors: I believe many authors have been, quite simply, devastated by the changes in the publishing industry. Authors who used to be able to focus of the art of story-telling must now become self-marketers, editors, in many cases cover artists. Authors are being stretched beyond their capacity, and still they feel no assurance of support within the industry. They face dwindling (often disappearing) royalties; they are being systematically dropped by their agents and publishers, and only the very select few are still enjoying the publicity that is the banner-benefit of signing with a large publishing house.

Readers are, in my humble opinion, being led by the nose. They are being offered a grossly narrowing array of works/authors/talents/themes to choose from. In a time when we, as an industry, should be pulling out all stops to court new readers, instead we are offering them a mere Pablum assortment of genres/authors/works.

New readers, with their legendary short attention spans, are quickly becoming disgusted with this shortage of variety.

Some may set out to discover new Indie works, but even there they are not satisfied. With the groundswell of unsupported authors, there is an unmatched tsunami of low-quality work.

I am not an advocate of the traditional “gatekeeper”. Alex and I believe firmly in allowing readers to award success to authors where it is merited. Having said that, at least the gatekeepers offered some small assurance of quality.

The flux of unsupported writers unfortunately brings with it a flood of lesser work. Work that is not properly edited, with themes and characters that are less than original, less than compelling.

Book Industry: In a few words, I do believe our industry has been injured by these changes. It will take time and a great deal of effort to regain the trust of readers. We can do this only by offering them greater variety, greater enthusiasm for our art, and a deepening of the quality of our work.
What challenges and opportunities do these changes present to the various stakeholders?

We live and work in a climate of tremendous opportunity. However, it does not present itself without equally tremendous effort. Alex and I saw, early on, that this is a time for pioneers, if you’ll allow the word.

More than at any time since the invention of the typewriter, this is a time of innovation, of new approaches, of new attitudes and ideas within our industry.

The traditional guard is slowly beginning to see this, and to govern itself accordingly.

At Carrick Publishing, we’ve known this for more than a decade. It’s the basis of our business.

How are you positioning yourself to meet the challenges or take advantage of the opportunities?

Our position is simple:  If it doesn’t work, don’t do it. Instead, be open to new ideas. Find out what does work.

With this in mind, we offer independent authors a means to reach readers. We offer them an Indie publishing platform, with services that include copy-editing, formatting and verification of the publication files. We also offer follow-up, working closely with our authors in the post-publication stages.

While we cannot act as publicists, we do fully support our authors through social media, and we encourage our authors to grow their personal platforms. We’re happy to guide where we can in this seemingly daunting process.

Royalties, slender as they are these days, are vitally important to our authors. We recognize this. Therefore, our fees are related strictly to the labour we provide. We make no claim on the future copyright or royalties of our authors. We act as publisher of record, copy-editor if needed, guide for new authors, formatter and setup. 

Finally, we are fully dedicated to restoring literary quality to our industry. If a work comes to us that is poorly edited, we will let the author know his/her next steps required.

We will not accept or work with manuscripts that are poor quality, nor will we work with anything we deem to be in poor taste. This, of course, is subject to our opinions, but would certainly include anything we see as hate-literature.

Beyond those qualifiers, we are open to most genres, from memoirs to literary to mystery to fantasy, or any mix of genres.

Do you have any additional thoughts you'd like to share?

Donna: If you have the ear of a young person who does not read, please encourage them to do so. Please, do not attempt to restrict (beyond the necessities of good taste) what your children choose to read. Allow them, and encourage them, to read for pleasure, more than for education.

Only through the deep, undeniable pleasure of being completely lost in a good story can we hope to bring a new generation of readers back to our industry.

And back to our art.

Alex: Another art form is currently ascending, and has already replaced books as the dominant cultural touchstone. This art form is video, in all its current and future platforms. We recognize this reality, but there remains a true value in preserving the printed word, out of which so much of video is derived.

We feel a responsibility to continue to fight for the recognition of the written word.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for hosting Carrick Publishing at your wonderful blogsite, Joan. We greatly appreciate the opportunity to discuss the future of our industry.