Friday, June 02, 2017

Writing: Fast, Cheap, Good...Pick Two

One of the questions a writer must consider when deciding between seeking a "conventional" publishing contract with a publisher and "going indie" by taking on the publication of the work is the matter of the time between completion of a book and its release.

Jane Friedman addresses this in her recent blog, "The Pressure To Release More, More, More Titles." In it, she highlights one of the major differences between the traditional publishing world and the indie-publishing route. In her article in Publishers Weekly she says, "When I worked in publishing in the late 1990s, my boss often repeated the business maxim, 'Fast, cheap, and good—pick two.' This is the belief that it’s impossible to produce something of high quality very quickly and at low cost. Companies have to prioritize two of these and sacrifice the third...Traditional publishers are often criticized for not prioritizing fast. "

What about other factors affecting authors and reader? Steve Oates, an executive with Bethany House Publishers, has a lot to say about the changes already taking place in the Christian fiction market, and I suggest you click here to read that post. Truly, the times are changing.

The traditionally published author accepts the fact that a book may take a year or more between acceptance and release. One of the benefits of indie publishing is being able to get a book out, especially the e-book version, in much less time than that--usually a matter of a few months. My friend and colleague, the late Michael Palmer, expected to produce one book a year---that's what he negotiated with his publisher, and his readers were content to wait for that book.  Others (and I could name names, but it's not necessary) have gone the indie route and the books literally pour out from their computers. Which is the best method? It gets down to "whatever works" for the individual author.

Does it matter? Personally, I think there's something to be said for both approaches, but what do you think? Let me know.

Tweet with a single click. "Should publishing hold to the old maxim that it's impossible to produce quality work quickly?" Click here to tweet.

9 comments:

Elise Griffith said...

NYT bestselling authors like Patterson, Steele, Macomber, etc. pump out several new hardcovers a year via traditional publishing. Quality does slip when an author is producing too much, too quickly (IMO). With the birth of e-books, the industry shifted. Readers began expecting more for less. Recession didn't help. The economy is improving, yet most Americans are living with a net loss of income over the past decade. Books are a luxury purchase. I'm buying older publications (used) more often. Quality seems better & I can work them into a tight budget. For many readers, it's not possible to buy like we used to. Which, I know, hurts authors.

Elise Griffith said...

To answer your questions, though, I think it's possible for indie authors to produce quality work so long as they aren't releasing novels so quickly that editing is neglected. Some indie authors are teaming up to cooperatively edit each other's work, promote each other's books and share resources. While there'll always be a market for hardcover novels, that market is shrinking. Indie-specific companies are making it more cost effective (for authors) to produce more often purchased paperbacks by printing on demand... something traditional publishers can't do. For readers & authors alike, it could be a win/win. And I've read e-books are slipping in sales in spite of 99 cent deals. Amazon has even opened a brick & mortar book store!

Elise Griffith said...

Apologies for being so verbose. It's a complex issue not easily answered in a sentence or two.

Richard Mabry said...

Elise, no apologies necessary. People have been arguing about traditional vs. indie-publishing for quite a while, and the game is constantly changing. Thanks for commenting.

Elise Griffith said...

It sounds like you're still trying to decide which path to take since you've encountered a fork in the road ahead for your next novel?

Richard Mabry said...

Very perceptive, Elise. Waiting to hear from a traditional publisher who has requested material on my (already written) novels. Going to make a decision, probably next week. Stay tuned.

Elise Griffith said...

Dr. Mabry, Christian Publishing Houses (like Bethany) didn't put enough effort into getting paperback fiction on shelves in Target, Walmart, Kmart, Sam's Club and Costco. They can blame e-books, Amazon, or readers themselves, but marketing and sales departments were cut in the late 1990s. Christian readers shop in those stores. I recently splurged on two paperbacks with 20% off tags at Target, meaning we ate 98 cent per lb. chicken for half a week. If publishers weren't as focused on higher immediate profit margins, they'd actually make more money (overall) for themselves and their authors. Often it takes money to make money. Like the parable Jesus told about growing what we're given. Crossing fingers & saying prayers for you!

Patricia Bradley said...

Wishing you the best, Richard, on your proposal to a trad publisher. The time between books released is one of the complaints I hear most.

My traditional publisher doesn't put books in Target, Walmart, etc because there is such a high rate of return of the books. If the book doesn't sell out in a month or so, the big stores return the books to the publisher.

Richard Mabry said...

Patricia, gone are the days when self-publishing equated with 'vanity" publishing. I'm hearing a lot of good things about going away from traditional publishers, and getting past the year's delay is top of the list. Thanks for your comment.