Monday, August 31, 2009

I SOUND LIKE A STUCK RECORD (Of course, no one under 50 knows what a stuck record is). Okay, I keep ranting about the horrible state of the book business, but I do have some remedies, one or two of which I have stated before. 1) It is vital to immediately change the pernicious practice of Returns. Like making buggy whips, bookseller and wholesaler return of unsold books to publishers for full refunds is an anachronism that should no longer be acceptable. Large and small publishers should rally against the practice and set a date, say January 2012, after which no returns will be countenanced. The novelty and gamble will be more than interesting for all involved in the book food chain. 2) Make life easier for the beleagured publisher. I've observed that there seem to be more writers than readers. If an author truly wants her book published, with professional editing, distribution and publicity and a jacket that doesn't look like it was coughed up by a copying machine, she might consider becoming a partner with the publisher who signs her up. This would involve persuading the author to give up the advance on royalties or foregoing royalties altogether in favor of taking a cut of the publisher's profits. I like this idea particularly for first-time authors. 3) Publishers should continue to expand their sales to new venues and consider publishing simultaneously in offset print and on-demand or electronic downloads. (However, I personally believe that downloading a title onto a cell phone is good for nothing but keeping opthalmologists busy, and I'm not even sure that Kindle and its ilk will last after its initial craze in the marketplace.) A few large publishers are even now trying out No. 3. Stay tuned.

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