I went to the gym this morning after participating for a while in an interesting online chat about changing publisher advances (this grew out of several other discussions on Twitter this week about the publishing industry and agents specifically, including this blog post by Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware, for whom I have a ton of respect). The discussion started from the question “what would it take to make a no-advance model worth your while?” I probably missed some great discussion while working out, but I was slightly irritated that conversation seemed to split into “Indie” and “Big Publisher” camps, as often seems to happen these days.
So this is what I have to say:
Whichever you favor, Indie or “Trad”, the problems remain: e-books are changing the game by stripping the complexities of the international publishing industry (big, small, indie, or self-pubbed) down to the basic bone of Intellectual Property rights. How we address the issues stemming from the facts of e-publication and distribution technology (not our fears or our favorites) will be the determining factor in how advances (if any) and contracts are managed in the future, for all writers and publishers, in all formats.
This is not a “slate wiper” for writers or for the industry. Publishing is not dead, but it’s got to evolve with the technology, and copyright law and contracts will have to do the same. It’s not a matter of “or else” because there is no “or else.” Even if all publication becomes some form of Indie or “self” it’s still publication, but it’s not going to be the same animal it is now.
I’m not an expert and I don’t have all the answers–I’m still thinking about this a lot, but I believe this really is the crux of the issue. Unfortunately I have to get back to work or I won’t have another book for you guys next year, so discuss among yourselves and I’ll get back when I can.