I'm limiting my personal anecdotes from my company to my curmudgeon blog and continuing to press on in writing about publishing. Ultimately, I have always believed that the personal is political. Therefore, for me, publishing is political.
But even in its own right, there are a lot of political ramifications to what happened to it and is still happening to it. I arrived in publishing at a turning point. I made my first professional sale in 1978. There were dozens and dozens of publishing houses producing science fiction and fantasy. I wrote fantasy and write it still.
It is a well known fact that Dune was rejected more than forty times by major houses. There are no longer forty major houses. With the merger of Random House and Penguin Group, there are now just five. One by one the mid list houses have been going under or ceased to publish speculative fiction.
It's a microcosm of what is going on in the rest of our economy and the reason that I voted for Elizabeth Warren. I am not certain that there are any answers. Only questions.
But I feel that if anyone can come up with some answers, it is Warren.
Those five giant international publishing houses ought to be considered monopolies. They are too big NOT to fail. But in the meantime, they are taking a lot of the variety and innovation out of the industry.
As other corporations are doing in the rest of this country, so it goes with publishing.
Ebooks are the new big thing. The DoJ recently ruled against the Big Six (now Five) for restraint of trade in using the agenting method to set ebook prices. Amazon won against them. Now, I'm not crazy about the monolith that Amazon has become, despite the fact that most of my company's sales are through their kindle department.
I see Amazon's suit as the actions of one monopoly against a group of monopolies. I would like to see them all broken up and limited and better regulated. Most of all, I would like to see the little guys, like myself, protected from the big guys.
How to do that, I have not the foggiest idea.
I wrote about the case of Fictionwise on my curmudgeon blog, but I see no reason not to use that example twice. What happened is the same thing that started happening to the print houses in the 80s.
Fictionwise was the one of the largest and most successful (if not THE) of the ebook multi-format retailer sites. They were very Indie friendly. Authors, who could no longer make it with the majors, released their backlists there.
There was a time when most us hoped there would one day be a standard format for ebooks so that they could be read on any ereader out there. Instead what we got was an expansion of proprietary formats. (Kindle, Nook, et al).
B&N acquired Fictionwise. The first thing they did was squeeze out those authors and the Indies. Last year, B&N closed it down. I see this as an attempt to force the people who bought from Fictionwise to move over to their failing proprietary ebook format and bolster those sales.
There has long been a trend in this country (Romney being a great example) of buying out companies (in this case the competition) and closing them down. Those they cannot buy they find ways to destroy.
If a little Indie company gets lucky and manages to land several books in succession on the major best seller lists, how long will it be allowed to survive? That's the scary thing for me.
I want to get lucky as much as the next guy. However, what happens then? When the sharks notice you are swimming in their pool, how long do you get to keep your legs attached?
There ought to be a limit as to how many of the little guys can be gobbled up and/or killed by the industry sharks.
Not just in publishing, but in the rest of our industries as well. What happens to publishing is merely a reflection of what is going on elsewhere.