Friday, February 11, 2011

The Future of the Book

by Louis Bertrand Shalako


All Rights Reserved

The future of the book has never looked healthier. Books are available to more people in more venues and more formats than ever before. This new access to freedom of information will create vast social upheavals. Not just for repressive states, where Egypt immediately springs to mind, but for our own country as well.

Every big media conglomerate will continue to produce paper and ink books in hardcover, paperbacks, limited editions and boxed sets. They will all enter the e-book field, but then they all make audiobooks and produce the things on CD. They have global distribution and they will use it.

These books will tie in to existing media operations, like Oprah's book club and Stephen Colbert's renouwned science fiction books, especially the Tech Hansen series.

It's just merchandising. Several authorities have noted there is no 'morality' in this industry.

That is why they call it 'an industry.'

What will change is that the specialty houses will for the most part disappear or be bought out by the conglomerates. There will be mergers and acquisitions.

It is debt and the inability to repay that killed them. It is lack of leadership and foresight that killed them. In Canada, a dependence on subsidies will kill them.

The recession that never could affect Canada because we're immune according to CTV News Channel is what killed them.

What this means to human freedom and dignity in the long term is still up to us, or at least we the writers might have some input. The better people among us will make sure of that.

To the entry-level author, you either just got the last contract going, or you don't have one at all. In the first case, you got a different deal than someone two or three years ago. In the second case, you do not know the difference, and now are in the same boat as any other author looking at self-publishing. Your other option is to polish your skills and keep submitting. This might take years, or you might get, 'lucky.'

For most, it is not in their best interest to disparage self-publishing no matter who does it, because this is now the normal working environment.

But what is really going to happen in a big way, is that the predators will flourish. That is absolutely, dead-certain in the short term. That's because all the people are still looking for reassurance. They're looking for praise, and they're looking for someone to promote them, and instruct them, and baby them, and they're looking for validation of the dream they hold.

"What a great read! And so beautifully written," one such acceptance letter might read. "Thank God you haven't signed a contract with someone else. All we want is all rights in all media and all languages and all formats for five years with an automatic renewal for four years clause and if we come out with another edition it extends the contract accordingly."

(Similar letter and contract on file. -ed.)

Just what a new author wants to hear, isn't it? A little too good to be true, isn't it? Kind of like all those self-published books with the five-star ratings three days after they appear online.

We heard that 'everyone has at least one good book in them,' and it's true, isn't it?

If you sign that, they will own your book or a piece of it for the rest of your life.

Check with a lawyer, all right? Someone sends you a contract, call a lawyer. It is a fact of life. Just do it.

Vanity publishing will flourish for those who cannot handle the truth. This is a job. You have to get training and you have to work at it. When I tell people I am training as an editor they think I am the one that is crazy? Hah!

Good writing will flourish for those with the patience to pursue it and the work ethic to continue on when everyone else thinks you have already failed, and is ashamed of your stubbornly holding on to what is not just a goal, but a higher aspiration.

Realistically, the enthusiastic amateurs will publish some books, make no money, find they are unable to take the heat or the kidding, and drop by the wayside. They will cherish the dream, and maybe come back to it when they are older and more mature.

The future of the book is healthier than ever. The industry will somehow adapt, improvise and overcome.

What is really new is that guys like me now stand a chance. That's new. That's different.

It is not social mobility that is the big threat to the established order.

It's debt, and some new ideas.

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