The More Things Change In Publishing
Article by Steven Shrewsbury
The more things change in publishing the more they stay the same?
Technology, oh that wonderful beast, has made publishing different as well as the process of writing itself. That’s another topic.
From working in a printing facility most of my life, I’ve seen the prep process change from film files shipped in and assembled into pages by hand to PDFs downloaded, rasterized to digital images and burnt on plate with a laser. This method is just for stuff they will print on paper. The idea of reading a book transferred onto a small device via an ‘internet’ sounded sci fi to say the least just twenty-five years ago.
I recall in the 80s sending poems in to horror and fantasy magazine I found in Janet Fox’s SCAVENGER’S NEWSLETTER and then buying a huge guide at the bookstore out of town to find places for stories. One would mail to the big name magazines and actually use the postal service to send them. Self-Addressed stamped envelopes? I had ‘em. There was one rag that returned a story unread because I placed my name on the wrong corner of the header. I learned what a form reject was, too. Sometimes, editors wrote a note back on a reject. Karl Edward Wagner jotted some advice once with his own hand. I still have the note. Look up who that is if ya dunno, kids.
I oft wonder if in those days, when we used real typewriters and a cell phone was something a company car had & it outweighed most newborns, we were more thoughtful. Forgive me if I still expect someone to say, “Kirk to ENTERPRISE!” when they open a phone (but even those types are getting old, too).
Back in the 30s Lovecraft and Howard wrote each other long, attentive letters (that I wish would be collected soon). Each letter proved very insightful to each person’s character. In the era of email, I wonder if they would’ve been less perceptive and perhaps too busy with others to ponder such great thoughts.
I’m still a lover of paperbacks, though, even if many can download a book to a Nook or Kindle. It’s truly amazing that technology has brought us these things, and in turn, more opportunities to spread the written word. So many writers can be heard more so than in the past. Now, in certain cases, that may be a bad thing, leading to sloppy writing reaching a bigger audience. The cream will rise to the top, I think. Proper editors and good storytelling will trump cut and paste slap dash nonsense of trolls who think they are endowed with a vision to spew. A publisher with a good business model and a fine editing process also is key, that and comprehending what’s going on in today’s ever changing world of promotions. For example, this is a blog, read on a computer or device, whereas in the past, it might be called an article.
So, while publishing is different, and I don’t envy the increase in submissions via this new route, I think it’s truly an exciting time to be alive. So many books never available unless one tracked them to the ends of the earth are at one’s fingertips. Same with music, so much is right there. How can one decide if the book is right for them? As with any artist or sample of music, sample a writer, look him or her up and see if a tidbit is right for you. Perhaps a free download or just how they are on FACEBOOK. Many a writer can turn one off by their manner, so choose wisely. Word of mouth is certainly different, more like a process of reading and finger-play. Huh. That sounds different indeed.
It’s a bizarre world out there in the publishing industry, for it is that, an industry, not just a business. They want to sell a product and folks are looking to buy. A smaller pub can reach a larger audience than in the past. With a smaller press, true, there is a more intimate thing going on as fewer writers are in the stable and a grater amount of attention can be paid to the product…and it’s not an assembly line.