More Avenues Means More Ways To Get There

24 Mar

If you are writer, you probably have heard about Amanda Hocking and her self-publishing success story. If not, here it is in a nutshell: after being rejected by several publishers she decide to self-publish. She’s gained quite the readership and the dollars to prove it. Today she signed a seven-figure deal with St. Martin’s Press, part of Macmillan, to publish her “Watersong” series. Good for you Amanda!

But I had to wonder what this would mean for her self-publishing efforts? Will those cease to be? If the “Watersong” series is successful, then will St. Martin want to buy up the rights to her other books? While I don’t know the exact details of her deal, I can only assume that St. Martin’s Press will own the exclusive rights to this series thereby prohibiting her from selling it on her own via her traditional method of Amazon.  Don’t get me wrong, it still works out very well for Amanda (she’ll get that money, and they’ll get to be the brand behind her). However, it is unfortunate that she’ll only have the publisher’s avenue of selling this series of books. They will get the “world premiere.”

A very similar thing happens in theatre. Playwrights work really hard to get a theatre to produce their play and that theatre gets to call it a world premiere. If the playwright is lucky to have it produced elsewhere, it moves to being called a regional premiere. With fewer and fewer media outlets covering the arts, some publications won’t review a show if it isn’t a world premiere. While I understand that column inches are precious, this ultimately hurts the playwright.

There is a movement amongst professional new play development theatre companies to have what is called a “rolling world premiere”. The idea being that a show can have multiple premieres as the playwright will be developing that play with different theatres, that serve different patrons and will ultimately produce the highest quality of play.

I wonder why the publishing industry doesn’t adopt a similar plan? Why not let the author make it available across a multitude of platforms thereby assuring the greatest return to them?

Artists are already doing this. They sell their creative endeavors via online venues like Etsy, brick and mortar stores, craft shows, galleries and directly to consumers on the street (such as Jackson Square in New Orleans).

So why then can’t authors do the same?

The more ways that folks can access a creative product can only lead to more sales. And more sales means more pr, more marketing endeavors, and ultimately more dollars in the pocket of the person that put their heart and soul into the piece in the first place.

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