Hvad en forlægger kan gøre

Man taler meget om, at Internettet er ved at overtage populærkulturen, at aviserne er ved at uddø, at pladeselskaberne er dinosaurer, osv.

Men dog må der vel være noget, som Internettet ikke bare kan, som f.eks. en forfatter har brug for et forlag og en musiker et pladeselskab/forlag til?

Den canadiske science fiction-forfatter og blogger Cory Doctorow, som vi også citerede i det forrige indlæg, svarer på spørgsmålet i sin seneste klumme i Locus Online os siger, at ja, der er én ting, forlagene kan gøre, som Internettet ikke kan: De kan få bogen ud på boghandlernes hylder.

Doctorow skriver:

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t get an e-mail from someone who’s ready to reinvent publishing using the Internet, and the ideas are often good ones, but they lack a key element: a sales force. That is, a small army of motivated, personable, committed salespeople who are on a first-name basis with every single bookstore owner/buyer in the country, people who lay down a lot of shoe-leather as they slog from one shop to the next, clutching a case filled with advance reader copies, cover-flats, and catalogs. When I worked in bookstores, we had exceptional local reps, like Eric, the Bantam guy who knew that I was exactly the right clerk to give an advance copy of Snow Crash to if he wanted to ensure a big order and lots of hand-selling when the book came in.

This matters. This is the kind of longitudinal, deep, expensive expertise that gets books onto shelves, into the minds of the clerks, onto the recommended tables at the front of the store. It’s labor-intensive and highly specialized, and without it, your book’s sales only come from people who’ve already heard of it (through word of mouth, advertising, a review, etc.) and who are either motivated enough to order it direct, or lucky enough to chance on a copy on a shelf at a store that ordered it based on reputation or sales literature alone, without any hand-holding or cajoling.

The best definition I’ve heard of “publishing” comes from my editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who says, “publishing is making a work public.” That is, identifying a work and an audience, and taking whatever steps are necessary to get the two together (you’ll note that by this definition, Google is a fantastic publisher). Publishing is not printing, or marketing, or editorial, or copy-editing, or typesetting. It may comprise some or all of these things, but you could have the world’s best-edited, most beautiful, well-bound book in the world, and without a strategy for getting it into the hands of readers, all it’s good for is insulating the attic. (This is the unfortunate discovery made by many customers of vanity publishers.)


It’s easy to imagine a web-based discount printer, web-based copyeditors and proofreaders (the Distributed Proofreader Project, which cleans up the typos in the public domain books in Project Gutenberg, is a proof-of-concept here), web-based marketing and advertising firms (“web-based” may be redundant here — are there any marketers and advertising agencies left who aren’t primarily Internet-based?), web-based PR (ditto), and even web-based editors who serve as book-doctor, rabbi, producer, confessor, and exalted doler-out-of-blessings, gracing a book with their imprimatur, a la Oprah. (…)

This vision has captured the imagination of many of my fellow techno-utopians: a stake through the heart of the Big, Lumbering Entertainment Dinosaurs Who Put Short-Sighted Profits Ahead of Art. And there’s plenty of short-term thinking in the recent history of publishing and the rise of the mega-publishers. There are plenty of “little” publishers out there, dotted around the country, figuring out how to fill in the gaps that the big guys won’t stoop to conquer: short story collections, quirky titles, books of essays, art books, experimental titles, and anthologies. These are often fabulous books with somewhat respectable numbers, but they lag the majors in one key area: physical distribution.

Det er en glimrende observation og siger også noget om, hvad en forfatter får ud af at komme på et etableret forlag frem for selv at stå for det.

Mht. musik er der selvfølgelig den hage ved det, at pladeselskabernes  standardkontrakter snyder kunstnerne så vandet driver, jfr. Courtney Love’s analyse.

Inden for bogudgivelser er det vist ikke helt så slemt (endnu?).

Link: In Praise of the Sales Force

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.