The Good, The Bad, The Same Song & Dance.
John Locke has just made a deal with Simon & Schuster to distribute his eight Donovan Creed novels to the print retail market.
The interesting part about this is that this is said to be a distribution only deal, not publishing. The details have not been made public yet, so its likely we don’t know the whole story. However, to have one of the Big Six to do a print only deal in a world of no ‘print only’ deals strikes me as a pretty big shift in big pubs line of thinking.
No. ‘Big shift’ is accurate. It may be more like a last gasp to buy them time as they try to tread water, trying to keep from drowning in failure of their dogmatic business model.
My thoughts on this deal:
- If this is truly a ‘distribution only’ deal, Locke should retain control of his material.
- His work is introduced to the print book hold-out demographic that would rather die than read a book that didn’t have paper pages that they could smell, caress, dog ear, cut themselves on.
The Bad (I preface this by saying the specific details of this deal have not been released, so some assumptions are made on my part):
- Locke’s agent negotiated this deal, which means she probably has her hands in the money needlessly. (Why Locke is using an agent in this publishing environment, is beyond me. An IP lawyer can do a better job and do it less expensively in the long run).
- The deal was probably unnecessary if I understand the objectives correctly. I expect Locke could get the same amount of exposure in the print market going direct through Amazon and B&N. It would take longer, of course, and he wouldn’t get a big shot of money up front. But how many times have we said self-publishing is a marathon, rather than a sprint?
The part that illustrates why the more publishers change, the more they are trying to remain the same:
- Mike Shatzkin wrote a well-reasoned article about this deal. But his last paragraph is telling of Big Pub’s objectives (as I see it)
“The model of “self-publishing through a major house ” can be a workable one for all sides if it is restricted to authors whose commercial appeal has already been established. Since all the major houses have distribution deal models, it might not be long before there’s a person at each one assigned to making sure that authors and agents are as well taken care of as “clients” as they were in the past working through their editors.”
What he says here, without realizing it, this is a way for Big Pub to play on the false notion that a writer is not a success until they are in print because THEY will RESTRICT this arrangement to authors that are ALREADY commercially appealing. And “making sure that authors and agents are as well taken care of as “clients” as they were in the past working through their editors” sounds a lot the current Big Pub practice of handling everything for the writer and rewarding the creator with a pittance of an advance and a joke for a royalty rate while they hold rights to the material for way too long.
But we’ll see how it goes. I believe John Locke is smart enough to avoid these pitfalls, but that’s not to say that some other commercially successful self-publishing author might not get sucked into the same trap.