Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Stuff and blather

by Rick Blechta

Sorry I missed my spot last Tuesday. I was sick as a dog with a 24-hour bug of some sort. I’ll spare all and sundry the gory details, but to demonstrate how horrible I was feeling all that day, I’ll tell you this: I didn’t even turn on my computer. I can’t remember when that last happened. I also felt horribly guilty for abandoning my duties.

Today’s post will kind of bounce around to various things that I’ve been cogitating on but which don’t warrant a full post. Here goes…

The publishing industry continues to go through a pretty amazing period of upheaval. I won’t go into how authors are getting an even shorter end of the stick through all this. I sometimes wonder if we ink-stained wretches should form a union and start negotiating with the publishing industry as a united group. I’m sure the idea has been floated before. Knowing how writers operate, I can imagine the chaos putting together an organization like this would create, and there would always be those who prefer to travel their own path — making the whole exercise even more difficult. Like everything else in the arts these days, authors are preyed on by others to do more and more things for free. If we could go back as recently as 50 years, we would realize how radically the writer’s plight has changed — and we’re expected to do it for even less.

I’m continually amazed at how book cover design seems to be going downhill. A lot of it can be explained by the rise of self-publishing. As much as it irks me at times, there is a good reason publishers try to keep authors at a distance when it comes to creating a “face” for their works. From speaking to authors, both mainstream and self-published, it’s pretty clear that the relative simplicity of cover art (only three main ingredients: title, author and image) causes them to think that book covers are simple things when the direct opposite is true. But I’m also finding the art departments of mainstream publishers taking an increasingly cavalier approach to book cover design. With few exceptions, cover art is chosen by cost, rather than commissioned. This means that those images are becoming generic and disconnected. If you’re a big-name author, your works’ covers might not even get an image, just huge type with your name and the book’s title. And that’s a cover? It’s a disturbing trend.

Lastly, I notice that Barnes & Noble is abandoning the Nook reader. I love it when an industry gets everyone to buy into some new technology only to have it chucked because some other competing technology beat it out. Remember the short-lived HD DVDs? Blu-Ray smoked that in not much more than a year. Sure, we can always expect technology to move on and improve, but it’s the idea of one knocking out another competing platform that gets my goat. Will Kindle go on to destroy Kobo? Amazon sure hopes so. But in the end, it’s always the consumer who suffers – in their pocketbook. This sort of thing gets tedious after awhile.

Do you have anything that bugs you like this?


Christopher Huang said...

I'm hoping to get my book published with Inkshares, which crowdfunds the manuscript selection process: get this many pre-orders, and they'll do everything else that a traditional publisher does. It does mean that I'm doing a fair bit of self-promotion and marketing at the beginning, but once I exceed the requisite number of pre-orders, it should all be handled on their end.

Rick Blechta said...

That's a very interesting publishing model of which I wasn't aware. I'll have to check it out.

As for doing a lot of self-promotion and marketing, every author is expected to do that these days. Even some of the big names are grumbling about what they're expected to do.

Good luck on your endeavors -- and thanks for weighing in!

Eileen Goudge said...

I agree with you on the subject of book cover design, Rick. If I see one more women's fiction cover showing the back of a woman's head or a woman's figure from behind, I will conclude it's all the work of a lone individual who dreamed up the concept and is operating the book-cover version of a printing press. Please, please, can't publishers show more originality!

Rick Blechta said...

The issue here, Eileen, is that originality costs money. They used to hire artists and photographers to create cover art. Now they buy a CD with photo images or go to stock photo providers on the internet, spend a few bucks on some sort of generic photo that sort of fits their idea of what is needed, and bang, they're done -- all for just a fraction of the cost.

I did a post a couple of years ago about one image that was used on at least 6 book mystery book covers by different publishers! That's just nuts, but it's the logical outcome of this disappointing trend in book cover design.

Thanks for weighing in!