As if to prove the point, self-publishing stars who have grown rich selling 99-cent novels online, including young-adult author Amanda Hocking and Fifty Shades creator E.L. James, all sign what Morrison calls “a proper publishing deal” as soon as they are able.
“It just goes to show you can’t have it both ways,” the British author adds. “You can’t on the one hand say, ‘This is a revolution that’s going to sweep away the hierarchies of the publishing houses,’ and at the same time say, ‘Hey, you big guys, give us a deal.’ ”
To see how freedom of choice could create such unequal distributions, consider a hypothetical population of a thousand people, each picking their 10 favorite blogs. One way to model such a system is simply to assume that each person has an equal chance of liking each blog...The bulk of the blogs will be of average popularity, and the highs and lows will not be too far different from this average.
But people's choices do affect one another. If we assume that any blog chosen by one user is more likely, by even a fractional amount, to be chosen by another user, the system changes dramatically. Alice, the first user, chooses her blogs unaffected by anyone else, but Bob has a slightly higher chance of liking Alice's blogs than the others. When Bob is done, any blog that both he and Alice like has a higher chance of being picked by Carmen, and so on, with a small number of blogs becoming increasingly likely to be chosen in the future because they were chosen in the past.
Think of this positive feedback as a preference premium. The system assumes that later users come into an environment shaped by earlier users; the thousand-and-first user will not be selecting blogs at random, but will rather be affected, even if unconsciously, by the preference premiums built up in the system previously.
Note that this model is absolutely mute as to why one blog might be preferred over another. Perhaps some writing is simply better than average (a preference for quality), perhaps people want the recommendations of others (a preference for marketing), perhaps there is value in reading the same blogs as your friends (a preference for "solidarity goods", things best enjoyed by a group). It could be all three, or some other effect entirely, and it could be different for different readers and different writers. What matters is that any tendency towards agreement in diverse and free systems, however small and for whatever reason, can create power law distributions...Once a power law distribution exists, it can take on a certain amount of homeostasis, the tendency of a system to retain its form even against external pressures. Is the weblog world such a system? Are there people who are as talented or deserving as the current stars, but who are not getting anything like the traffic? Doubtless. Will this problem get worse in the future? Yes.
Though there are more new bloggers and more new readers every day, most of the new readers are adding to the traffic of the top few blogs, while most new blogs are getting below average traffic, a gap that will grow as the weblog world does. It's not impossible to launch a good new blog and become widely read, but it's harder than it was last year, and it will be harder still next year.
Of course, eventually, it will all be "e" and books on paper will be as quaint as manuscripts on vellum.
this just brings us back to a curated system like the one we have today
Jimbob: "So my solution is state funding for artists, as reward for their cultural output."
in fact, they are becoming integral to their way of life
The obvious question is, what have you done for us lately? With respect, if you haven't spent these nearly ten years in building up a portfolio of ever improving and salable work, you're not a writer, you're a dilettante, and unless you're Donna Tartt or Harper Lee, why should any publisher or agent risk their time or money on you? From their POV, if you're not producing, they can't afford you.
Get thee to the keypad! Gratify your fans. And best of luck. It's a tough trade, even for part timers. Maybe especially for part timers.
Christ, as a promising greenhorn who the industry has taken a gamble on, this stuff gets frustrating to hear. That industry isn't dead yet. But once you're in, they'll still want you to write a book a year. That might seem mercenary; it might make me a sell-out to say it. But it's really just the market realities of the business. If your goal is to be a contracted, advance-earning author, you need to be producing constantly and you need to be reasonably commercial-minded.
Sold a fair number of stories then and started working on the book. After you get some stories published, then you have to work on the book. Because with those published stories in hand, you can get an agent to take a look at your book. I had Quad World written by 1990, and my agent, Richard Curtis, sold it to ROC. Everyone seemed to like it. They contracted for a sequel, which I wrote, and then started through the editing process. And then IT happened.
The sales numbers for Quad World were horrible. Hardly anyone had bought it. One must remember that this was 1991, and the only outlet for selling books were in the brick and mortar bookstores (no Amazon), and it turned out that because the publisher had increased the number of titles they produced in the month my book came out, that they had trouble getting sufficient shelf space for all their titles in the big chain bookstores. I was the new guy (i.e. cannon fodder). Quad World never appeared on the shelves of any of the big chain stores. This in turn led to poor sales numbers (big surprise). As a result they decided not to publish the sequel, and I was informed that because of my "bad numbers" in the computer, that they did not want to publish anything from me. Good-bye.
I stopped writing entirely for a while...
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