The Ghost of Publishing Past & Present
Raw Dog Screaming Press is quickly approaching its 10th year of publishing so I've been thinking a lot about how much things have changed during the business in those 10 years. For such a long time the same Agent-Publisher model was in place where, in order to be published, authors needed to get an agent to get the attention of a publisher. That was a model with many gatekeepers who managed to restrict publication to a select few.
The problem with that model was that it kept out a lot of great authors and made it so that only known quantities were published, stories and genres that had succeeded before. This did not allow much room for experimentation or growth. In fact, it was those reasons that caused us to launch Raw Dog Screaming Press. Having run an online zine we knew that there was a lot of innovative work out there but, as readers, we were unable to buy the kind of books we wanted to read. It was around that time that print-on-demand technology reached a place where the quality was good enough, and the cost was low enough, to entice people like us to start publishing. With POD we did not have to invest thousands in printing costs up front. Of course at first there was a stigma attached doing things this way. It did take some time and effort before people began taking us seriously but we were soon known for publishing quality fringe fiction and many people respected that.
It was a troubled time for the business world, however, and the recession hit everyone pretty hard. That, along with the new popularity of ebooks had everyone jumping to play catch-up and has allowed authors to go publisher-free. In less than a decade the gatekeeper model has been turned on its head. While we celebrate the fact that the big six no longer have a strangle-hold on the industry, we're also struggling along with everyone else not to be swept away in the tide that opening the gates has released. Whereas 10 years ago the gatekeepers made sure that only a few were published, now literally anyone can publish an ebook in a matter of hours. For every fantastic self-released book there are hundreds of rushed efforts.
As a DIY champion I'm fascinated by this turn of events and not a little surprised to be seeing things from this perspective. Along with our DIY roots RDSP has always put a strong emphasis on quality. Although the gatekeepers of the previous decades kept a lot of great quality work from reaching the public they also kept out the worst as well. Now we have awful and brilliant hitting the market side by side. It's hard to say what impact this will have for the future but I have my theories which I'll share in part 2: The Ghost of Publishing Future.