Disaster in the publishing biz

Violet Blue in SF has an utterly horrifying post about the bankruptcy of the biggest publishing distribution company in the U.S., and the subsequent fallout on indie publishers and authors. Royalties aren’t coming. Small houses are laying off their entire staff. Even at the large houses, trouble is serious. Random House is owed $43 million. What’s that come out to in advances? The biz is screwed for a while, authors and publishers alike, unless that money reappears somewhere.

Which, fat chance, it sounds like.

My exposure to the publishing industry to date has convinced me only that they’re utterly behind the times. The publishers for D&D were well-meaning, but completely out of touch with modern marketing, anything to do with how the Internet actually worked, blogs, email, you name it (and this was a tech publisher). Sure, it wasn’t their business. But it should have been.

There has to be a new model in the works. For paper as well as bits. Brad’s done some work on it, both with his Demon Press and with future of the book research. I don’t think we have the answer yet, but this kind of disaster shows it needs to happen fast. Like, say, before I finish this extraordinarly charming kung fu novel I spend my cafe days on.

P2P distribution, anyone? Co-op-icize the bankrupt behemoth. Let the readers do the work, and share in the profits. Sure, it’s a dead biz, they don’t make any money — but neither does classical music, and look who turned up with the biggest year-to-year growth last year.