These relationships are even more critical to a book's success in the digital age. With the ascent of e-books, authors will need publishers to serve as digital artists who can bring words to life by pairing text with multimedia features such as audio, video and search. While many of these functions are only included in so-called enhanced books today, they will be part of every book tomorrow."
Here there is a problem, since it argues that all authors agree with Mr. McGraw and Mr. Ruppel. This is an old and tired rhetorical device, to state something as an absolute truth and insist that all debate must proceed from that point. But the fact is that many people who have written books clearly don't need a publisher. This is because 1) publication is not what creates a book; writing it and putting it in some tangible form does, and 2) there are many books that are self-published or not made public at all. And while it is true that many authors have had their work become public successes because of the efforts of publishers who were willing to take a chance on them, this does not mean that it is true of all authors.
What Mr. McGraw and Mr. Ruppel don't say is that editorial relationships like the ones they describe for Hemingway and Mailer are rare in the extreme these days, and that they have been rare for the past 30 years at least. The fact is that modern editors are more marketing people than they are literary critics. Of course, this is the last thing the CEO of a major publisher is going to tell you, since it is the publishing equivalent to the admission that the king has no clothes on.
A look at the modern business of publishing tells us why: it is a business, and like most businesses, it therefore is concerned with the bottom line. Sales are what matters most to publishers, and editors who don't produce commercially successful books don't remain editors for long. A great many of them would love to produce quality books and work with authors to nurture them (I've met and talked to numerous such people), but they don't have the time. So if a book is of high quality when they get it, so much the better, and there is nothing about the traditional publishing system that specifically excludes quality; it just isn't the top priority. Keep in mind that the overhead of a major publisher is often huge, and the publisher itself is often owned by a larger corporation that is even more concerned with the bottom line that appears on a quarterly statement.
The situation can be different with a small press, since they have lower overhead and are often run by people who do it for the love of literature. In our own experience we only work with a small number of authors because we actually believe in the editorial process first, and profit second (we do believe in profit, mind you, but feel that the way to get it is through quality).
"Myth No. 3.E-books should essentially be free books. This would be true only if paper and binding represented the bulk of publishing expenses, and that is simply not the case. In bookmaking, manufacturing costs typically account for less than 10%-15% of the total. In short, the price of printing pales in comparison with the cost of creating content.
"When readers buy new print books, they are paying for the ideas on the pages — not the pages themselves. At McGraw-Hill, as many as 10 editors and designers will have a hand in any given book. The process requires a significant editorial investment from publishers, and that dynamic will not change even as print gives way to electronic ink."
Here we agree. The fact is that the creation of a book is mostly intellectual, the "ideas on the pages". But I note with some concern that the nature of the "editorial investment" is not described. Based on my conversations with agents and editors, most of that "investment" is in marketing, not editing per se. And this shows in the often low quality of published books, and the fact that authors are nowadays expected to do most of the editing themselves.
"Myth No. 4.Consumers won't pay for digital content. Tell that to the millions of customers who have already purchased e-books. In cyberspace, just as in the local marketplace, people will always be willing to pay for quality. They understand that the masterful layering of a novel and the comprehensive expertise of a medical handbook do not come free."
Obviously customers will pay for digital content, so we agree here too. And people are willing to pay for quality, but only for what they perceive as being quality. This is a matter of taste as much as anything, and explains why literary fiction sells far less than romance, even though the prose and style are often of higher quality. One can certainly write a romance novel that is of high quality, but it's not going to appeal to an audience that prefers other genres. Note how many science fiction fans decry the romances set in outer space, for example.
But I must ask: since the majority of the work in creating a masterfully layered novel or a medical handbook lies in the hands of the author, why is it that they are paid last, and typically only at about 8-10%? Why, in an age when the publisher of a Kindle book can get 70% of the cover price, do major publishers insist on still paying authors such a small amount? The reason is that publishers have until recently controlled access to the public through bookstores and shelf space, and so they feel they can pay authors less. This is a short-term failure of capitalism which the ebook market is in the process of correcting.
"Myth No. 5.The last word on publishing has been written. Not in our book. Around the world, innovative publishers are pushing the boundaries of technology to meet the demands of a new generation of readers. These publishers understand that the e-book is not a threat to their survival but rather an extraordinary opportunity to connect authors and readers in ways never before possible. That's the real future of the industry, and that's a story worth publishing."
Here Mr. McGraw and Mr. Ruppel, are clearly correct. The one constant in business is that it changes, and successful businesses have to adapt or they will go under. The ebook is an extraordinary opportunity, as we at Tuppshar Press discovered last year. But ironically, it is such an opportunity because it undermines one of the bedrock foundations of traditional publishing: control over distribution and access. Traditional publishers have long enjoyed a near-monopolistic control over shelf space, and so long as the only way for most of us to get a book was to go to bookstores, they made lots of money and could largely ignore the realities of supply (authors) and demand (the public), But Amazon in particular has changed the way publishing works, and so far as I can tell the large publishers have failed to recognize this. The Agency Model, which is really just an effort to control Amazon's pricing structure (meaning that in some cases it is cheaper to buy a hardback than an ebook), is an effort to keep book prices artificially high, ignoring the basic rule of capitalism that someone is going to undercut you if you do that.
So indeed the last word on publishing has not yet been written. What is sadly true for large publishers is that there is precious little evidence that they are among the "innovative publishers" that Mr. McGraw and Mr. Ruppel speak so fondly of.