Me thinking out loud...
I don't know that much about it really. I don't know how Publishers think, operate, or seek out new talent. I think about my own adventures so far, becoming a writer, writing a book, and looking for the means to publish those works. I contemplated a traditional publisher for all of ten minutes before I realized a few things.
Bear with me, it's a story I've told before.
Five or six years ago, I bought a house. Went to my Bank for a HELOC to consolidate a very small amount of debt. House was paid for, totally free and clear, nothing leaning on it whatsoever. My bank told me I wasn't in enough different kinds of debt, and that the balance I owed was far too low. They wouldn't do the HELOC unless I took out a couple of credit cards and maxed them out.
I don't have a Finance Degree, nor do I understand how the Banks operated at the time. I knew based on what the rep at my Bank was telling me that their days were numbered. Insisting that you only lend to people who can't possibly pay you back is dumb. Needless to say, Washington Mutual went down as the biggest bank failure in history.
What the traditional publishers seem to be doing is no different. They are betting that writers will continue to come to them, surrender their copyrights, get paid a small percentage, in exchange for a small amount of exposure and promotion. I wonder how many writers are looking to the emerging ebook market and giving serious consideration to looking for a different road.
When Amazon reported that they sold more electronic copies of books than hardbacks, the Traditional Publishers were reportedly unconcerned. Now Ryu Murakami (big name in Japan) has skirted his own venerable publishers to release his latest book ahead of any print deal in the form of an iPad App. He'll have to sell 5000 copies of the App to break even from the article I read. Three and a quarter million iPads in circulation... totally possible.
The value isn't in money though. The guy is making a bold statement.
If skirting your publishers and going to the electronic medium is a sure fire way to get millions in free publicity from the press, how long will it take for some of the bigger names in the US to take the plunge? Stephen King already has (sort of). What do the small no-name guys like me have to lose taking that same road?
From my perspective, nothing.
There are now a plethora of highly affordable eReaders, and Apps (mostly free) across almost every mobile platform. One has to assume that some of the traditional publishers are hip, maybe even feeding this trend, trying to put themselves at the dead center of it all. Then again, maybe they're just like everyone else... just trying to figure this thing out.
I look forward to watching it all unfold from my own quiet corner of the world.