I recently read a good début novel entitled The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan (not my client, so relax, I’m not pitching). A ship has sunk and the survivors are packed in a lifeboat, vying for control. Without a clear idea that they will see land again, they are jostling for a good spot on the boat. You can see where I’m going with this.
It feels like a gust of wind has come along and shoved everyone in the publishing industry into one spot on the lifeboat. The storm has abated and the seas seem calm, but we are all sitting in the wrong place, next to people we didn’t think we would be, or should be, nudging against. We have to work out who we are now. The morning after the disaster, we have woken up on the lifeboat with new objectives:
» The publisher. Now seeking “a direct relationship with the consumer”—a euphemism for “they are going to sell books directly”.
» The bookseller. Now seeking “a localised, niche, customer-driven service”—a euphemism for “they are sick of the huge returns and so [are] now going to stock lots of titles but not many of each of them”.
» The agent. Now seeking to “create a 360˚ vision for his/her clients”—a euphemism for “they now do everything: publicise, edit, organise talks and even publish”.
» The author. Now seeking “a more equal partnership with all elements of the chain”—a euphemism for “they are sick of being treated like a disposable commodity”.