The recent "Black Wednesday" bloodpath at the big publishing houses has prompted yet another "OMG publishing is dying!!!!" story, this one at As with all the other articles we've been seeing for the last decade or so, it hits the usual list of suspects:

  1. Big corporations strangled publishing into a bean-counting coma.
  2. did it with the lead pipe in the Web-based library.
  3. Barnes & Noble did it with the gun at the head of the buying public who are too stupid to figure out what books to buy without someone telling them.
  4. E-books did it with their cloak of invisibility--oh, wait, it's the other way around. Big publishing refuses to understand e-book technology, e-book consumers, and the reading public in general. See #1.

There's nothing new here, except for briefly touching on how smaller, more flexible publishers may be able to weather the storm through more creative deals, but that's really just the converse of #1, isn't it? It doesn't even mention the fact that genre imprints and genre houses came through it relatively unscathed. Let's face it, large corporate media companies have never embraced change easily. The television and film industries only embraced the Internet after beating themselves bloody trying to fight it. The music industry is just now starting to figure out that chewing off its own head is not the best way to slip out of the digital noose. Now big publishing, the most evolution-blind and inflexible of all the media industries, has hit the wall--again--promising to give us many more years of articles virtually indentical to the one at Salon.

The December issue of Jim Baen's Universe is live. In case you've forgotten, that's the one with my short story "Johnny Plays 'Round Saturn's Rings" in it. To read it, you'll either have to subscribe or pay $6.00 for the single issue. Either way, it's money well spent, 'cuz little old me is in there with the likes of Ben Bova, Bud Sparhawk, Julie Czerneda, and Greg Benford.

Satirica in the News

Okay, it's not the New York Times, but Bill Housley is getting some press for his story in the Satirica anthology. He's gotten a mention in the Unita Country Herald and some love from a local radio station. It's a good thing, because his story, "Another Man's Terrorist" is a really good story.

Lawrence Dagstine blogs about it here.

Teh Satirica anthology is available everywhere online, or you can find it in your local bookstore. If the bookstore doesn't stock it, make them order it. It serves them right for not stocking it in the first place.

What's Wrong with Authonomy?

Several things, actually. For starters, anything posted there is accessible by anyone without registering. That's enough for a lot of editors to consider "first rights" on the work to be already gone--not every editor, mind you, but enough that it limits the author's choices. You do, however, have to register to comment or vote on the work. Okay, so what they're really interested in attracting is readers, not writers.

That makes perfect sense, considering it's a HarperCollins venture, but they could at least be honest about it. They dangle the carrot in front of writers, suggesting that the highest-rated works will get in front of HC editors. They do, according to the FAQ, but the editors don't read the whole thing, nor is there any indication that the works will be considered for publication. What happens is that these editors will "read from the first 10,000 words" and offer feedback. That's it.

The answer to the FAQ question "Will HarperCollins be publishing books from authonomy?" is a complete non-answer. It appears carefully worded to hold out hope while saying nothing at all. I'd be a lot happier with an honest answer like "it could happen, but it's not likely". Instead, it talks about how they'll "be looking for promising books – as will other publishing houses and agents". Yeah, right. How many publishing houses have so few submissions (mostly agented) that they feel the need to scour the Web for more? I'm guessing zero.

Jumping the Slush Pile

HarperCollins has luanched their own version of weBook. It's called Authonomy. The difference with HC's site is that the books with the highest community ratings get in front of an HC editor.

It's another example of the Web enabling new ways to replace the traditional "gatekeeping" functions in the book world. The first, of course, was community sites for recommending already-published books. As the number of column inches in the print world devoted to reviews has shrunk, book recommendation/review communities have grown. So now we have the problem of expanding slush piles (or the elimination of them) and limited first reader time being solved by volunteer first reader communities.

Jim Baen's Universe has already been doing this for a couple of years in short SF with their slush forum. Now the concept is expanding.