Research Findings: Authors and Publishing–A Changing Industry

Research Findings: Authors and Publishing–A Changing Industry

Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5214-9.ch009
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Abstract

This chapter deals with the third question, namely: What are Australian authors’ views on the changing nature of the publishing industry, and how have they been affected by changes/advances in this area? It focuses on the relationship between authors and publishers, publishing contracts, ebooks, Google, and publishing options for authors in the digital world. Preliminary conclusions regarding authors’ views on these issues lay the foundation for an in-depth discussion and analysis in the next chapter.
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Introduction

“Nothing betrays the spirit of an age so precisely as the way it represents the future.” Geoffrey Nunberg

It has been shown in the previous chapter that the author sample group voiced a range of concerns in relation to their copyright. Of equal concern to authors, and in parallel with the operation of legislative structures discussed in the previous chapter, was the issue of the changing publishing industry and how it affected them. The third research issue posed the following questions: How did authors perceive the changing publishing industry? Furthermore, how did this perception affect their own work and their attitude toward digital publishing?

On the one hand, expanding opportunities in publishing and easier access were seen as advantageous by some authors, especially by self-published authors; conversely, most authors recognised that such advances were accompanied by new challenges in the field of copyright, which authors had to address in order to protect their intellectual property. This chapter examines the findings of the research in relation to the transforming publishing industry, publishing relationships and emerging business models and the evolution of copyright in this changing environment.

Unsurprisingly the in-depth interviews provided a range of perspectives, with some authors embracing new technology and the challenges it represented, others taking a more guarded wait-and-see approach, whilst another group accepted the changes reluctantly but resignedly and made an effort to keep up with the changing publishing industry. The online survey provided further insight into authors’ relationships with publishers and their views on digital publishing. Of particular concern to authors were the actions of search engines/information providers (such as Google) in digitising books or parts of books without the authors’ consent. These developments affected not only authors, but also publishers, and prompted many to re-think the use and value of copyright in cyber space publishing.

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Traditional Publishing And Publishing Relationships

The Author/Publisher Relationship

It has been shown that, historically, the greatest obstacle for authors, especially emerging authors, has been the challenge of finding a willing publisher. Publishers like Allen & Unwin state on their Website that they publish 250 titles a year out of approximately 1,000 submissions (2011), while others such as Scholastic refer to ‘several thousand manuscripts’ received in a year (2011). This difficulty has been exacerbated for authors without agents, as some publishers state that they will only deal with agents and do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. New authors have typically also found it challenging to engage a willing agent. During the research, authors were questioned on their relationships with agents and publishers.

Who Do Authors Deal With?

When asked who they generally dealt with in publishing matters, 62% of both full time and part time author groups stated that they dealt directly with publishers. Not surprisingly, more full time authors than part time authors used an agent: a third of full time and just over 10% of part time authors. Only a small number of the respondents dealt with a lawyer in relation to publishing and while only 4.8% of full time authors self-published, and 27.6% of part time authors said they generally published their own work. Thus, whilst approximately a third of the full time respondents generally used the services of an agent, the remaining two-thirds usually dealt directly with the publisher, save for a few self-publishers. In the part time group, the same percentage dealt with the publisher directly, but nearly a third self-published whilst only a small number dealt with an agent.

Having an Agent

In a separate question, 57.1% of full time and 64.4% of part time authors expressed the view that it was ‘an advantage’ to have an agent, with 11.9% and 3.4% of full time and part time authors respectively regarding it as ‘essential.’ These percentages, as opposed to the actual number of respondent authors with agents, would suggest that many respondents who did not have an agent recognised that having an agent was an advantage.

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