Sep 9, 2009

Iain Banks - An Old Dog With New (Publishing) Tricks

The publishing industry is changing in big ways, and not necessarily just for the up-and-coming author. Even those with reasonable success have been hit by major changes, including authors like Iain Banks. Banks is perhaps most well-known for his violent, surreal novel The Wasp Factory. In addition to lowering his advances, Banks's publisher has decided to try new marketing tactics to sell his books:

With book publishers now facing the same potentially ruinous challenges of the digital era as newspapers, Banks has gamely agreed to act as guinea pig for his own publisher, Little Brown, which is releasing an abridged audio version of Transition free on iTunes (the first instalment went online last week, on the same day the print version was published). Is he really reduced to giving away his work? Banks seems sanguine – perhaps even a little resigned – about the whole thing: "I think [the podcast] is quite brave of my publishers. I hope they're getting it right. My agent said to me: 'What do you think about this?' I said: 'I don't know.' We've got our fingers crossed."

The lesson here may be that the monolithic author is probably going to be a thing of the past. After the generation of Stephen King and Dean Koontz and James Patterson goes away, the super high-quantity author (mostly) may not require the vast sums that he/she used to. It's my belief that, unless the major publishers restructure to account for changes in technology and the way that people read, publishing will slowly become more decentralized and will benefit the most self-driven authors. But that's just my take on what I see in publishing trends.

Iain Banks: Even at my age I still have something to prove
Video: Iain Banks on 'The Book Show'

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