Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Future is Now!

Everybody’s always doing these “The Future of Publishing!” blog posts and articles, usually focusing on the end product:   e-books vs. print books, Big 6 Publishing vs. self-publishing, things like that.  Pretty much everything that could be said has been, and by better people than me.

So, that’s not what I’m gonna talk about!  What I want to talk about today is how publishing has changed in just the two years I’ve been a part of it, from the author’s perspective.  They’re small changes to be sure, mostly focusing around the editing process, but I still find it interesting how quickly things have moved.

When I was waiting for my copy edits on A Devil in the Details back in 2009/2010, I was all prepared to buy stock in red pencils and scribble all over huge reams of paper, brush up on my editing marks, all that stuff that other authors said I’d need to do.  Imagine my surprise when the copy edits came to me in a Word file instead, with track changes turned on.  The Editor told me they were trying to go paperless, so they were going to try and do it this way.

Hey, whatever you say!  And after I did it that way once, I was sold. I love doing my edits with track changes now.  In fact, when I beta for other people, I ask them if I can make my notes on their manuscript that way, ‘cause it’s easier for me to jot things down as I go, than to try and remember everything I wanted to say at the end.

When it came time to do my page proofs on Devil, I got a packet in the mail, all pages laid out nice and neat like in a real book.  I went through those, carefully reading every page and marking up the ones that needed changes with a nice pen.  My greatest fear through this whole process was that I would drop the stack of papers, and spend hours sorting them out again.  Didn’t happen, and I got them returned without incident.  Shortly thereafter, I got another package in the mail, holding ARCs of my brand new book!  (ARCs are Advance Reader Copies, also called galleys)  Yay!  It’s a book!

The next year, 2010-11, I got my copy edits on A Shot in the Dark in my email as expected, whipped those puppies into shape, emailed them back.  But when it came time for page proofs, instead of getting a packet in the mail, I got another email with a PDF file.  “Here, just print off the pages you want changed, and scan/email them back.”  Um… ok, sure!  Saving paper!  Go environment.  It was a new process, but I’m cool, I can roll with the times like that.

Still got my ARCs on Shot, nice little paper book in my hands.

And then we roll around to this year, 2011-12, working on A Wolf at the Door.  Emailed copy edits.  Emailed page proofs.  And last night, I found out that we’re doing e-ARCs!  Yup, no more print ARCs for this girl, they’ll be making review e-books available for professional reviewers through NetGalley**.

Okay, I fully admit that a teeny part of me is disappointed.  I liked having that ARC in my hands, and it would have rounded out the set to have all three books in some physical form.  But on the other hand, think about how much money they’re saving by not printing out what is essentially a “rough draft”.  That’s money that can go to publishing a new author (or keeping an old one).  Also (and keep in mind I’m not a reviewer, I don’t have a lot of access to the awesomeness that is NetGalley), I think that having an online database of ARC/galleys has the potential to reach so many more audiences that having a limited number of printed books.

I find it fascinating how processes have changed, just in two years.  I’ve seen a lot of people talking about how publishing is an antiquated system, and needs to catch up to the times, but I think they already are.  As we go more and more into a digital/technological world, there are so many cost-effective alternatives available.  You would think that printing off/mailing an entire manuscript wouldn’t be so bad.  Figure…maybe $30, and that’s if I had to do it myself, without any kind of corporate discount.  However, if you multiply that by ALL the manuscripts a publishing house is working on at any given time, it comes up to a pretty chunk of change real fast!  And that’s not even counting printing out the ARCs to send to reviewers, most of which will probably be destroyed at some point later (or sold on e-bay, despite the fact that they’re not to be sold at all).

I think I’m lucky to be part of publishing in this particular era, when every day it seems like something new and amazing pops up.  I’m anxious to see what the next two years bring, excited to see where we go from here.

**Note to Reviewers:  I poked around on NetGalley last night for the first time (just what the public can see, of course) and first off, you guys are so freakin’ lucky!!  I’d lose my mind trying to decide what to read first.  Second, I didn’t see Wolf up there yet, but it’s coming, so if you want to review it, make sure you keep checking so you can request it when it’s available.