Monday, February 27, 2012

Far Away From Close

Well, as I should have had the foresight to see, it looks like the book project I discussed a couple of weeks back may well be dead before it even gets started. Much as it pains me to say, it looks like my musical history is repeating itself.

Back in the early 90s, I had the opportunity to play in the Bay Area music scene and in the process we managed to build quite a loyal following. We also had, through many years of influence and history, gotten to know many managers and labels that showed interest in us. that is, until they showed us their contracts and we questioned what was in them. Suddenly, the interest dried up, even as we were progressing and getting an even larger following. What was the issue? It had to do with long term ownership of our name and our assets, i.e. our songs. this wasn't a greed issue, it was an issue of controlling how our music was marketed and under what circumstances. Also, we wanted to have a very concrete explanation of where the money went that was earned from our music and performance sales. All we wanted was clarity. What we got was stonewalled, and then finally we didn't get offered any more contract opportunities.

I have told my band mates over the years that we suffered from a "lack of faith in Angels" and for the record, I am glad that we did. When I say a lack of faith in Angels, what I'm referring to is the notion that a large entity like a label or a manager would break us into a larger market and we'd become superstars. Instead, we went on our own wits and our own instincts. Sometimes they were rewarded. Sometimes we stubbed our toes. I should also mention that, ultimately, this venture of ours failed. The market changed, tastes changed, and we folded up our tent. What was good, though, was that we were able to keep all of the rights to the media we had created, so that, when the time came, we were able to make a deal to release our material on our own terms.

It seems that history is repeating itself. There was a lot of excitement about the two of us (me and my collaborative partner) working on this topic together, but first, there was just some details we wanted to have clarified. The request to have those areas clarified has been met with "radio silence". I've been around a while now, I see what's happening, and I'm willing to give solid odds that we will not hear back from the people interested in having the book written. We're too much trouble, we ask too many questions, thus, we're too much trouble to try to do a deal with. I could be wrong, but from past experience, that's certainly what this seems like. C'est la vie!

Does that make me a little sad? Yes, but at the same time, it's also giving me and my collaborator some other thoughts and ideas. The most prevalent... do we actually need to have a traditional publisher at all? As I've gone through and looked at a number of the titles I've read and worked through, yes there are a lot of traditionally published titles. there are also just as many titles that started out as web site content and self published ebooks. If I have determined that most of my titles are desirable in ebook format, and from alternate methods of publishing, how many others would feel the same way? Sure, there's a cachet to having a traditional paper-bound book made, but really, my goal is to explore the ideas and share them with other testers. Either way, we've decided to go forward with the project. How it will be distributed when we are finished, I guess that remains to be seen :).


Lisa said...

My writing career is guided by Mike Cohn's observation, "The best reason to write a book is because you have something to say."

The book publishing business has changed hugely in the 11 years since I published my first book. One reason you might not hear back from an editor at a traditional publishing house is that person probably just has way too much to do. All his or her support staff has been laid off.

That said, traditional book publishers are still profitable and doing well. At the same time, as you point out, there are lots of different models for publishing a book.

Personally I benefited from working with a traditional publisher because we got skilled help from skillful editors, production values were high, and they do a good job of marketing. I don't think this is true of every publisher, and maybe not of every experience with the same publisher.

Pursue all the different options and see what will work for you. You're probably not going to make much money with a book, though it can be a "business card" for a consultant. Personally, I've just enjoyed getting to share ideas and experiences with a lot of people, and taking advantage of invitations to present at conferences, which I find really fun and educational.

If you do go with a traditional publisher, be sure to get a significant advance. Otherwise, they have no incentive to move the project along, or even actually publish your book.

I can put you in touch with my editor, though I can't promise a fast response!

Michael Larsen said...

@Lisa, thanks for your comments, and we are very much of the same mind. MY collaborator and I are looking to do this regardless of how we get it out there, because we think it's needed and we think we have a unique viewpoint on the topic. For us, it's not about money, but it is about being able to have the ability to craft a mesage that is the one we intend to give out. As to contacts with other publishers, we are certainly open to the idea and would love an introduction, regardless of how long it takes :).