Called a hard-boiled poet by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan and the noir poet laureate in the Huffington Post, Reed Farrel Coleman has published thirteen novels, including six in his Moe Prager series, and Tower, a stand-alone co-written with Ken Bruen. He has won the Shamus Award three times for Best PI Novel of the Year. He’s also won the Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards as well as being twice nominated for the Edgar. Reed was the editor of the Hard Boiled Brooklyn anthology and is a co-editor of The Lineup, a journal featuring poems on crime. His short stories appear in Wall Street Noir, The Darker Mask, and several other anthologies. Reed is an adjunct professor at Hofstra University. He lives on Long Island.
by Reed Farrel Coleman
There’s an old Chinese proverb about living in interesting times. Of course the deeper meaning is that all times are interesting times. You’ll note that this old Chinese proverb is about interesting times, not necessarily good times.
Right now, for instance, the publishing world is experiencing the greatest upheaval since this German guy invented his printing press. These are hard times for authors like me, but it can’t be argued they aren’t interesting times. There has been a decline in readership. Bookstores, large and small, are closing nearly every day. The number of traditional publishers is dwindling. Budgets are shrinking. Publisher-financed tours, except for those authors at the top of the heap, are a thing of the past. And the burden of getting reviews and publicity for new releases is increasingly falling to the author him or herself. As recently as a year ago, I was unwilling or unable to see that ebooks and dedicated audio books were a real threat to traditional publishing or, more accurately, I was convinced that it would be many years until they were a threat. This is no longer the case. The revolution is here and I would be foolish to ignore it or deny it.
Only a few weeks ago I had a long conversation with a best-selling author with whom I served on the national board of Mystery Writers of America. I asked if this author could envision a day in the not-too-distant future when he or she, either alone or with a group of like-minded authors, might forsake traditional publishing by hiring a freelance editor, a copyeditor, and PR firm and self-publish. The answer was yes, that if he or she had a mind to, it could be done now. That was all I needed to hear to be convinced that the revolution was here, is here.
This will have an effect on everyone involved in the circuit, from the reader—even the most steadfast, book-carrying traditionalist—to the author, the agent, the publisher, and the bookstore owner. I’m sure readers don’t devote much time to thinking about the process—no one likes watching the sausage being made—but readers have to understand that one of the fundamental advantages traditional publishers enjoy is an established distribution network. So, yes, beyond the advance, editorial services, and publicity staff, it is access to that distribution network that an author gains when signing with a publisher. The old railroads were important businesses not because they had engines and cars, but rather because they owned the tracks. In much the same way that airlines and automobiles nullified this advantage, ebooks don’t need tracks.
Yes, these are interesting times in publishing and they are bound to get even more interesting in the very near future.