A Collapsing Industry

J.K. Rowling’s first novel was rejected twenty-two times, but this doesn’t help you understand the present-day publishing climate.

Back in the mid-1990s, Rowling sent her submissions to literary agents as hardcopy and you would need to multiply twenty-two by at least a factor of four to get a reasonable comparison with the game played by an author today.

How many authors today are willing to get rejected (or ignored) hundreds of times?

Only the crazy ones, I’d guess.

Ten years ago, there were only a quarter of a million books being published per year in the US and today there are a million, yet the number of authors in the US has not increased over the same time frame. This dramatic increase in productivity can only be explained if individual authors are increasing their output by plagiarizing or outsourcing their writing to ghostwriters from other countries.

One ghostwriter believes that 50% of the books on Amazon KDP are ghostwritten — most often by cheap page-fillers for whom English is a second language.

To get a sense of the statistics, check out this long-form piece on the state of publishing.

I represent just one out of a million books being published per year in the US alone. From a larger perspective, my book is one out of 130 million books in existence in the world. For my voice to break through that amount of noise would take a lightning strike of historic proportions.

Even if you are better than 99% of the other authors you see in the slush pile, you still only have one chance in ten thousand to be read widely and one chance in a hundred to experience a reasonable amount of success. On top of this, the internet increasingly tilts the literary battleground for our thoughts towards those who are willing to engage in theft and fraud.

Does Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing identify plagiarized material in an automated fashion?

Suppose that shortly after Harry Potter was first published, a copycat used online freelancing and ghostwriting services to produce a similar version of the story while claiming that he’s never heard of Harry Potter before. He says he didn’t infringe on Harry Potter’s copyright because he believes that ‘there are no new stories’ and his work is different because it is two thirds as long as Harry Potter.

In addition, his protagonist is dirty, addicted to porn, and he doesn’t play Quidditch. While such an update might bring the character in line with present-day trends, is that legal? I don’t think so. Unique plots matter.

This is exactly what happened to my first novel and because the type of plagiarism wasn’t verbatim, I still haven’t been able to get Amazon to take action, even though I have evidence that the plagiarist purchased a ton of fake reviews.

Since then four more plagiarists have emerged and three of them got debut book contracts with traditional publishers. I didn’t realize how rare these contracts were.

Apparently, there are only 200 debuts each year.

What are the odds that less than three years after I self-published, three of those debuts would be based on my book?

Is this a natural product of a collapsing publishing industry? This lady offers some clues.

This publishing insider says that the book industry is like the economy. People in the top 1% sell hundreds of thousands of books each year while everybody else fights for scraps, leading to the condition that most new novelists sell only a few thousand copies before being rejected as failures. In this economy, people who wrote novels for the young adult demographic are like junk bonds that quickly became worthless after entering the market. Expectations inflated by the success of Twilight and Hunger Games led to overinvestment, overproduction, and a complete collapse.

Perhaps I should be grateful for not being thrown into this scrap pile. Having my work stolen by so many people is actually a blessing in disguise.

“Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin to the man upstairs
And just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he doesn’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

This is a Garth Brooks song quoted in a nice article about Gratitude by Indy Crowe.
Just as I enjoy the modern languages of physics and psychology, I also like the language of Christianity. The variety gives me the sense that we are all saying the same things in our own ways.

So, YA literature saturated itself by producing too many debuts all at once and forcing them to fight to the death wth little to no promotion or advertising. It also reproduced rehashed versions of the same books over and over, trying to recreate the success of Hunger Games and Twilight — to no avail. Now all of the YA publishers are closing their doors, firing all of their editors, and consolidating their catalogues within the larger publishing houses — which are themselves in the process of merging into one giant publishing house that hopes to compete with Amazon in a dipolar book economy in which Amazon will distribute books from a centralized warehouse and the publishing companies will team up with book stores to sell books in a more distributed fashion — with bookstores serving as warehouses that mail out copies ordered online. (I think this is going to end up being too little, too late.)

What surpised me is that this publishing insider suggests that struggling mid-list authors get work by doing “IP book contracting” in which the publisher creates the pitch and outline of a story they want to see and they reach out to mid-list authors to have it written up.

I don’t know about you, but something about the idea of ghostwritten novels sounds unsavory. When intellectual property passes through too many hands it is far too easy to lose track of who the original source of that story really was. Did that story once belong to someone who died or to someone who needed editing help to polish that story?

This “IP book contracting” process is one possible explanation for how my book’s story showed up in five different places within three years after I submitted it to publishers and agencies. Fuck them.

In any case, they deserve to collapse after publishing re-tellings of classics dressed up to look like something fresh.

The woman in the video above edited this re-telling of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Persuasion.

She also based her writing career off of the brilliant idea to create Jane Eyre in space. Strangely enough that is what the most recent Star Wars movies did with the character arc of Rey.. and I think they did it first.

Why can’t kids just read the original Jane Eyre or Persuasion. They are still good books! Why should Alexa Donne be elevated to the same height as a star like Jane Austen. In comparison to Jane, Alexa is like a blinking satellite posing as a real star. Why are British bestsellers getting a pass to crib from legends like Michael Ende. These fake-star authors produce space trash that will have to be collected before it crashes into the ISS or rains down on our heads.

There must not be much that is original these days because otherwise, the publishing industry wouldn’t have pounced on my original work and cannibalized it so quickly.

Bastards. You should all get fired. Go plant a garden instead. Paint a house. Do something useful rather than posing as fake smart people who decorate yourselves with the intellectual work of others.

…..

I have no idea who owns the photo in the header. It was posted on Reddit.

3 thoughts on “A Collapsing Industry

  1. Hey Kirsten. I learned a lot from watching the half hour video within this post. It makes sense now that your IP was handed off from the publisher to your plagiarist authors. Even though you already came up with an algorithm that quantified the plagiarism; the fact that your IP can be handed off to agreeable and workhorse authors removes doubt as to this being just a coincidental or conspiratorial thing. It now makes perfect sense that your excellent plots and unique attributes found in your books, have been blatantly stolen. At least it is very obvious to you and I. In addition, the lady in the video left us with good advice. Write in the genre that you feel most comfortable in. Whether that is YA or any other genre. It’s hard to really project where the industry is going. So my advise is to f$@! the industry! Keep polishing your craft. Personally, I like the idea of writing in multiple genres, if I myself were only that capable, ha, ha! Also keep in mind that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” So yes, you were barking up the right trees and that is precisely why your work has stood out among the myriads of works that were overlooked. I can’t help to believe that with your talent you will land a great publishing deal one of these days. But of course in any endeavor there is a “opportunity cost” associated with it. What other things will you be sacrificing in the time it takes to reach your writing goals? Only you can answer that. But hey, if it continues to keep you emotionally and mentally afloat and off of the streets, then you might be heading in the right direction, ha, ha. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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