Publishers and the Digital World

Recently, I’ve been updating my research on publishers, since I want to send the manuscript I’m working on to one of the bigger publishing houses. Not that I’m expecting immediate success, but if you never try, you’ll never succeed. I’m less interested in indie publishers – most of what they can do for me, I can do for myself. While researching current publishing models and submission guidelines, I noticed a huge difference between publishing houses and sometimes even imprints of the same publishing house. Some of them have thoroughly embraced modern technology, while others are still avoiding it like the plague. For instance, it’s really surprising that some have switched to all things digital and want everything by e-mail, while others still want printed pieces of paper and SASE’s.

Now, I understand why they would want to save on printing expenses and have the people sending in their manuscripts instead of printing those manuscripts themselves. However, I often wonder why they do not invest in a decent digital submission scheme and e-readers. The chances of items getting lost, damaged, etcetera can be reduced so much if you implement a digital administration, a decent content management system and proper backups. Also, replying to the many submitted manuscripts becomes much, much cheaper. An automated e-mail informing people that their submission has been received had got to require less time then writing and snail-mailing a post card, even if you don’t have to fill in the address.

It’s not just the ancient, outdated presses either. Alright, none of the experimental presses want me to send them actual paper anymore. Those that only do e-books, or publish digital storytelling, all work digitally. But one of the more current presses with regards to the paper books they release (and then turn into e-books), only accepted printed manuscripts. Now, I know I’m lucky I write mostly (urban) fantasy, and that there even are any ‘traditional’ publishers that accept manuscripts without an agent at all, but still. Paper. On which they must write all their observations and notes. Which will then need to be typed out. Wow.

It also translates, often, into what is being published. I ran into digital magazines, publishers that were making the move to e-book only, and I know some of them are working on digital interactive stories(I’m not calling it e-books, since they’re way, way more then that, but they’re not games exactly, either). When it is just about reading, I prefer holding a printed book, admittedly mostly for nostalgia’s sake. But those digital experiments truly excite me, and I can’t wait to be able to dive into the more groundbreaking ones. The world of telling stories keeps growing and it’s a magical thing. Still, at the moment it seems to broaden the divide between those publishing houses embracing the digital world and those that to some extend are still keeping it at arms length.

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