Valued WU contributor and former Writer’s Digest publisher Jane Friedman has a book out! Called The Future of Publishing: Enigma Variations, Jane’s book promises to be “a definitive and comprehensive view on how book publishing will evolve and transform.” I’m glad she agreed to a Take Five interview here so we can all learn a little more about her book.
TW: Tell us a little about your new book, The Future of Publishing: Enigma Variations. What sets it apart in the marketplace?
JF: As far as I know, it’s the only thing ever written that postulates 14 different possible futures of publishing. Also, I’m not speculating on next year, or even 10 years from now. I’m really thinking 50 or 100 years from now.
TW: Why this book, why now?
JF: I’m asked my thoughts on the future of publishing at nearly every event or conference I speak at. At the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference (February 2011), author Christina Katz challenged me to write a book on the topic. At first, I told her I had no interest in such speculation. But then I reconsidered. We agreed on a release date of April 1, which at the time was less than 2 months away. By the way, that’s an important thing to keep in mind. April 1.
TW: Can you share an excerpt with us?
JF: Yes! Here’s a bit from Variation #1.
You can’t be just a writer of stories or books anymore. You have to be a creator of entire, immersive, interactive, multimedia realms of experience—at least four per concept, but half a dozen is ideal.
Purely text stories are two-dimensional and déclassé. Neither kids nor adults will be satisfied or engaged unless you create movies, TV series, and online interactive games to flesh out alternative or supplemental story lines. You should also be thinking about developing theme parks, and buying islands (near Dubai), and developing theme parks on islands (near Dubai) to give your audience the real experience of your story world.
So, if you want to simply write books, limiting yourself to flat words trapped on a page, go ahead, but you’ll be the lowest of the low. That is, you’ll be a mere writer. The big money goes to the transmedia specialists, and MFA programs now offer transmedia degrees. Most English and creative writing departments were subsumed, quite some time ago, by Colleges of Informatics.
TW: What was it like for you to self-publish this book? (Was the choice to self-publish clear or difficult? What factors did you consider in making your decision? And what helped you settle on your price point?
JF: Having worked nearly 15 years in publishing, it was a very easy process to self-publish. I already have the skills I need to produce the book, and I have people who can help me. (One of my best friends is an invaluable editor who volunteered her services.)
The choice to self-publish was clear for a variety of reasons. First, the book isn’t long enough to merit traditional publication, and you could never charge enough to make the P&L work. Second, the industry is changing too fast to put this topic through the traditional publishing cycle. And third, frankly, no one inside the industry really cares what I think about the future of publishing. Some writers and authors care, but they’re not the ones making the decisions about what gets published.
The magical price point for most e-books these days is somewhere between 99 cents and $2.99. I felt like the quality of the work, and the effort I’ve put into it, deserved maybe a couple bucks. But definitely not more.
TW: What’s next for you?
JF: I am in talks with Writer’s Digest to write a book for them that is, shall we say, more serious-minded!
Thanks so much, Jane, and best of luck with The Future of Publishing.