Are the big science fiction publishers becoming digital?

In October we saw HarperVoyager have an open submissions fortnight for unagented writers with a view to digital publishing. They had a staggering 4,563 submissions worldwide, but only 12 slots to fill. They did say that if the digital version sold well, they would consider a paper version.

Now Random House has introduced a digital print here. However, rather than the traditional 80,000 to 120,000 word length novel I’ve grown up to consider as full length novels, they are interested in short content (15,000 to 30,000 words) and what they call full-length works (40,000 to 60,000 words).

If they have not already done so, I suspect the other big publishers will follow suit as there appears to be money to be made in digital publishing.

What will happen to the small digital publishers like TWB Press if the big boys move in?

Your guess is as good mine… but for what it’s worth, I think that unless someone who is bold and willing to take a risk on innovative works is at the helm in the big publishing houses, then they will continue to publish those types of works that have a history of selling well. This means they will still tend to give ‘more traditional’ offerings. The small publishing houses will only survive if they come across something that catches the public’s imagination – a difficult ask as they don’t have the marketing mechanisms behind them that the big publishers have.

But without them, science fiction is unlikely to grow. The small publishers are the ones who are more likely to bring out something new. Sometimes, it’s a flop, but occasionally it’s a success. It’s like being an entrepreneur. You keep trying to develop and sell new products. A lot fail. The one big success makes up for all the ones that lost money.

I keep on coming back to the stories of various books that had to be self-published by the authors because nobody would take them on, and then went on to become best sellers…

To me, the small publishers are the science fiction entrepreneurs, which in a way I consider kind of poetic.


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