by R.S. Mellette
Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a huge Dr. Who fan – have been since the Tom Baker days. Back in the 1980s I ran into some Brits who worked for the BBC, so naturally the Doctor came up. They laughed at the American fan base, saying, “That show is made by newbies for kids. It’s like a training ground for the BBC.”
For some reason, that comment always stuck with me. The idea of a farm league for the entertainment industry was attractive for a Theatre Major. A place where one could prove their worth, improve their game, and transition into the majors – all while being paid. Where could I find such a program in the US?
Sure, there are some internships. You can work as an assistant in a related field, hoping to crossover from admin to production – but there’s nothing like stepping up to the plate with your peers and swinging the bat well to prove you can… step up to the plate with your peers and swing the bat well.
Thanks to the digital revolution, the publishing industry might be on their way to developing a farm league.
Independent publishing – not to be confused with Vanity Publishing, which is a whole different game – used to mean a few books, limited to a specific micro-genre, sold in a handful of stores. As we all know, the One Great Book Store that is the Internet, has changed all of that. Independents now play on the same field as the Majors. Sure, they don’t always get the press coverage unless they develop a superstar. That means they don’t get the same reviews, or the same kind of sales numbers, but they get them. And that is something that can be tracked like a batting average.
Independent publishers, like our own Matt Sinclair’s Elephant's Bookshelf, have an opportunity to develop writers; let them prove themselves in the real world. Projects that are too risky for the corporate structure of the Big Six can find an audience in the indie market, where the Majors can scout their success, look for trends, and find the next big stars.
It all reminds me of the scene in Tom Hanks’s movie That Thing You Do, about a band that hits it big in 1964. The band is first discovered by a local promoter. He does such a good job that they are given a record contract from a national company. You’d think the local promoter would be upset, but his contract is bought out. He has done his job, and is well-paid. It’s time for him to scout out the next big hit, and use his relationship with the national company to move them up as well. The record company is happy. They have a national hit, with the potential for more. The band is happy. They get to quit their day jobs, go on tour, and make the most of this professional opportunity.
Some people see indie vs. traditional publishing as an adversarial relationship, but if both sides keep their wits about them, it can become symbiotic.