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Oct 26, 2010

4 Things the Publishing Industry Should Change

Io9 has a great piece on 15 science fiction and fantasy books the publishers rejected. Damn. I just knew spies told publishers to reject me.

Which leads a pundit at PC World to suggest four things the publishing industry should change:

1. Stop belittling or dismissing self-publishing. By thinking of self-published books in the same way you think of proposals, you can learn to view the self-publishing market for what it is: a farm program that is the key to your salvation.

2. Think about a book in the same way that a cloud-based service thinks about its product -- always a work in progress and never finished. Most nonfiction and even some fiction should be rereleased frequently with improvements, corrections and updates.

3. Stop thinking that a book is a bound stack of paper. A book has no physical form. It's a collection of ideas. It's intellectual property. You don't sell tree pulp. You sell stories and information, and you should sell it in any form and in any medium that the customer desires, without fear or favor and without trying to manipulate readers with release dates on different platforms. Just release every form as soon as you can and let readers pick.

4. Kill the advance. There's absolutely no reason to shackle yourselves with this investment. Change the model so that you invest only in proven winners. Force austerity on writers and on your own operations. By reducing the cost per author, the same money can support more authors and thereby increase chances for mega-hits.

I know of a couple of people who have found publishers this way. Boyd Morrison first published The Ark: A Novel on Amazon, after it was rejected by all the publishers. They came back pleading to publish it after it was a runaway hit. My friend Michelle Davidson Argyle found her publisher, Rhemalda, because of her success self-publishing the lovely darksome novella Cinders

In completely other news, Amazon says that ebooks now outsell print books 2-to-1.

Just a few months ago, Amazon announced its Kindle editions were outselling hardcover books. Now, the Seattle-based online retailer also announced that for its top 10 best-selling books, its customers are now buying the Kindle edition twice as often as print copies, even as sales of print books on continue to grow. According to Amazon's vice president for the Kindle Steve Kessel, Kindle e-book sales now also top print sales of hardcovers and paperbacks for its top 25, top 100 and top 1,000 bestsellers.

During the first nine months of 2010, Amazon sold 3 times as many Kindle books as during the same time period in 2009.

According to Kessel, Amazon already sold more Kindles so far this year than "during the entire fourth quarter of last year - astonishing because the fourth quarter is the busiest time of year on Amazon." The new Kindle, which Amazon introduced in July, has already surpassed total Kindle sales during the fourth quarter of 2009. The fact that Amazon dropped the price of the cheapest Kindle to $139 surely helped sales as well.

While we have not seen similar numbers from Amazon's competitors like Barnes & Noble and Sony, Amazon's sales seem to be ahead of the general e-book market. According to a recent report from the the Association of American Publishers, overall e-books sales grew 193 percent between January and August 2010.

I leave you with T.S. Eliot's reason for rejecting Animal Farm. I leave it to you to determine what relevance, if any, this has to the publishing industry in its present crisis: "After all, your pigs are far more intelligent than the other animals, and therefore are the best qualified to run the farm – in fact there couldn't have been an Animal Farm without them..."

Indeed. Indeed.


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Jai Joshi said...

Once people figure out that there's money to be made in self publishing they'll start to sing a different tune. But until then all they can do is belittle it because they're losing control fast and that's hard to handle.


Mary Mary said...

I agree with some of your points. The thing is, is that money has to be made off of books. It's an industry just like anything else. Yes, we all have these great ideas, but if they are not executed properly, then they will never sell. There is some crappy writing out there getting published by publishers, but here's the thing, they have a saleable idea that was properly executed (Dan Brown, anyone?) Thus, sending people to buy it and eat it up. Artistry is one half of the writing world, business is the second half, and as writers, we need to know how to marry the two together.

The problem that tends to plague self-publishing is that anyone, and I mean anyone, can slap a title on something and put it out there, whether it has any value or not, or whether the writing is actually good or just a mash-up of ideas from someone who has no idea on what they are doing.

On the flipside, there is some really good self-published work out there that tends to get overlooked, and I find that sad. In my opinion, there needs to be a complete overhaul of the publishing industry. Period.