Friday, May 20, 2011

Changes in the publishing business.

You can't be self-published and not keep informed of the huge and often strident debate about the future of the publishing world.
Some authors contend that you're not truly “published” until you're accepted by one of the major publishers and see your book in paper, while others predict the demise of book-store publishing in favor of E-publishing and the importance of the connection between authors and readers.
Major NY publishers are like IBM back in the eighties when they ignored the importance of their own invention (the PC) and allowed an up-start company like Microsoft to retain the rights to the operating software. IBM was monolithic, cast in stone, convinced of its superiority, and unable to change.
I have a suspicion that the major publishers face the same challenge.
Three years ago if you had asked me if I would ever read a book on a computer or hand-held device I would have said “Hell no! I like the smell and feel of a book in my hands!”.
Today I will not buy a paper book. I've found that reading on my computer, Android, or Kindle is easier, more convenient, and fits with the fact that I am a reading baby-boomer. Publishers should take heed. We baby-boomers are in the market for good reading material, but our eyesight is failing, some of use cannot hold a paper book for long in comfort, and we are technologically aware. A Kindle or Nook is much easier to use than a cumbersome novel or paperback that clutters up the house. (I gave mine to the library.)
Major publishers are making another mistake. Numerous posts on Amazon have railed against the high cost of E-books and for good reason. If you buy a title in paper, expect to pay between $10.00 (paperback) to $30.00 (hardback) or more. Part of the high cost is the dead tree and its aftermath, and the horrendous expense of the equipment required to print it. A small fraction goes to the publisher. An even smaller fraction goes to the author. Add it all up and it results in high cost.
The cost of producing a E-book is nearly invisible in comparison. Just a computer and a site to display it on. So why do the major publishers charge nearly as much for an E-book as they do for a paper book? Well, greed for one thing. An E-book is nearly all profit. But a bigger reason is that they know that if the cost of the E-book is substantially less than the printed copy, they won't sell paper books, and book stores will go out of business at a faster rate.
It's gratifying to see the wide variety of quality authors that self-publish E-books. Major works as good as any block-buster touted by NY publishers are for sale, or free for the downloading. (I can prove it.) Most of these authors would never have passed through the screening process of major publishers.
Large publishers “think” they know what the reading audience wants, they supposedly have legions of marketing people helping to make those decisions, so part of the process is to choose works that fit that mold regardless of the merit of the book in question.
Yeah, Right! So I title like “Harry Potter” gets rejected by the big boys 72 times, and is picked up by a minor niche publisher who was willing to ignore the conventional wisdom and give a new author a chance!
If the petrified, fossilized, major book publishers want to save their industry, I have a few suggestions. I will list them.
    1. Stop killing trees. If some of your customers want paper, do print-on-demand. Control the costs of your brick and mortar book stores by shrinking them in size and making browsing catalogs and samples available to your customers in the store. Let other customers call the store, submit an order, and have the title ready for the customer to pick up or FedEx it to them. For other print copies, make them available in the Nation's libraries. It will give a good boost to them and the titles can also be available in online E-format on their computers.
    2. Find new authors on the net. Look for an author with a good book that has a huge following, good ratings, and who exhibits talent, and offer to represent him or her. (You can still take submissions.) This will encourage self-published authors because they always have chance of being noticed by major publishers while they are selling their works. (While you're at it, promote self-publishing as a viable alternative.)
    3. Work with on-line publishing houses. Give them a market, and take a cut.
    4. Include self-published authors in the main-stream world of publishing. Give them a chance to win awards, be highly rated, and in general, remove the imaginary divisions between you (the publishers) and us (the independents).

In my opinion, it's the only way you can survive. If you can't beat them, you need to join them.