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The Future of Publishing?


I picked this article up in yesterday’s Publishers Lunch (subscribe at http://www.publishersmarketplace.com). It really struck me as an important indicator of impending change in the way that publishing will work. Would love to hear if those reading this agree.

Chronicle to Profit from Blurb Referrals
We’ve always wondered when traditional publishers would start to actually capitalize on the fast-growing market for self-published books, and now Newsweek has a web-only story that says Chronicle Books will use their slush pile to do just that in conjunction with Bay Area-based Blurb.com.

Newsweek says that in October the publisher will announce “a pioneering ‘mutual referral’ deal” under which “Chronicle will refer unwanted authors to Blurb, who will return an undisclosed cut of the earnings generated from the new accounts.”

Chronicle’s executive director of business development Sarah Williams indicates the deal is “primarily designed to help writers.” She says: “It’s an opportunity for writers to test their product in a digital marketplace where success might bring them back to us.”
Newsweek

So do I have this right? Chronicle is going to take a commission from Blurb.com for sending them customers. OK. Chronicle can certainly recommend them over the 100 or so other sites that offer online self publishing tools to authors, amateur and otherwise. But check me on this and tell me what I am missing:

Chronicle is telling authors they do not want to publish their books, but if the author pays Blurb to publish the book and if the book sells well (enough), Chronicle will now be happy to consider publishing the author’s book.

So if I am an author Chronicle sent to Blurb and I pay to publish my own book and then I expend the energy (and cost) to market it, and then I succeed in building an audience, why exactly would I want to reward Chronicle by offering them my book? And if I do all of this, don’t I deserve a bigger royalty from the publisher?

And maybe Chronicle by doing this starts me the author thinking that this publishing business needs to be redefined. Once upon a time, publishers nurtured authors, built their careers, invested in their work, taking the long view that writers and audiences need to be cultivated. That rarely, if ever, happens today – mostly publishers that answer to quarterly profit requirements cannot afford long term investments in authors (who after all, may not stick around to reward their original publishers with their long term success.)

So now the model is different. Publishers don’t “grow” author careers. For that matter, as Chronicle so plainly now makes clear, publishers don’t want to have much risk at all when it comes to authors.

For years independent and nonprofit publishers have served as “farm teams” for the publishing industry, regularly losing authors they discovered to the better paying and stronger marketing corporate publishing houses. And certainly seeing mainstream publishers discover hot selling books from the ranks of the self publishers is nothing new. But there is something striking about this Chronicle alliance. It tells authors to “go away and come back only once you have proved you can sell.” I am sure many will make the effort. But doesn’t this just tell authors what they have suspected for a long time, that publishers really don’t know what is good, or what will sell, and if they don’t, then what is so special about the editorial function? What defines a publisher other than a bankroll and a distribution system? And then why shouldn’t the economics of publishing change?

So publishers, I ask this question of you: If you show authors the door, and offer them the tools they need to publish themselves, and then they somehow manage to succeed on their own, which some will certainly do (i.e. create a paying audience for their books), what does this mean for publishers?

Are you ready for the next stage in the evolution of publishing?

Blog Theory and Practice


My good friend Fred Seibert, who runs both Frederator Studios producing the best cartoons on TV, as well as Next New Networks, producing the next new wave of cartoons on the web, gave me some excellent blogging advice recently.  Blog often, blog short.  And blog with pictures.  I am working on the first two now.  The third will follow soon.

I have noticed that Carl Lennertz’ excellent book business blog “Publishing Insider” (http://publishinginsider.typepad.com/) follows (the first two of) these rules as well.  Consider me a convert, at least for now.

Posted by David Wilk on 09/15 at 05:15 PM
Publishing and business in general • (49) CommentsPermalink

Distribution Diary


Book distribution remains one of my favorite topics. When I was working as a book distributor, I spoke to literally hundreds, if not thousands of publishers, many of them new or relatively new to the business. Almost all of them had misconceptions or misunderstandings about how the distribution business works. Distribution and book distributors of all types continue to play a critical role for publishers, especially if they want to reach the core retail book marketplace. Certainly, specialty publishers, with very focused programs continue to find better alternatives for reaching their markets. And online direct to consumer and other alternative distribution channels continue to grow.

But the distribution function remains critical, and over the next few weeks and months I will do more posts here about this subject and working with Publishers Lunch and Publishers Marketplace, will try to lay out a pretty comprehensive dataset and description of all of the distribution options available to publishers (and authors who publish), along with a running commentary and some predictions about the future of book distribution and retailing.

Posted by David Wilk on 09/15 at 04:47 PM
DistributionPublishing and business in general • (55) CommentsPermalink

Defining Booktrix


Booktrix is about to enter a new stage of life.  Within a few weeks, this site will be transformed from a blog based platform to a website that includes a blog.  With the new site we will be better able to define the Booktrix business.  In the meantime, I will be posting some thoughts toward defining “the brand.”
Simplest: Booktrix provides services and tools for making books, marketing books, and selling books.

Posted by David Wilk on 09/07 at 04:53 PM
Marketing, PR and advertising • (88) CommentsPermalink
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Buzz, Balls & Hype
MJ Rose’s excellent blog

Writerscast

Where I podcast interviews with writers and thinkers about books, publishing and the future of culture.

Ron Silliman’s Blog
one of my favorite and most regular visits

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers
Incisive, intelligent blog well worth bookmarking! 

Publishing Insider
The renowned Carl Lennertz covers the book business and more

Fresh Eyes Now
Robert Gray’s consistently interesting bookseller’s journal

Book Slut

The Long Tail
Chris Anderson’s ongoing exploration of how the web and human behavior creat new opportunities for information to be distributed (my words)

Galley Cat
Blog about the bookbusiness

Conversations in the Book Trade
interesting site

Flaming Grasshopper
Chelsea Green Press’ ongoing blog

Publishing 2.0: the (r)Evolution of Media
A blog about the (r)evolution of media, driven by the migration of media to the Web and new digital technologies by Scott Karp.  Highly recommended.

E-Reads
An e-book business site, but their blog covers book business stories as well.

The Digitalist 

"The Digitalist was originally conceived as an internal sounding board, discussion forum and blog for the publisher Pan Macmillan to start thinking about a range of digital issues it faced. It still is. Only now it’s open for everyone to join the debate about books, publishing, the web, and the future."  Highly Recommended reading for anyone interested in the future of publishing.

Teleread "Bring the E-books Home"

David Rothman’s outstanding blog covering all things related to e-books, now with the assistance of Paul Biba.

Invention Arts

Really smart people thinking hard about books, publishing and the emerging social conversation.  Creators of Aerbook: an author platform service for the social web. Highly recommended.

 

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