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Death of publishing?

July 4, 2012

Last week, the Huffington Post published an article about the publishing industry–the latest of scores that proclaimed doom and eventual death for the New York-based publishing dominance. The article, by a guy named Michael Levin, says that while the publishers can accurately point to withstanding previous predictions of doom, this time, they won’t be as fortunate. The previous threats–mall book stores, Barnes and Noble and Borders, and the lot–kept the publishers in control of book distribution and marketing. Only the big publishers could get book into bookstores nationwide, and only they could get your book in enough key marketing spots via ads and book reviews, to assure success.

The Internet has changed all of that. Now the primary source of book marketing–newspapers, has given way to a plethora of marketing avenues. Take 50 Shades, for instance. It’s turned the old marketing approach upside down. By the time it was mentioned in newspapers, it was already a success. Readers don’t need to go to the newspaper to find out about their most likely next books. They find out from blogs, Amazon reviews, and what someone posts on Facebook. You can also pay someone to perform search engine optimization for your website and get your book to the first page of Google results.

And between print-0n-demand and e-books, you can be published and available for purchase much more quickly and without going through the New York-based bookstore gauntlet.

Mr. Levin then asks as question I essentially asked three years ago: “If you already have a robust social media presence or a lengthy speaking schedule, then why do you even need New York at all?” Or, as I put it, why does Stephen King need a publisher? I tend to agree that another major shake-out will occur, and maybe the Big Six will be fewer than that within a few years.

Which brings us back to Amazon. Nature and commerce hate a void. When something fades, something else replaces it. Right now, Amazon seems poised to replace the booksellers. Many rejoice at that prospect. Amazon currently offers authors better deals and treats them better. A number of successful authors seem to agree. But Amazon may not be the white knight that many think it is. Its recent past suggests a scene in The Empire Strikes Back, where Lando Calrissian protests Darth Vader’s order to take Princess Leia and Chewbacca to his ship, “I am altering the deal, pray I do not alter it any further.”

For writers, this is a time of great uncertainty and potential. Once you have a quality product to sell.

One Comment
  1. July 4, 2012 1:04 pm

    Good post, Chris. Thanks.

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