THIS POST IS FOR READERS and WRITERS:
The discussion of the publishing industry and its place in the future continues to rage on the interwebs. The Amazon/Hachette debate has really fired it up a notch, and folks are screaming from both sides of the debate.
The latest piece to get me going was Why We Need Independent Bookstores More Than Ever on the Publishing Perspectives website. I felt the need to weigh in on the conversation, and did so as follows:
~~Hi, I’m a buggy maker. You know, as in horse and buggy? I believe we must stop immediately this move toward automobiles. Oh sure, Ford claims they’re doing it just to help people move about from Point A to Point B more quickly, and to provide convenience and productivity to their lives, but I know the real reason: they’re trying to put me out of business and become a monopoly! Please help! We must stop Henry Ford before he takes over the world! We buggy makers must stick together to beat back this demon.
~~I’m truly fascinated that publishers are choosing to fight technological advances, rather than adapt to them to make their businesses safe and profitable well into the future. It’s so damned shortsighted. Their stubbornness will be their undoing, in the end. Only those willing to adjust in a way that’s fair to both authors and readers will survive.
~~Barnes and Noble is dead. They may still be kicking, but that’s just residual nerves and muscle twitches. The mega bookstore, know also as bookstaurus megalasaur, is extinct. And independents? They’re most likely going to survive as Joe’s Garage, Coffee Shop & Bookstore, or something like that. Stores dedicated solely to the sales of books are on the way out, lest they be high-end collectors’ shops.
~~So time for the publishers to wake up and smell Joe’s coffee. Stop kicking and screaming and clawing at the big bad Amazon, and offer consumers a fair alternative. Compete. Or die.
Anyone who thinks print books will remain the dominant format for readers for more than a few years down the road, should immediately visit their neurologist for an MRI… or their psychiatrist. The Star Trek-ification of America (and soon the world) is well under way. Kindergarteners are now getting tablets to read on in some districts, and today’s youth are accustomed to doing virtually everything online; reading eBooks will be second nature to them.
The traditional publishing model is simply no longer viable, but I suppose it’s no mystery that they are unwilling to go gently into that good night. The sad part is that they needn’t die; they need only evolve to accommodate the new market paradigm. I say this as someone who co-founded and now runs a hybrid small press publisher, Evolved Publishing.
When we first formed EP, we did so with a couple of driving forces in mind: 1) Where is this market going in the next 10-15 years? 2) What sort of publisher would we want to affiliate with as authors?
The first question was critical for obvious reasons. We naturally wanted to form a business model that would make sense given the new market paradigm; we didn’t want to be obsolete in 5 years. The second question was critical because we viewed our primary competition not as traditional publishers–whom we fully expected, quite frankly, to self-destruct at some point–but rather the burgeoning self-publishing option.
And so we moved forward with a few key points in mind:
- eBooks are the future of reading.
- As happened in the music industry, everything would move to the internet.
- Consumers would find new, cheap options, meaning pricing pressures would be a big part of our business.
- Content would be king, meaning we had to attract quality independent authors who produce quality books.
First Bullet Point Above: Yes, we offer print books, but not via traditional typesetting. Rather, we offer high quality POD (Print-on-Demand) books to keep our overhead costs to a minimum, and to thereby offer both authors and readers the best possible deal.
Second Bullet Point Above: In addition to eBooks and POD paper books, we also offer audiobooks and foreign translations where it makes sense, and again, we keep overhead to an absolute minimum. Furthermore, we all work from home offices – no buildings, no high overhead related to those costs. We live in an electronic world – the internet age. The office building is simply not needed.
Third Bullet Point Above: Whoever it was in traditional publishing (and yes, they all colluded) that thought it was fair to consumers to price eBooks, for which the production costs are so low, higher than paperbacks, for which the production costs are so high, simply missed the boat. This is grossly unfair to consumers, and the backlash was inevitable. Now, there’s something to be said for the value of “content”–the author’s hard-fought battle to create the book, and all their blood, sweat, tears, and talent–and pricing an ebook with fair author consideration in mind. Still, the actual “production” costs are limited, and so the ultimate price should be almost entirely about content. At EP, almost all of our eBooks are priced at $3.99–only a few exceptions, and most of those are special omnibus editions. You’ll never see an eBook from EP priced at $12.99 or $14.99. Ridiculous!
Fourth Bullet Point Above: We must have great content to offer readers. That means that our guiding philosophy at EP is absolutely critical: Quality is Priority #1! Every book must be written well, edited well, and presented (formatted) well. Period. Especially in the new wild wild wild wild wild wild west known as self-publishing, quality matters. The gatekeepers can still serve a valuable function for consumers, and we at Evolved Publishing seek to provide readers this simple assurance: if you purchase one of our books, you’ll get a professional product.
Make no mistake about it, folks, traditional publishers set up their business model with only one thing in mind: themselves. Unless you end up being one of their mega-superstars, you can expect as an author to be treated with a certain amount of contempt and unfair financial consideration. Don’t get me wrong; as a business owner I understand the value of profit! We can’t stay in business without it. But fair is fair, and traditional publishers have abused most authors for far too long. Well, now that the market has evolved and authors have new options, and consumers have new options, traditional publishers are going to pay a dear price.
At Evolved Publishing, we recognized first and foremost that the authors are the stars of the show, not us. Without the extraordinary authors we’ve attracted to EP (too many to name here without leaving someone out), we would not be what we are. How do we attract them? For one, we pay them a fair, even attractive royalty rate. After all, they don’t have to publish with us; they can publish themselves. Second, we provide them with first-rate editing, excellent cover art & illustrations, and professional formatting. Third, we work to coordinate group marketing activities that are more about sweat and muscle than they are money invested. Finally, we give them an enjoyable team environment where we all interact and work with one another in a respectful and mutually beneficial way.
Why don’t traditional publishers do this? What is stopping them? Seriously, I’m not trying to give away any secrets here; I believe we have a lot to offer authors and I’m willing to stand by our reputation in the face of new competition. I just don’t get why traditional publishers still fail to understand what is required to treat their authors–ALL of their authors–well.
Look, it’s a tough marketplace out there; we can all be honest about that. For every writer that makes a living as an author, a thousand more must toil away at their day jobs while they pursue that dream. It’s tough! As a result, treating authors well, affording them the respect, dignity, and financial consideration they deserve, is more important than ever. Furthermore, giving them a place where they can inspire one another, cry on each other’s shoulders, commiserate and celebrate and motivate, is especially important. The days of leaving authors to drift alone in the wilderness is behind us, as publishers, because there’s now a name for that: self-publishing. Want to be relevant as a publisher? Here’s a crazy idea: service your clients!
Geez, I’m so sick and tired of the establishment clinging to their spoils as if they were the Gods of publishing, and the rest of us mere mortals created to do their bidding. But you know what? I’m also just about over it. Seriously, they don’t matter anymore. A new day has dawned.
If you’re an author looking for a home where you’ll be treated fairly, even if you’ve previously self-published to less than satisfying results, you should give Evolved Publishing a look. Just go to the website and surf around, and discover for yourself what we’re all about. Of course, you’ll eventually need to go to the Submissions Page.
If you’re a reader looking for quality books at a fair price, you need to stop by our Book Shop, because we have some seriously excellent books from some seriously talented authors. As an avid reader, you do yourself a disservice by not checking out some of the amazing works we have available.
I shall now step down from my soapbox.