Is the old brick-and-mortar publishing industry dying?

e-Books continue to dominate the marketplace, and those in the old brick-and-mortar publishing business are sweating bullets.

Many are warning of this trend, and of what it will mean to the business.  As an author who’s soon to release his book for the e-Reader market, my question is simple: Who cares?

I don’t mean to be snarky (well, maybe I do), but perhaps if fewer publishers treated authors, the very reason publishers even exist, as a necessary nuisance, the industry would be suffering less.  They protest such claims, yet when most authors (those who aren’t already famous and established) can earn so much more by releasing an e-Book, can do so easier (by an unfathomable order of magnitude), can retain their rights for their lifetimes, and must do all their own marketing anyway, why would most authors pay attention to the cries of the old-world publishers?

For too long, in my opinion, publishers have had it precisely backwards.  Authors do not exist to support publishers.  Publishers exist to support authors.  In the end, the work is all that matters—the story/biography/expose/how-to book/etc.  The writing is the engine that propels the industry.

It should be a symbiotic relationship, a partnership, a mutually respectful and beneficial arrangement.  Yet that often seems to be the case only for established authors, those who’ve already proven themselves a safe bet—beyond risk.  I read many blogs and websites that suggest otherwise, that tow the company line, as it were—out of loyalty, or political correctness, or fear.

Part of the reason for the success of e-Books is that many authors and aspiring authors are saying, “Enough is enough.”

Those old-world publishers can fix at least some of their problem, if they would treat budding authors more as partners and less as gambles to which they’re willing to risk little or nothing.  Success in any business always involves a fair amount of risk.  Every business attempts to minimize it to the greatest extent possible, of course, and well they should.  Yet for too many authors, the publisher’s doubts and aversion to risk becomes a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.  Their sheer incompetence on issues of marketing, alone, makes one wonder if they get it, or if there’s any hope they’ll survive.

They face plenty of challenges, to be sure, and some of those will be daunting, impossible to overcome completely.  Yet the sooner they recognize as a group that they no longer own a monopoly, that authors now have options that don’t include them, and therefore no longer need to act as doormats, the sooner those publishers can develop some workable solutions.

Will they do it?  Will they dedicate themselves to service and shared rewards?  Perhaps.  Eventually.  After many of them have died off.

It’s a harsh, competitive world out there—as it should be.  For the first time in a long time, markets are actually opening up for authors.  What a refreshing twist.

If publishers can’t offer authors convenience, service, and value that makes clear they at least recognize the new competitive environment, then many will surely die.  And, if that’s the case, then I say, “Good riddance.”

Someone’s taking away the spoiled kids’ silver spoons.  Ah shucks.

New opportunities will arise for booklovers and authors alike.  If the old fail, the new will step in.  That’s the way of the world.  Some of those old publishers should go back to school.  They seem to have missed a lot the first time around.  Or perhaps they got greedy and took too much for granted.

See this online article about the old brick-and-mortar publishers’ continuing demise: Kindle, Nook, Other E-Readers Wrecking Publishing Industry: Report.

‘Til next time, and as always, remember: To write well, you must work hard.  To succeed in this tough gig, you mustn’t be lazy (or discouraged).

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