Is the Publishing World Turning? Yes, yes it is …
Publishing is morphing on a daily basis … If you are a new author, you’ve got publishing questions. Plenty of them. If you are an already published author, you should have publishing questions. Plenty of them.
As an author, ask: should I traditionally publish (hello New York), self-publish, independent publishing, pay-to-publish, hybrid publish, audio publish: ePublish or pPublish or aPublish … which is right for me and my book? The answer is: it depends and will evolve from the changing doors and options within publishing.
With the approximate THREE million books published yearly over the last three years (includes all publications—electronic, reprints, university, traditional, self and small/independent press), there are too many books. Period. Of those three million, most likely 80% plus of them shouldn’t have been. Of those numbers, an estimated one-third comes through the traditional route, the remainder of the self-published route.
Morphing means changes and today’s author has some amazing advantages if he or she puts on their dual business and marketing hats. With them, they will discover ways to create their books, control their destinies and be financially successful in the new, new world of publishing.
Four of the big changes include:
#1 The Acknowledgment that Traditional Publishing Is Broken—Goodbye to the Snob Factor
Just a decade ago, already published authors, the publishing community, and the public, in general, looked down their noses at those who didn’t publish via New York. Major publishing houses were reneging on deals with already signed authors; changing royalty payments from a percentage of the retail price to “net” of what was received. Fewer deals were made, lesser advances, more work, reduced royalties and not a lot of fun. Self and indie authors felt stigmatized … no longer, a very good thing.
Authors have become shell-shocked with the level of work expected of them that in the old days, publishers enthusiastically supported and advocated for their authors. The truth is, many publishers have become printing houses. Yes, they do light editing (but expect the author to have around already completed before submission); yes they do the cover design and back cover copy (it doesn’t mean that you will like, much less love it); yes, they do the interior design (ditto here); and no, they don’t do much in marketing (they expect you be the lead and underwriter of any campaign).
My two bits–That’s why publishers like authors who speak … they have a following … they can get audiences to buy books, no returns. This year, I published How to Create a $1,000,000 Speech … it’s the book you want to plan your speaking strategy plus secure speaking gigs. And, when you get it, email me to get the Word document of the Speaking Contract that is featured in Chapter 14. You can copy and paste your information and make it yours to use for future speaking engagements.
#2 New Publishing Formats Roared into Place
There used to be traditional publishing, small/independent publishing and vanity press. Vanity presses and self-publishing flipped the publishing industry. Traditional publishers are still grumbling about the arrival of Amazon back in the 90s … which took self, independent and electronic publishing to the stratosphere.
Vanity publishing prints and binds a book at the author’s expense and is usually a good deal more expensive than self-publishing. Vanities will publish anyone who has the money to pay them for the number of books desired, regardless of the quality, nature of and marketability of the book. The fees start to build when the vanity publisher adds in its “packages”—pre-set in the form of marketing, distribution, storage, etc., and unfortunately, usually done in a boiler-plate format by the in-house amateurs. xLibris, iUniverse and AuthorHouse/AuthorSolutions are examples of vanity presses. Think of the POD world—print-on-demand—one book at a time (or when the order comes in).
Self-publishing | Hybrid publishing is similar to vanity publishing, where it requires the author to bear the entire cost of publication, and also to handle the distribution, storage, etc. And, then the author steps in and coordinates his own packages, publicity, marketing or whatever services he desires to support his book. Authors who are hobbyists or “casual” authors/publishers take the vanity or self-published route, printing just a few copies at a time. The “sexy” term that surfaced was the “hybrid” publisher–it’s a type of “pay to publish” publisher. Some are decent; some aren’t. You want one that really gets marketing.
AND, you want to make sure you do a complete search or feedback.
When people are victims of scams and/or manipulated, they sometimes report the incidents on the Internet—it’s time to let your fingers do the clicking. You don’t want to be hooked by a publishing predator. Before doing business with POD publishers, a pay-to-publisher operation or any other person or company that wants your money, make a Google search for:
(company or person’s name) + Scam
(company or person’s name) + Problem
(company or person’s name) + Complaint
(company or person’s name) + Fraud
(company or person’s name) + Ripoff
(company or person’s name) + Lawsuit
(company or person’s name) + “Better Business Bureau”
Read the reports and be advised. Unfortunately, too many walk away woven with shame that they got sucked in the first place and/or so ticked that they got taken, they just want to take the shower and get as far away as possible.
Independent publishing (small presses) is a huge step up from self—they are serious and want to be seriously successful. Independents view their publishing endeavors as a business, not something to dabble in. Independents can publish one author exclusively; multiple authors; one genre, such as business or children’s; or a combination. Independents create game plans and understand the necessity of having their authors have platforms to enhance the marketing of the book. They don’t publish one book at a time—they are printing a minimum of 1,000.
ePublishing rooted when Amazon’s Kindle birthed, followed by Barnes & Noble’s Nook. When Apple entered the scene with its iPad, the roof exploded. All formats of publishing jumped on the e-bandwagon, with many books launching in the “e” format first, testing the waters to see if the readers/buyers were out there. Creating an eBook can be done for minimal moneys and if the author has marketing moxie, can generate revenues quickly … then go (or not) to a print format.
My two bits–do the print first. When the “words” are right … then do the eBook. And then the audiobook version. A triple home run. And, always check out the names of the people and companies you are considering to work with. Yes, not everyone loves one another, and there will be some grumblers. But, when you begin to see a pattern, red flags are there for you to pay attention to.
Whatever the choice, the savvy author/writer checks out the Writer Beware site at http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/ for the latest in schemes and scams with publishers.
#3 Consistency and Quality Went the Way of the Dodo Bird
Just eight years ago (2010), 90% of hardbooks were returned to the publisher from bookstores!
Overall book sales were down per title count. The new formats had taken over with predominately trade paper and electronic books. Hardbacks, along with the celebrity tell-alls, were the bread and butter of the traditional publishers. No more—they were shipped back or buyers were looking for discounts. Expect to see fewer publications in the mass-market, smaller format as well. Publishers responded: cutbacks in staff and revenues led to consistency and quality going out the door. Printing quality became inconsistent; cover quality deteriorated, and paperweight became more than paper thin. Books that were printed 20 years ago held up where books six months ago were falling apart. Even the amount of glue used for bindings was reduced, causing pages to fall out of new books when opened.
Booksellers morphed to being clerks, rarely knowing the inventory carried, leaving a buyer who ventured into a retail store to sometimes wonder if the clerk actually read books. Bookstores that added cafes and coffee houses soon discovered that many who hung out, weren’t buying books, they were hanging out in a warm, cozy environment.
My two bits–Audio books are growing, in fact sizzling. The wise author goes with all formats.
The truthiness is that readers have preferences. I’m a print person. But millions are “e” readers or “a” listeners.
Create formats to include them all.
#4 Snappy, Sassy, and Salty Will Reign
The good news in all the changes is that publishing will survive. And continue to morph. Print books are not going to disappear. Electronic books will happily co-exist with them—kind of like a boxer or briefs question. There will be more dinosaurs added to the graveyard, such as Borders. The buzz on the street is that Barnes & Noble is on the selling block again.
Bookstores who “get” their communities will thrive, such as the Tattered Cover in my home state of Colorado. Publishers who create and print books that have a bit of an edge in their content, titling and visual presentation—the snap, sass and salt—will get buyers’ attention. Those who don’t, won’t.
My two bits–make sure you connect with the independent bookstores in your community. They are more included to welcome the indie or self publishing author. But, before you do–get your “game plan” together. If your goal is to be in bookstores, you need to have a plan on how you are going to drive your fans … book buyers … to the store to buy the book. If you don’t, you will become a big blah fairly quickly.
The publishing world will keep turning … and keep changing … and it’s a good thing that it does.
Judith Briles is a book publishing expert and coach. She empowers authors and works directly with authors who want to be seriously successful and has been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the ’80s. Judith is the author of 36 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms (Foreword IndieFab Book of the Year), Snappy Sassy Salty: Wise Words for Authors and Writers and a speaker at publishing conferences. Book #35, How to Avoid 101 Book Publishing Blunders, Bloopers & Boo-Boos has earned 7 national book awards in 2017. Book #36, How to Create a $1,000,000 Speech is one you want now and just out!
Each summer, she holds Judith Briles Book Publishing Unplugged Bootcamp, a three-day intensive limited to a small group of authors who want to be seriously successful. In 2019, the dates are June 20-22. Participate in her Judith Briles Speaking Unplugged Bootcamp held in March and November. Fall 2018 is slated for November 9-10 and Spring 2019 March 9-10. Information is on the website under the Events tab. Join Judith live on Thursdays at 6 p.m. EST for “AuthorU-Your Guide to Book Publishing” on the Toginet Network at bit.ly/PublishingShow.