Friday, March 16, 2012

Traditional Publishing... A New Paradigm

Monday,  Linda wrote a compelling article on what is happening in the publishing industry. If you haven't read it yet, I recommend you take a moment to read U.S. Justice Department May Sue Apple, Amazon Continues to Press Its Advantage, and then come back for more discussion on how to fix this industry.
New to the publishing business, this is what I heard about our current market:
  • Your work has to be perfect before an agent will take it. 
  • Editors aren't editing anymore. They want a finished product. 
  • Publishers take 90% and own your rights, and they don't pay for marketing.
Then I looked into the past:
  • Agents would accept unfinished work.
  • Editors and agents worked with authors to help craft their books. 
  • Publishers were taking pretty much publishing any author, and helping market their books.
We are in the battle of cutting out the middle-man, and threatening the brick and mortar stores, with traditional publishers. As Linda points out in her article, Amazon states: "The only two essential parties in the reading experience are the reader and the author." And then she asks, "What about editors, marketers and distributors?"

What a profound question. What about them? I have to ask these questions: 

"If your work has to be perfect before anyone will touch it, then why do you need an agent and editor? And if you can bring it to market with Amazon, why do you need a publisher?" 
From what I've witnessed in this exciting industry is that agents have a preponderance of queries. Thousands weekly. They don't have time to help, assist, and mold talent. Perhaps that was never their job. Perhaps in the old days there weren't as many authors so they had to find the talent and develop it. 
Editors are now freelancing. Those of us who hoped to be published one day are paying large sums of money to make our work perfect.

And if we have made our work perfect to be accepted into the "club" then why would we want to pay 90% to a publisher, and sell our rights? If the advancements only go to those who are famous, then what do they have to offer mere mortals like ourselves? 

What I see happening in this industry is by cutting the middle-men out, quality may eventually degrade. Then the cycle will start up again. Agents and editors will step in to help authors, and become part of their success, and will be paid for performance. 

How many times have I gone to my local Barnes and Noble and looked for a book, and they didn't have it? Three times last year. They said, "we can order it for you." I finally gave up taking that drive. It's not worth my time, when I can stay home and order it on line. And yet does it make good business sense to print books and have them sitting in a backroom in inventory? POD makes sound financial sense. I can't blame B&N into not having the books I want on their shelf. 

But the crime of all crimes within the publishing industry is the traditional publishers crying about self-publishing and how POD is putting them out of business... and yet they are the first to take a self-published author who has created a success for themselves.  That's like the war against drugs. I hate it, I don't support it, but when I can make a profit off it... sign me up. Either you are against... or you are for it. You can't fight it and then support it because you're going profit. Can you?

I brought Flight For Control to market myself. The comments I've had when people hold my book in their hands include, "You published this yourself? Wow!" "How many did you have to buy to publish this?" My favorite is, "This looks like a real book."  I have to thank Nathan Everett for that.

Where the industry has really shifted is with the Ebook. 

I just checked my sales and the results this month are:  Kindle: 107 Nook: 5  Hardback and Paperback: 45. Amazing, but people are shifting to electronics. I didn't take into account those copies I've been mailing and shipping from home because you just can't autograph a kindle. But for sales on-line,  electronics are wining. How can the traditional publishing industry manage this shift? 

Seriously I'm torn. I love holding, touching, smelling and reading a real book. Their presence on my bookshelf gives me inspiration and reminds me daily of the content. But I also know economically we can't sustain print books long-term. What is the answer?

The industry has shifted. The future...
  • Chain bookstores shrinking.  
  • Independent bookstores prospering and catering to their communities. 
  • Agents accepting potential talent and working with them. 
  • Traditional publishers partnering with authors and reducing commissions, and allowing authors to own their rights. 
What are you thoughts? Where do you see this industry in ten years? Can traditional publishers find their way with a paradigm shift? Have you converted to Kindle and Nook?

Enjoy the Journey!

XOX Karlene


  1. The industry is undergoing it's biggest change ever, and honestly, I think for the better. At least for the betterment of the author, and it's about time. Oh! By the way, you can autograph a Kindle. There's a site called Kindlegraph you should check out!

    1. Thanks Heather! That is so funny about autographing a kindle. I'm on it. So much to learn so little time.

  2. I have been pondering these same questions. I think the industry is overdue for a shift and it is great for the author but the biggest issue is keeping the quality of the work high as self-publishing becomes easier and easier.
    I'm like you on the print vs ebooks. I love to touch, feel, and smell the print copy of the book but my honey bought me an Ipad for Christmas and it is just too easy and cheap to download a book the second I think about it! Lazy, huh?

    1. Sometimes lazy = quick and easy. But it just makes sense. Think of all the trees you're saving. Such a new world we are emerging into. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Once upon a time (1970's), an author could contact THE PUBLISHER THEMSELVES W/O AN AGENT!

    Then... mid '80's things started changing. You HAD TO HAVE AN AGENT IN ORDER TO GET PAST THE LOCKED DOOR.

    The traditional publishers did not like the every day housewife being able to become self-published ($), and said this would not last. I want to say that was in the mid- '90's.

    Once the Internet became the norm, and someone got the bright idea that the housewife-turned-author should be able to publish her novel, and THEY make the profit.

    Well, now lookie what we got here. Two super industries on a teeter-totter flexing their muscles. I don't think you could pay good money to see such a great heavy-weight fight. I'm watching it from the sidelines and I can't wait to see who comes out the winner.

    I'm going to say it won't take 10 years to see the next thing. I think we will see something within the next 5. Someone is going to loose and loose big in this. I really don't think publishers can cling to this way of life. REmember the banks???? Money doesn't grow on trees. (and it doesn't surprise me that they are taking a larger lion's share than before!)

    Hold on to your hats, ladies! This will be a wild roller coaster ride.

    Thanks for the articles ladies. You are a great group!

    1. Lorelei, What a fascinating rundown on the history. I love the concept of watching this fight. Someone will win, but not before a lot of bloodshed. I think that industry (traditional publishers) is going to have to make some kind of shift and work with, offer something to those housewives, to survive this battle. Yes... five years, you are probably right on that!

  4. Where will we be in 10 years. I HAVE NO IDEA!! But I do own a Kindle and I have to say - if I don't know the author, I click on the link and if it's self-published, I probably won't get it, even for 99 cents. I used to, but they had so many errors, I couldn't stand it. But if the story line looks good and they have a web presence I can verify - then I'll take the plunge. (yes, some traditionally published books have errors. but some self/Kindle published?? *shudders*)

    1. Erica, I think you're not alone in this. So much has snuck through. It's hard to judge our own work and when our friends say it's great... we publish. I personally waited until I had a couple agents interested and three authors willing to read and endorse. Then I had confidence. We only get one chance for the first go. I hope that mine can be one you will take a chance on.

  5. I like your scenario of the future, Karlene, and I sure hope Lorelei is right and it doesn't take ten years! I often feel timing is everything, and right now the timing is pretty messy, so the sooner things shake out, the better. (I love the idea of independent bookstores becoming more relevant again--the losses there have been devastating to the meaning of having a place to go in your community where you can indulge in literary flights of fancy and have bookchats with people who know you and your tastes and are happy to guide you to books you'll love. The big stores, both physical and online, are doing that now--tagging your interests and making suggestions--based on purchases, but it's definitely not the same as a chat with questions and answers. I, too, predict that this will be one of the results of the changes taking place now--yay!)

    1. Linda, I so miss the indipendant bookstore which once was in my nearby town--and went under when both Borders and B&N came in. It was heartbreaking to see that. Then Borders went under. Since my book signing became a wash because of their ridiculous rules (B&N), I told them I wouldn't step foot in their bookstore again. I was serious. I'd like to see an indepentant bookstore that will make the effort toward readers who need to be able to get their hands on books. I'm hoping that eBooks and books can coexist along side one another. I'd hate to see Big Corporates to tell us what we like.

    2. Thanks for your comment Linda. I really confuse the book stores with my purchases. I buy aviation, training, YA, mystery, new age, and childrens. They have no idea what to suggest any longer. lol.

    3. Lorelei, I too would hate for the bookstores to tell us what to read. I would love to open a book store one day.

  6. Wow, Karlene.

    That is some post. You really brought up some super charged issues. Who knows the answers? But, I do believe publishers will have to changer their thinking and treatment of authors if they want to stay afloat

    We ALL have options now and we really don't need them. Sometime I wonder if it's worth all the time and effort seeking an agent. I could use that time for marketing my own book.

    Congrats on the success of your book. I am sorry I haven't been around much. Life get's crazy as you know.

    Hugs to all you ladies..