It’s The End Of The Publishing Industry As We Know It
This post was originally featured on Gerald Brandt’s blog on 01/07/2011. Thanks, Gerald, for letting me share it with your readers.
There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the death of the publishing industry. There are those who applaud its supposed imminent demise, those who decry it, and those who deny it’s happening at all.
It’s no secret I have no great love nor admiration for the traditional publishing industry. I believe they have gotten old and stodgy and way to settled in their ways. Their emphasis on the bottom line has given rise to a lot of same-old-same-old garbage taking up space on bookstore shelves. While they shower their big name authors with support and riches – most of whom, in my humble opinion, couldn’t come up with a fresh idea for a story if their lives depended on it – they toss their mid-list and debut authors into a shark filled pool with neither life vest nor spear gun and expect them to survive if they hope to get a contract for another novel.
This emphasis on the bottom line has also narrowed the hoop of fire any aspiring author must jump through to the point that unless you’ve written something that’s been written a dozen times before, your chance of even getting an agent, much less a book contract with a major publisher, are somewhat less than that snowball’s chance in hell. I doubt that some of the great ones like Vonnegut, Heller or Salinger could even get published today. Can you imagine a world without Slaughterhouse-Five, Catch-22 or The Catcher in the Rye?
Recent technological advances have begun to rock this boat of complacency and rocking it hard. eBooks, eReaders, Publish On Demand, book reading applications for cell phones and the ability to get the book you want when you want it from the Internet is taking its toll on the publishing industry just as it did on the music and movie industry.
In addition, the ability to self-publish has opened the floodgates to all the wannabe authors out there. I’m pretty sure this last is not entirely a good thing. A lot of really crappy books are going to get ‘published’ but then, a lot of crappy books already get published by the traditional publishing houses so I suppose it’s a toss-up. But that whole can of book worms is not the topic of this post. If you’re interested, I’ve touched on this subject briefly HERE, and will no doubt touch on it again at some point on my blog.
The point I’m trying to make here is that I don’t believe the publishing industry is dying. Some of the big six publishing houses may bite the book dust, which may or may not be a good thing, but the industry overall is not dying: it’s changing.
What I’m seeing is the rise of small, independent publishers like my publisher, Rebel e Publishers. These small publishers straddle the fence between the bottom line and publishing exciting, creative books from new authors with new ideas and a fresh perspective, a perspective the traditional publishing industry has all but lost. As newspapers and magazines are dropping their book review sections, I’m seeing the rise of high quality book review blogs like Book Slut, Book Wenches, Un:Bound, Clover Hill, Women24, Author Poppet and Will Write For Love. Sites like Good Reads, Author’s Den and Red Room are out there connecting authors to the most vital part of their, sometimes insane, urge to write: readers.
For the last few decades, the marketing department’s of the major publishers, with their voodoo logic of what the reader wants, have been the gatekeepers to what actually gets to those readers. This is changing and that, I believe, is a very good thing because, in the end, it is the reader who is truly the gatekeeper. Write a good book, get it edited by a competent editor, find a graphic artist to create a great cover, get it reviewed in as many places as you can and the readers will find you.
That is the way publishing should be.
Great article! I also believe traditional publishing is going to change. It has to, because the competition is fierce.
As a self-publisher myself, I can state with confidence that my books are edited to the best of my ability, and that the last two have been copy edited by a well-known author with a long list of books to her credit. (Lauren Baratz-Logsted, author of The Twin’s Daughter and The Education of Bet)
I agree there are hundreds of badly written books by self-publishers. But my theory is, since most of those writers know nothing about marketing, their books will simply fall into the cracks and disappear. Only their closest friends and relatives will buy their books.
Having said all that, the reason I didn’t go with a smaller independent publisher is because I want complete control over my work. Really, what can they do that I’m not already doing? Perhaps a few more reviews.
Electronic publishing is here to stay, and big publishers might be forced to jump on that bandwagon and lower their prices.
I didn’t mean to hog EJ’s blog, so I’ll step down now. 😉