The Felicities of New Publishing (or Why Traditional Publishers May Someday Die)
It used to be that you needed a warehouse to store your book, if you wanted to publish, print, and sell it. It used to be that you needed an idea with blockbuster appeal, or you couldn't get published. That was before Lulu and Createspace and the print-on-demand possibilities.
Today, if you want to honor someone with a book of poetry, or simply be creative, you can publish a book without much cost or hassle. Here, for instance, is the opening of a book by Heather Truett, called Felicities. Through print-on-demand publishing, Heather has been able to honor a friend as well as offer her tribute to others who appreciate her poems...
If you're an author with a solid platform, and people appreciate your work, the selling can happen. Amazon's rigorous and practically automatic marketing system will put your book beside other books. (If you shop at Amazon you've probably already noticed the systems: people who bought 'this' also bought 'that'; category tags, Listmanias. For books that really take hold, they might end up on Amazon's front page or in their email recommendations.)
None of this has completely replaced "the publishing system" as we know it. But I would suggest that the system is not the technology so much as it is the Networks. Traditional publishers' current biggest advantage is that people know people who know people. That's why it still doesn't hurt a first-time author to get a book deal with a traditional publisher. The royalties are dismal in comparison to using Lulu or Createspace, but it connects an author with an established Network beyond his or her own audience.
Things will change. Someday it will be more advantageous for an author to skirt the traditional publisher. But he will not be able to skirt the need for a Network.
In a few weeks, over at TheHighCalling.org, we're running a piece called The Work of a Bookseller. In it, the bookseller discusses how he decides to stock his store: book reviews, press releases, reader recommendations— in other words, word-of-mouth... people who know books, telling people who know people. A network.
I am fascinated by the world of new publishing. There will still be a need for editors, designers, publicists, networks, but these may end up being separated from the Traditional Publishing House. Certainly the need for warehousing, royalty-disbursement, and a whole lot of paperwork and marketing efforts have already been eliminated by the big POD players.
But I predict that one thing won't change...
The world will still need the good writer, at the center of it all.
Book photo by L.L. Barkat. Introduction screenshot from Felicities, by Heather Truett.
Labels: print on demand publishing