breaking away from the pack

New Roads for Publishing Under Construction

By on November 27, 2009 in Publishing Revolution

In the digital future, what role will traditional book publishers play and what radical changes in culture and technology will drive them to make radical changes of their own? Can they evolve from their current mode of linear content creation and delivery chain to a more circular, networked Web-based one? Folks, it’s the Wild West, only this time it is in the world of book publishing.

In our interconnected, interlinked, and networked society, more and more we will need to position the book as the center of a network rather than at the end of a delivery chain. We know the effect that rapidly evolving social media is having on the way we consume content of all kinds. Content is becoming more sliced up, reconnected, blended, “mashed up” and reused–and that includes books. This may apply mainly to non-fiction books right now, but look out for the new modes of delivery and the ways that fiction books are also created and presented. Check out the Vook for an example of a new trend of presenting book content through a variety of interconnected media.

New modes of reading published work are proliferating like mad, with reading platforms such as the Amazon Kindle, Sony’s e-reader and now the iPhone taking on whole traditionally-published books, e-books, periodicals, and even pdf versions of documents of all kinds. We’re getting new choices on what we read, how we read it, and when we read, and oh by the way, with whom we share it.

Not all books need to be networked books. Just like radio never went away with the advent of television, printed books will continue to satisfy the need for the physical touch, the total immersion experience of reading print on the page. And the traditional book publishers still exercise creative judgment over what they will produce and distribute and readers will continue to spend their money on product that passes through the gates of these gatekeepers. There is value in that for many readers and that will continue. But when an author can publish cheaply a novel electronically to Amazon and use search engine marketing to drive a substantial number of niche-market readers to ordering the book for reading on their e-readers, Kindles and the like, then the number of viable and sustainable business models begin to increase.

For now, “Old Publishing” will not go away. Authors will continue to get their best deals there, the money and status needed to earn a living and survive. Authors will take their novels created for large audiences to the major publishers which still wield tremendous influence and control over what the retail distribution chain offers to the buying public (although that is diminished from year’s past and even their marketing role has decreased substantially).

Going for the apex of the publishing pyramid currently inhabited by the best selling authors holds tremendous appeal for any author who wants to get their physical books into the hands of large numbers of readers. These books are carefully selected, edited, packaged by the publishers and then presented for retail sale by the drug stores, the major book chains, and Costco and Target stores.

But the value in the delivery chain is shifting from a model where the content is wrapped up with the distribution to a model that simply values the content. Publishing is evolving and so quickly that we may not even recognize it when the evolution reaches its natural state.

Traditional publishing is concerned with quality control and has inherent big-time costs associated with the business model. The New Mode of publishing is cheap for production and distribution and is an open content market unconstrained by the type of organizational taste exercised by the major book publishers.

Watch out for the new and expanding trend of Web-only fiction and alternate publishing modes. Like electric vehicle charging stations, fast print-on-demand machines are going into bookstores like the University of Arizona’s Main Bookstore on campus. Electronic editions of many kinds and destined for more and more new devices coming online every day will be offered with varying levels of editorial selectiveness. It may be something of a crapshoot on quality, but with social networking and word of mouth, readers will find their own base of “experts” and other readers whose recommendations hold weight.

In the New World of marketing and PR, where the crowd holds sway, niche markets reached through search engine marketing strategies offer ways to reach buyers where breaking into a sale to a traditional book publisher isn’t possible or maybe even desirable.

Tastes are changing and becoming more variegated. Web-only fiction is becoming popular and often doled out in episodes similar to the TV model and the serial novels of the 19th century. And some novels aren’t languishing in a market backwater. Some have built large audiences of tens of thousands of fans. Major publishers, noticing that there is a built-in fan base/market for these novels, have picked them up and given large advances to the authors, and published them well. This is an interesting track that is really different from the standard route of hiring an agent, having the book submitted to publishers and their acquiring editors, and completing a sale into the production and distribution chain.

I’ve just finished formatting two novels for Amazon Kindle, written by one of my clients. These two books were published as mass market paperbacks by Signet, an imprint of New American Library (part of Penguin USA). The books went out of print and now Amazon and other digital outlets offer a new lease on life for these out of print books that went away. Once I upload them to Amazon and begin their search engine marketing campaign, they will find new audiences.

Major new publishing roads are under construction and content creators, including new and established authors, are already traveling down those roads to reach new audiences in innovative ways. How the major publishers will evolve in line with these changes remain to be seen.

In the meantime, Internet marketing and digital distribution offer authors and Internet publishing companies rich opportunities for success.

New Roads for Publishing

New Roads for Publishing

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