Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Cold Logic in these Hot Times

The interesting thing about discrimination is that it doesn't prevent inevitable change. Puritans established a new home in North America, an Irish Catholic became president, African-Americans got the vote.

It doesn’t take much research to see how often advances do not earn out and how many books go unsold. Publishers know they will save millions if they stop paying advances and discontinue the practice of printing books no one buys. In business, it is always about the money. The bottom line rules.

The paradigm has already shifted. Nothing writers’ organizations do can prevent it - no matter how hard they try.

So what do I see in the future? In the near term, some chaos. Publishing is a big ship and it will turn slowly. As it alters course, all the people associated with it will be forced to change as well.
  • No advances means cash flow shifts for all parties.Publishers will have to improve their sales reporting so writers and publicists can capitalize on successful efforts.
  • No returns means no royalty hold back.
  • No large print runs means promotion and advertising will focus on content and credentials, not quantities shipped. No print runs also means fewer trees consumed and fewer books ending up in land fills.

The symbiotic relationship between publisher, agent and writer will transform. Income will be totally sales driven. Agents will redefine their roles and the services they provide. Book stores, if they continue to exist, will be forced to control their inventory - just like every other business. Everyone connected to the industry will operate differently in the future than they do today. The publishing industry paradigm was fine sixty years ago but it doesn’t make good business sense in today’s economy.

Do I welcome the change? For the most part, I do. Since I have never been part of the traditional publishing establishment, I am accustomed to managing my business. I work hard to promote myself and improve my product. The decisions about contracts, publishers and marketing are all mine. So, as the industry morphs into something new, I will feel less pain than some other writers because I am already dealing with it.

Perhaps those genre writers groups don’t think I’m lower quality. Maybe they discriminate because they are jealous?

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