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Reflections of a working writer and reader



The Publishing Crap-Shoot

A blog post on Satoriworks makes reference to an article in the New York Times and muses on the present state of the publishing industry.

Television stations have created online forums for viewers and may use the information there to make programming decisions. Game developers solicit input from users through virtual communities over the Internet. Airlines and hotels have developed increasingly sophisticated databases of customers.

Publishers, by contrast, put up Web sites where, in some cases, readers can sign up for announcements of new titles. But information rarely flows the other way — from readers back to the editors.

The blog post reminds us that there is room in the industry for a new business model, something outside of digital or print-on-demand. I think there remains a way to make publishing traditional printed books profitable.

Well, yes, I think we all agree. But the question remains, how do you stop a runaway train and turn it around?

2 Responses to “The Publishing Crap-Shoot”

  1. Paul says:

    I think the smaller indie publishers are trying new things and they seem more “in touch” with writers, readers and retailers.
    The big publishers have become remote from both readers and writers. They still publish a huge number and range of new fiction titles each year, but seem to regard them as market research. They invest comparatively little in their promotion and wait for word-of-mouth sales to point to the next “big thing.”
    Yet the big publishers have the power and resources to shape the market. They could influence overall market size (e.g. men read much less fiction than women, it’s not cool for teenagers to read) by using part of their marketing budget to promote reading as opposed to individual books. they could specialise more in particular genres (as could agents) to develop market sectors with a more recognisable identity. They could do some attitude testing, as opposed to sales analysis.
    Instead they pay huge advances to celebrities for “sure-fire” sellers and then seem to spend most of their marketing budgets on promoting those “sure-things.”
    They could be lobbying government to look at problems in the industry from monopoly retailers and the discounting issue.
    Sorry – an ill-informed rant – but that’s how the industry looks to me – profligate, complacent and out-of-touch.

    jb says: Some good ideas in there, Paul. Thanks for that. I wonder if the industry is listening?

  2. Interesting look at that in the New York Sun, as well:

    I wish publishers would take Paul’s suggestions to heart, especially promoting reading. Maybe the TV networks would follow, and replace the nauseating reality shows with intelligent programming.

    jb says: Thanks for the link, Ann. And, yes, it would be good to rebuild the world. Fun too.