Thursday, February 28, 2013

MUST READ The Business Rusch: The Death of Publishing

The Business Rusch: The Death of Publishing
It is the last day of February, 2013, and by now, traditional publishing should have mailed its holiday cards with the gleeful misquote attributed to Mark Twain on the cards’ interior: The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.
Not that there were actual news reports of the death of traditional publishing. But if you read the blogosphere in 2010 and 2011, a wide number of reputable publishing industry insiders predicted that traditional publishing would be dead or unrecognizable by the end of the Mayan Calendar on 12/21/12.
I’m serious. And I’m not sourcing the predictions for fear of embarrassing some good friends.
Those of us who understand how the large industry that is publishing works, and how business works in general knew that those predictions were misguided to say the least. A number of the folks who predicted such things stopped when it became clear that the e-publishing revolution wasn’t storming the barricades of traditional publishing. Like most revolutionaries, e-publishing grew older and got subsumed into the traditional system. And those who felt the revolution’s initial passion and fire have either given up proselytizing, settled into the daily grind that a real work brings, or have given up the cause altogether.
Where is traditional publishing four-plus years into the revolution? Bigger, stronger, and richer than ever. Who ended up getting harmed by the revolution itself? Writers who never really learned how the business worked and/or writers who believed their traditional publishing careers were bulletproof, that these crazy changes in the delivery method wouldn’t touch them.
Even now, these formerly bulletproof writers have no idea what happened to them. They blame traditional publishing, rather than their own business acumen.
The writing was on the wall as much as four years ago, when the recession hit. Book advances worldwide went down significantly, as much as three-quarters, according to an article in the London Times. Writers continued to accept those advances and bemoan them, so as the e-publishing revolution hit and publishers started to realize they could make more money than they ever had, they kept the advances low. Why put out a ton of money up front if authors will accept less?
It’s excellent business. Minimize your up-front costs. Think about it. Would you pay in advance for something if you could get the same (or better) product for less money, money paid out made six months after you’ve already profited from that product? You’d do the latter, of course. And many traditional publishers are doing the same. Pay less, pay lower royalties, get the same product for one-quarter the cost. Makes tremendous business sense to me.
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