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The Future of Publishing


It's funny. Last week I was nervous about putting out a newsletter that was so down on the publishing industry.

Little did I expect so many emails agreeing with me! If you missed last week's news, go here.

And literally three days later, comes an article from the Wall Street Journal (no less) that basically said the same things.

Fact is most insiders agree that the publishing industry is in trouble. Their inability to spot bestsellers - indeed to spot anything that may even become commercial - is now causing them problems.

The heavy reliance on promoting TV and film related books means that ordinary authors suffer. Marketing budgets that might have gone to their 'list' authors is now being funneled into blockbusters - and little else.

The main reason would seem to be that publishers' B list authors simply can't sell enough books to support these corporate giants. Far be it from me to suggest that perhaps publishers 'choose the wrong books' - I think it's more to do with the fundamentally unwieldy nature of the publishing industry.

The average publisher takes 6 months to a year to accept or reject a manuscript. After that, on average, another two years to get the book onto a book shelf. 

Clearly, in our modern high tech, second-by-second world, that's simply FAR TOO LONG.

How can any book or author hope to be relevant nowadays with that kind of lead time?

(That's a rhetorical question BTW.)

Before the Internet, of course, this wasn't a problem.

But now, it is. 

And with the explosion of e-books and iPad and Kindle, the publishing industry - unless it acts very quickly - will simply fall by the wayside as technology allows authors to write a book and get it up online - and on sale - instantly.

Print on Demand (POD) has given self published authors the ability to print up their own work within a week of finishing their manuscripts. Given this new reality, why would any self respecting  author wait 2 to 3 years to have some traditional publisher do exactly the same?

Especially when the acceptance rate for new manuscripts is at an all time low. Less than one in a thousand was the last statistic I heard.

The reality is that if you're a career author, your royalties from book sales will be minimal. (This is a closely guarded secret within the published author community - but you might as well know it.)

And given this low reward - which an author may not see for FOUR to FIVE years AFTER they've written their book - you can perhaps appreciate why enlightened authors are now looking to the Internet to get those royalty earnings NOW instead of at some hypothetical time in the future. 

I'm not saying the Internet is the Yellow Brick Road or the key to eternal wealth for authors. It's not that yet. But I think that it may be in the future.

If you only sell a few hundred copies of your book online - as a digital download - you may not get rich tomorrow BUT you will most likely be in EXACTLY the same position as 99% of writers signed to traditional publishers!  

I've given this whole issue - and dilemma - a lot of thought over the last eight years, especially as it's what I've been predicting for a long time now.

THAT, despite the ups and downs of the digital book industry, the future for the majority of authors does not necessarily involve traditional publishers. Smart writers everywhere, including bestselling authors, are now investigating the practicalities of selling their work online (and reaping the near instant rewards.)

Distribution to retail outlets is pretty much the only advantage the mainstream publishers have over the Internet. But even then with caveats. Have you noticed there's now an A list of books?

Truth is, unless you're in that top 100 'flavor of the month' list, you still don't get your book in the shops, no matter what deal you've got. But with 25% of all book sales being digital by 2011, who needs book shelves?

Especially when you can publish a digital book for free - with Amazon - literally overnight, and earn royalties monthly, right off the bat.

Whatever your situation as a writer, there's now hope.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell
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