Monday, October 31, 2011

The Publishing World is Changing Fast

During the annual conference of Novelists, Inc., Smashwords founder and CEO, Mark Coker, was interviewed by Chris Kenneally of Copyright Clearance Center. THIS interview was done between Mark’s appearance on a panel and his keynote address at the conference.

Mark discussed many aspects, and while none of his observations should come as a surprise, they should definitely be an eye-opener for all writers, authors, and publishers. He noted the change ebooks have brought to authors:

“They can publish to a worldwide audience immediately, they can publish faster, they can publish today, not a year and a half from today. And then they can publish their books – they can price their books at a much lower cost than publishers. To create some perspective here, a self-published author can earn more selling a 99-cent e-book than they can an $8 mass-market paperback.”

He said he has nothing but respect for the big publishers and the publishing industry, but there is tension:

“…big publishing, as an industry, has become so consolidated, so calcified, so hampered and hamstrung by legacy business practices, print business practices, and these high expense structures, that they’re having great difficulty making this transition to this new world. 
“In this new world of publishing, over the next few years, cost and cost containment will be the code words of the day. And they need to get their costs down. Customers demand lower-priced books. Customers don’t want to pay $12, $13, $14 for an e-book.”

Mark also talked about his concerns over a growing power - Amazon - and authors who depend wholly on Amazon:

“I think there’s a concern that among the authors who recognize this, that they could become tenant farmers to Amazon. And so completely dependent upon them that they lose choice and lose freedom. I think it’s in everyone’s best interests – authors, publishers, readers – that we have a vibrant, competitive ecosystem for publishing.”

The whole transcript is available HERE as a downloadable pdf file. I encourage everyone to go read it. 

Nine months ago, it was thought that 80% of the print business would be dead in ten years. Now they are saying it will happen in three to five. Are you ready? Have you put yourself in a position to be ready?


Yvonne Osborne said...

Do you really think that 80pct. of the print business will be dead in three years? If so, I am not ready. Nor do I want to be ready. I don't even own an E-reader and have no desire to buy one. They are popular but they can never replace a reader's desire to hold a book in their hands. I just bought two beautful papersbacks...CUTTING FOR STONE and HOW TO LIVE, A LIFE OF MONTAIGNE and nothing matches the pleasure of that first leaf-through new pages, the glossy covers, front and back, the promise of many hours fulfilled by fiction and historical biography. I understand the Ebook's place, convenience and handsome price structures but I can't believe it will so completely replace the printed one. I don't want to believe.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Well, I'm sorry the first comment duplicated itself. Don't know how that happened, but I did have something else to say....

He makes an excellent point that authors should never sign exclusive contracts with Amazon. Authors should give other outlets a chance. No one wants to become a tenant farmer.

OK, I'll go away now:)

DL Hammons said...

I don't know if I agree with print business going away theory. Just last week I read a book on an e-reader and a hardback one. I enjoyed the "experience of reading" (not necessarily the book) the hardback more. Just call me old fashion, but I believe there are a lot like me out there.

Anne Gallagher said...

I think if the legacy publishing industry got on the ball and started to play fairly with authors about royalties and advances, authors wouldn't feel the need to go to Amazon exclusively. This is business an in most businesses it's all about the bottom line. Who makes the money? Or rather who makes the most money. Yeah sure, there's no sense in being in business if you don't make a profit, but don't screw the people whose profit you're taking.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I haven't read a print book since I purchased my iPad, so I can see it happening soon. Nervous about the Amazon thing though.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Thanks for the links, Diane. I want to read this for sure.

Traditional publishers can turn it around for themselves but it would mean some major restructuring. However, if they want to stay in business they're going to have to do it--especially with e-books. Granted, I do realize the work involved in taking a finished MS from the author and the stages it goes through to be found on the shelf. Editors, artwork, and PR isn't cheap. They're top heavy.

I'm thinking an e-book division is what will have to happen to competitive and it can't be run like the print side.They need to take some lessons from some of the small successful e-book publishers.

As for Amazon--monopolies are never good for business.

Sia McKye's Thoughts...OVER COFFEE

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Yvonne, as schools switch to ebooks, it will happen, whether we like it or not. And I'll fix the extra comment.

Anne, well said!

Sia, it's not cheap, but they'll have to find a way.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

I totally agree with his comment about authors not being so dependent on Amazon. It's kind of scary how much power they have.

Southpaw said...

This is such a fascinating topic. I think if you self-publish you need to explore all the places to do that.

Laura S. said...

What a scary post, perfect for Halloween today :( No, I am not ready. I would hate to see bookstores and publishing houses become extinct. How horrible for future generations. I think it'd be way more positive for everyone if we could accept both print books and electronic books in the market. It doesn't have to be one or the other.

Johanna Garth said...

What is a mystery, is why the big six aren't responding more efficiently? They know all the statistics, in fact I'm sure they have teams of people studying it. Why aren't they reacting in a timely manner?

Jules said...

I'm hoping this is a Halloween trick post because I can't read on e-readers. Has nothing to do with old fashion but more my inner ear.

I guess progress waits for no one. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

LD Masterson said...

As a reader, given the choice between printed book and e-book, I always go with printed. Regardless of price. I only use my e-reder for books I want that aren't available in print. It will be a very sad day when that's my only option. As a writer, I still dream of seeing my work in print.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Karen, it really scares me, too.

Laura, I think it will be a long time before print dies. Digital recordings haven't eliminated the CD yet.

Johanna, they know, they just can't move as fast as smaller publishers or self-publishers. Too much red tape.

LD, I still like print books, but the ebooks are so handy now.

Jemi Fraser said...

We live and write in interesting times. I'm not sure anyone is truly ready for the changes that are happening and those that are coming. But I do know some people who've be taking giant strides in this brave new world of publishing. It's going to interesting to watch!

N. R. Williams said...

I think healthy competition is good between Amazon and the rest. When I put up a book I do all the e-pubs. But I will say. I get paid from Amazon on a regular basis and have yet to get paid from smashwords. Yes, they owe me money.
N. R. Williams, Fantasy Author

Eric W. Trant said...

Print books die the iPad 4. You've been blogging a while, Diane -- you tell me, how many unpublished authors have you watched dive right into Amazon and the self-publishing frenzy.

There will still be a demand for high-quality literature, some of it in print, but we'll see you-tube quality books in the trillions flooding into the electronic market. We already are!

As for being tenants of Amazon, you're either with them or against them, and they're too big to be against.

- Eric

anthony stemke said...

I never liked the size and heft of hardcover books for reading but I love paperbacks,
Electronic books will continue to grow in popularity but I think print will last for some time yet.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Nancy, Smashwords is consistent that I know of.

Eric, the frenzy started a few years ago with POD and subsidy publishers. We went from 185,000 book published in 2004 to last year with over a million. Sooner or later, it will hit equilibrium.
As far as Amazon goes, just make smart business decisions and don't put all of your eggs in one basket.

Anthony, print won't die immediately. It will dwindle though.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Oh boy. 3-5 years. i'm not a writer but that scares me.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I didn't think print would fade so fast. I miss having my local Borders to browse in but I read almost all my books now from the library or on my ereader. I haven't bought a print book for months.
I'm a little afraid of Amazon too.

dolorah said...

I know how outdated I am; but I still like the feel of a printed book. I like covers, and illustrations, and the weight of it.

Yeah, I have a Kindle and enjoy reading on it; but I find my mind always thinking of all the other books on the device, and that constant thumb twitching can get on my nerves. Plus, I spend 90% of my life staring at a screen; sometimes I just want to read something not electronically generated.

I know, I know; my attitude needs to change. But heck, I didn't rely solely on CD's and DVD either until there were no more records and VHS to purchase :)