Friday, September 4, 2009

A New Publishing Model?

A friend sent me an interesting article from Forbes Magazine. Before you read on, hit the link now and read the article.

Crazy, huh? Who's got an extra $60K stashed away to get a book printed? Even so, I can tell you mainstream publishers are taking note of these kinds of successes. Why? Let's consider a few things:
  • Nowdays, many publishers are (as a writer friend put it) "bleeding red ink" financially. No way around it: the tough economy has hit publishers. Hard.
  • Advances for authors have already fallen. But then, there are those who say they needed to do so, that advances had gotten out of control and were based more on getting an author than on the belief said author's books would ever earn out. Which could explain some of the bleeding taking place now...
  • Publishers' willingness to take risks, especially on unknowns, has taken a dive. Some say it's never been harder for a new author to be published--or for a midlist author to get a new contract.
  • Readers' discretionary funds are dwindling, and while fiction readers in particular are still spending, book buyers on the whole aren't buying near as much as they did a few years ago.
So, with all that in mind--and with the success of Greenleaf's publishing venture--what do you think that means for publishing? Anything? Everything? Nothing? And how do you think publishing will have to change to not only survive, but thrive?

Enquiring minds want to know. :)


Theresa said...

Fascinating stuff, Karen. I find it interesting the Seth Godin's latest book is simply a compilation of his blogs. Now granted, he has a pretty huge platform....but it's still interesting that folks are snatching these off the shelves even though they can read his blog for free.

From what I'm reading, never underestimate the power of an eBook....minimal cost for the author...and as you know self-publishing no longer as the stigma it once had.

Additionally, many authors are now make their eBooks FREE. I don't understand how this works but it drives readers to buy the hard copies.

Fascinating stuff watching the changes!

Lynn Squire said...

Interesting - it could make someone in my position (a relatively new writer) cringe with fear, yet not. I wonder if there will be a great shift to POD books and e-books as a result of this.

I remind myself that God gives the increase. If I stew about not getting a contract with a traditional publisher, then I'm not trusting Him. But if I keep my focus not on the bottom line but on serving Him, then peace prevails.

It grates me to say this, but I have a feeling e-book technology will take a bigger chunk of the market; writing styles will change to 'faster' reads or shorter books, and more writers will turn to writing scripts than novels. But I really have no authority to base all this on - just my perspective.

Nicole said...

Geez, I think it would be wiser to go to WinePress and spend considerably less to include a first run of books and purchase a publicist.

And although I think this might work for some authors in certain markets, I think the number the plan wouldn't work for is significantly larger.

I know that print runs vary in price according to volume, but my opinion is that the printers need to be squeezed a bit to print less copies for a more reasonable price. After all, if the same printer is used (are they?) for every book a publisher produces, why not reduce the prices to do it in smaller volumes just a bit? Nobody has yet to answer this for me, Karen.

Additionally, no returns for buyers. Too bad if they don't like a book. They should've investigated it before purchasing. Or too bad if they have excess they can't sell. Blow 'em out like any other retail chain must do when they goof up and purchase things they can't sell. That policy is absurd.

There is a huge excess in printed novels. They wind up in bins at discount stores or the Salvation Army.


Karen B. said...

Nicole, if you print fewer copies at at time you'll actually need to up the price, not lower it. The more books you print at a time the lower the cost of printing. Which is part of the reason why general market publishers can price their mass market books so low. They have fairly huge print runs. So I understand the theory of what you're saying, but in reality, it doesn't work. Sad, but true.

And don't misunderstand me, folks. I'm not saying all publishers are moving to a vanity press model. Not at all. Just that this one success story was interesting.


Sharon A. Lavy said...

Makes me want to quit reading the news. =)

Karen B. said...

I hear you, Sharon! I think that's why I gravitate more to my fav TV shows rather than the news. I just get tired of all the doom and gloom...

B.K. Jackson said...

Well the one thought that jumped out at me when reading this was that if this method was adopted universally it would certainly be a way to make sure only the elite could get published - and no matter what the other parameters or considerations, that is NEVER a good thing.

But the only thing within my control is the quality of my writing, so I'll stick to that.

Steve G said...

This seems like it would work best with non-fiction, which I think is easier to market than fiction.
Non-fictions' topics are plain and straight forward (Men's grooming) and easy to see the buyers. The buyers do or don't have a felt need for that specific topic.
Fiction, being more genre based, is harder to be precise about felt needs, etc of the buyers (of any one specific book). The competition for sales of a specific book is much greater across the board, and Christian fiction is a relatively small slice of the market to begin with.

We have "authored" so many authors with all our writers' conferences (which is a genre in and of itself), we now have a ton of good writers with not so many slots. This means you have to be an excellent writer to get noticed... or rich so you can self-publish! I agree, for a large shift of the industry to go this route you would get the elite, rather than talent.
I think there will always be a place, though, for the great writer; and publishers will always pay for their next book. Publishers need to stop the bidding wars on books unseen for celebrities rather than passing the loss of those on to the uncelebritied authors.

Rick said...

Most important line in the article: "Our arrangement works out well for guys who know they can sell books."

Of the dozens of self-published authors I've met, only one made money at it. He was a successful motivational speaker who had self-pubbed a book on the subject of his talks. He would set up a table in the back of the room and sell books after he spoke. For him, self-publishing made economic sense because he knew he could sell 8-10 thousand books a year. But very few authors can generate those kinds of sales on their own.