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The Publishing Industry is Starting to Feel Old School...


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#1 AQCrew

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 01:05 PM

Hiya... Ms. Kole.

Thanks for hanging out with us on AQ Connect, and answering all our Q's...

So we're wondering -- as a progressive blogger and digital advocate, how you're feeling about the publishing industry these days? And how are your colleagues feeling about the industry these days?

Meanwhile, our gauge-o-meter suggests that agents and editors are in two camps: completely unfazed by the changes, or totally see the tsunami, but don't have a clear idea of how to make their $ niche $ within it and plan to tread water in the meantime.

Plus, we get the feeling that agents ARE more uncertain than they're letting on, but they're playing with a pokerface.

Furthermore, it seems that writers -- who have been continually pushed and pushed by their publishers, editors, and agents to produce a perfectly polished manuscript and perform their own publicity because editors don't have time to edit anymore and publishers don't have the money to spend promoting their mid-list and debut authors -- are actually in the best position to transition into the digital era of book publishing. Thoughts?

#2 Mary Kole

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Posted 13 April 2011 - 02:40 PM

You're right on a lot of these counts. The publishing business model is going to have to change in order to compete with people who are now going to publish independently. However, publishers exist for good reason: for hundreds of years they've been bringing the creative fruit of writers and artists to the public. Now we can do that by circumventing the publishers, but editors and designers still play a vital role in the life of a good and timeless book. The publishers' challenge is how to make that relevant when, for the first time, really easy and viable other options exist. The problem is that they're big...and not nimble. They can't match Amazon royalties (yet...I think they'll have to do something on that front, and soon). They have a lot of overhead costs. That's the downside. But I think you minimize the role a publisher plays in turning a great book into a product. Even books that are in great shape get edited and made better, and even though authors do their own marketing, publishers still have capacities, connections, and channels that the average writer doesn't.

I've been very honest on my blog, http://kidlitapps.com, about digital changes, and I work a lot with traditional publishers, so I don't want you to think that I'm giving you a corporate doublespeak line with the above. I still sell traditional books to traditional publishers because I believe in them and what they have to offer...but they will have to compete, that much is true.

There are lots of agents and publishers who have no idea what's going on, and who are scared. Some people are ignoring digital, others are trying to figure out how to compete but maybe they can't because they've got corporate policies and procedures to follow, etc. Agents are trying new things, like becoming mini-publishers themselves and helping their clients release books digitally.

There's not one clear business model that has emerged as THE NEW THING for either publishers or agents. Those that will have a niche in the next few years are the ones starting to experiment now and FINE the new business model. The ones who are ignoring or denying will be the ones left behind. But it's really not as bad or as scary as all that. A few months ago, I used to get very overwhelmed. And I'm coming from a high tech background in the Silicon Valley, so it would seem like I had nothing to worry about. But once I got over the fact that things have changed very rapidly and started working with my colleagues to see what that means for us, for our clients, and for the publishers we work with, I calmed down.

I can't say more about what that means for ABLA at the moment, but I will be able to blog about it after BEA in late May.




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