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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dissecting the Publishing Industry - A Revealing Autopsy

Dissecting publishing
old and new
The old, so-called literary gatekeepers have fallen on the trail of progression (or is that the 'trail of tears'?); book critics or reviewers have morphed into thousands of social networking bloggers; agent, editor and marketing duties have been taken over by the necessarily more entrepreneurial writer --- and, guess what?

The writer has, indeed, become the publisher!

Hell, the newbie writer did most of the publishers' work under the old TP system of publishing anyway. It's just a whole lot easier today thanks to technology.

This publishing industry upheaval has created many new self-publishing support services niches --- and, oddly enough, has not been totally negative to the traditional publishing industry.

Warren Adler, published author (War of the Roses), gives this intriguing insight in the HuffPost:

Decoding the Self-Published Author

Every author knows that producing a book requires an extreme act of concentration, discipline, organization and stamina. It is an achievement requiring enormous effort, time and isolation rarely matched by other forms of artistic creation.

Despite all the revolutionary changes that roil the publishing industry and are currently upending the old methods of presenting books to the public, the bedrock fact remains that a published book, whether presented on paper or on screen, still carries with it a measure of prestige and achievement.

Despite the difficulties involved in a book's creation, there is no shortage of people determined to produce works that reflect their own vision, whether they are motivated by chasing the false gods of fame and fortune or simply satisfying their overwhelming need to be heard and their views, talents and interests projected beyond the confines of their own minds and imagination. There are perhaps millions of people worldwide currently bent over their desks composing works they hope to share with others.

A few short years ago, the pipeline for these endeavors was strictly regulated by time-honored methods of filtering. A band of business-minded publishers, fed by a gaggle of first look agents, would submit choices to publishing houses whose editors and marketers filtered out their own choices. These choices were then cataloged seasonally, and an army of salespeople was dispatched to book buyers of independent and chain stores who subsequently made their own choices based upon past sales, and perhaps a few gut choices of their own.

The road to marketing and publicity channels was well rutted. Mass media outlets had their own filtering process to determine which books they would feature in their review columns, and advertising sections of books were well established. A few well-respected critics could be relied upon to filter their own choices to public scrutiny.

Media outlets hit upon the idea to record book sales as a kind of horse race of popularity, which helped them with their advertising, and kept the sales pot boiling for those authors lucky enough to be included.

Roughly, this is the way the system worked for many decades. Publishers supported their prolific authors with advances based on projected sales and future royalties, and those books that didn't sell went back to the publishers in an arcane system of consignment.

For those authors who didn't make the filtering cut, the only solution was "vanity" publishing, which meant that an author could pay to have his book published, and for the most part, try to get his book into the system. A camel through the eye of the needle is a good analogy. While there is no real statistic on author rejections by agents and publishers, the real figure based on the amount of self-published books being shoe-horned into the current offerings on e-readers indicates that those numbers must have been staggering.

That publishing system has been completely overturned by time, taste and most of all, technology. The industry itself has been sliced and diced into categories and sub-categories and sub, sub categories. In fiction, hundreds of genres and sub-genres have been created and built around categories to appeal to specific tastes; categories such as romance, mystery, fantasy, zombies, vampires, graphic novels, erotic, young adults, children, etc. with new categories emerging like ever thin slices of salami.

In non-fiction, the slicing and dicing has reached epic proportions in areas such as politics, religion, popular culture, race, memoirs, exposés, diatribes, self-help, pop psychology, nutrition, diet, health, and sex -- especially sex. On that latter subject the recent Fifty Shades of Grey category has jumped the fiction and non-fiction categories by building a kind of story around a 'how to' guide to sado-masochism performance.

Read and learn more

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