We must always remember that there are only two players that count, the author who creates the work and the reader who pays for it. All the rest are intermediaries who should add value and invariably also cost. If value is not seen then just like in other sectors no one’s position is safe, agents, publishers, printers, distributors, retailers etc.
Yesterday, The Bookseller reported under its title ‘Radical Change Required’ about last week’s author payment model discussion at the British Library’s Intellectual Property round table debate, "Authors and Publishers in the Digital Age". The debate questioned how authors would secure a living within the emerging digital market.
It is fair to say that all media creators face similar challenges. In some cases the form is changing, in others it’s the audience,or the channel and all too often it’s the existing business model, but in publishing many would argue,that its the above.
Of course it’s a threat if you look at the glass as half empty, but we would argue that it’s a far greater opportunity for all.
The real challenge is separating the myriad of different works that we are guilty of seeing collectively as books. The reality is that they have been merely joined together by a single format – the book, which has merely provided a straightjacket between two pieces of card.
Children’s book writers will have different opportunities to poets, to novelists, to text book authors, to travel writers, to reference contributors, to biographers etc. This means that they all could have potential different business models and rewards. The problem is that we all too often generalise. We see publishing as one industry and not as different ones, once joined by merely a common format – the book. The problem in generalising is that you loose the specifics and often dilute the argument to the lowest common denominator.
Authors are the creative heart of publishing, but again we all ten to generalise here too. The average author publishes less that two books and there is a vast gulf between the successful ones who publish many titles and earn a living doing so and those that are less successful, maybe have one title published and for whom it is a secondary means of living. How do you create a standard way of sustaining creativity across the varies different forms and levels of need? The reality is that market forces will always prevail, but here the trick is to at least give the creators a fair return on digital sales and in doing so, encourage a ‘win win’ publishing environment for all.