Monday, February 24, 2014

Another Day at The Races

This weekend my wife read a friend’s self-published book on Kindle. Yes, there were a couple of typos and a couple of other mistakes one would expect a proof-reader to have picked up, but she enjoyed it and found it well constructed. Coming from a lady who selects, buys firm and then reviews and sells hundreds of titles and thousands of units every month, this is a compliment. And she suitably gave the work a review on Amazon.

When we read about the debate about self-published versus traditional published works we often hear the continued posturing over who makes the most money and also who is just destined to remain in the ‘long tail’ of books and who can make something happen just by their adoption, process and marketing clout that can go automatically into the bestseller ‘short head’ of books. It starts to beg the question, so what and are we looking at the situation and opportunity the right way? 

Today the blogs and industry continues to debate the new breed of self-publishing alternatives. The establishment viewpoint often remains the same as it ever was. It’s undeniable that money can buy a hit and that the trade also can select their winners. Some say it’s like a day at the racers and placing bets in a crowded field. Like all gambles the bets don’t always come home or deliver the odds expected of them. But there again, you wouldn’t expect to see a donkey in the Grand National, or a thoroughbred steeplechaser on the beach at Blackpool. It’s about picking the right horses for the right courses.

Too many times today we hear consultants and industry watchers who have grown up in the old world, supporting it, even when it would appear to contradict what they say about the new world. Maybe it’s more a case of saying what the client wants to hear and like many pundits on the course they keep their hands in their pockets.

Perhaps we should stop thinking and talking corporate and start thinking and talking author. The author profile is already being raised with literary festivals, writer’s conferences and even though some of the higher profile events are being corporatized, many are not. Self-publishing is just getting more authors to question whether corporate suits them best, or whether it’s the right way every time.

Much of traditional publishing is outsourced with often only the money and control remaining in-house. 

Amazon, Wattpad, Sourcebooks and many more are now starting to offer both the author services and the channel to market and publishing has to take note. 

Some publishing houses have started ‘collection boxes’ for the great unpublished. Some have bought up smaller operations who already do it. But have these forays into the unknown been token gestures, or are they genuine initiatives to harness the growing masses? Can the traditional publishers truly accommodate more, or is it inevitable that they cut to the chase and limit themselves to only backing their favourites.

Perhaps we should not be focusing on the end delivery, the published book, but on the total author relationship, development, communication and reward system. Is it good enough to pay royalties after months when others pay after weeks? Is it good enough to give someone one liners on a royalty statement and expect it not to be questioned? Is it good enough to have only one development process and approach and not offer multiple options? Is it good enough to buy and retain a wide berth of rights and only use the minimal? Are non-compete and first nation contract clauses the way to go? 

There are many more questions and some are applicable to some and not to others, but the questions are increasingly more about the needs of the author and consumer and less about the maintenance of the corporate machine.    

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