How Ill is the Publishing Business?

I’m not just talking through my hat here. Yesterday I was asked by a librarian to tell her what was going on with book publishing. I am not currently a publisher, but she thought my print production experience would give her a deeper understanding. Also, I have contemplated self-publishing and have been reading everything I can get my hands on. One thing is very evident; everything that was true before, is not true today.

The traditional book publishing business has changed dramatically. In the past a publisher bought the rights to an author’s book, they edited the book, typeset the book, promoted the book, they printed the book, and they distributed the book. In return the author received a royalty. Today publishers demand that the author do most of the promotion. The author has to set up their own book signings and public relations tours. And the biggest surprise of all is that if an author is over fifty or deceased you can forget about it. In the past the quality of the literature reigned supreme. Not anymore. By today’s publishing standards Emily Dickinson’s poems would have never seen the light of day.

What’s going on with publishing? In my opinion it is focused on the almighty dollar and is losing its soul. Can you say greed?

It could be because the shear magnitude of manuscripts circulating is overwhelming. In fact, most traditional publishers will not accept a manuscript to read unless it comes to them first through a trusted literary agent. They’ve barricaded themselves in their towers and I believe, cutting off their noses to spite their faces. I know, I know, those are clichés and not a particularly good ones, but it makes my point. Traditional publishing has become a closed loop. If you are in the loop, you’ll get published, if not, good damn luck.

The tragedy is that the pressure is on the popular authors to keep knockin’ ’em out at a speed that keeps the cash registers ringing, but floods the public with marginal work. Writers are like chickens on an egg farm. No wonder everyone thinks they can be a writer. Much of the material that gets through the system and makes it to the bookshelves is not worth reading. I can’t believe that those authors are proud of their work. How could they be? Today’s system turns potentially good authors into hacks. Is that too strong? I’m sorry, but if anyone has laid down good money to buy a book, even if for just light entertainment, beach reading, and found it to be disappointing, like I have, then there is something really wrong with the system. Publishers, especially well-known publishing houses should guard their honor with their lives. If their stamp is on a book the public should be able to trust that it has real intrinsic value.

Vanity publishing is becoming king. What do I mean by that? Well, if an author really wanted her book published, but couldn’t find a publisher to take it on, they had it printed themselves. Usually it was for very limited distribution, family and friends mostly. Vanity publishing or self-publishing was looked down upon. It was cause for derision. If you had to resort to self-publishing you were considered to be a second rate author.

Today, since the publishers have pulled back into their shells, authors have no choice but to do all the work themselves. It’s like the old Golden Books story of The Little Red Hen.  After all of the work is done and the book is selling well, then, and only then will the publishers get interested.  I tell you it is the greed motive.

Richard Paul Evans wrote and promoted his little book called the Christmas Box Story. He was so successful in selling it that the publisher paid over $4 million dollars for the rights. He proved that his book was a viable piece of property and the publisher who now wanted in, paid dearly for it.  That’s where publishing is going. You self-publish, you self-promote, you keep a bigger slice of the pie, and if you get a good enough offer, you sell it, if you want to. Some publisher-authors may never want to get in that game at all.

Richard Paul Evans is an altruistic guy and has set up a company to help struggling self-publishers find success with their books. If you would like to know more about this, follow this link www.bookwisewritewise.com. Rick also has another site that will help people handle their money better and amass fortunes it is www.5lessons.com.

On my blog roll is a link to www.authorsonthenet.com. Authors on the Net is a website dedicated to sharing information with self-publishers to help them sell their books on the Internet. If you’ve written a book and need to get it edited, laid out, prepared for printing, and printed go to Bookwise. If you want to sell your book to millions of Internet users go to Authors on the Net. If you need your book printed, of course call me by all means.

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© Bill Ruesch, Talking Through My Hat, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bill Ruesch, Talking Through My Hat with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.