Sunday, February 13, 2011
On the Other Side of the Table
It's an extremely tough business, writing and getting something published. The industry is changing so quickly that authors' heads are spinning in the attempt to keep up with the latest technology and marketing ideas. As author Pauline Baird Jones said recently, The print market is in trouble, not because people don't want books, but because of a BAD business model. Book returns have been a drag on the industry since they created it. No other business makes more product than they know they can sell, then destroys it when it doesn't sell. And when those over-produced books don't sell, big publishers punish the author. It's a business model that has hurt readers AND authors for years. Finally, the power balance is shifting to readers and authors. Big publishers and bookstores are going to have to figure things out in a hurry if they want to survive, but they don't get to demand reader support for their business model. They are still trying to keep their little worlds intact, support their bad business choices, while the rest of us are moving on.
I could not agree more. It's a goofy business. Printers waste materials, money and time printing more books than are needed, yet the logical, economical way of printing -- print on demand, or POD -- is frowned upon by the big publishing houses as somehow being inferior or not "legitimate" publishing, as if an author whose book is produced this way is less of an author than someone whose publisher has a warehouse full of books gathering dust and wasting space and money. POD makes sense -- the book is printed within hours and on its way to the bookstore where it was ordered. No warehouse is rented to hold pallets of books, no paper is wasted producing books that aren't wanted, no money is spent on these unsold books. The POD books are wanted and there is no waste of any kind. Publishers need to wake up and see the future.
I don't know what Borders Books and Cafe will end up as (Friday we learned the company had filed for bankruptcy). Did they not keep up with the shift in publishing, ignoring the ebooks that seem to be taking over the publishing world? Did they use too much floor space on CDs, videos, notebooks and stationery, chocolate and gifts? Could be.
Hopefully Paul Schmit won't be affected by all this. He's got his first book in his hand and has stepped into the published author world with a humorous mystery filled with quirky characters and snappy dialogue. I wish him success and I'm glad he's made it!