History of Publishing Wrap Up, part 2

We had a lot of discussion, in fits and starts, about the roles of authors and publishers. Consolidation in the 1980s brought things to a point where, as Molly Tinsley stressed, the large publishers were no longer invested in or investing in authors–they were more often generating bestsellers and maximizing profits. Naturally we talked at lot about the economics of books—what it costs to produce a book book versus an ebook (and what it costs to produce an audiobook) And there’s the impact of the Thor decision, changing the worth of unsold inventory.

With digital books it’s all different and much cheaper to produce (especially is you skimp on editing, proofing or design [DON’T—trust me on this]). But while, it turns out that self-publishing is not that hard or that expensive, it’s not just a matter of writing something brilliant and expecting the world to discover it. Self-publishing is easy; self-editing and self marketing is where the hard work is.

Good publishing still requires a commitment to editing and killing one’s darlings, but even more it requires authors being businesslike and active partners in the publishing process—or, if they self-publish to be serious entrepreneurs. The co-publishing model is one good examples, where author and publisher collaborate to invest in and produce a book connected to an author’s other platform (i.e., as a consultant or public speaker).

We talked about marketing and the importance of tailoring marketing to the book and to the strengths and platform of the author (hence the long author questionnaires). And everyone stresses the importance (necessity) of social media, blogging, review sites like Goodreads, book trailers and virtual book tours. The traditional publisher-driven marketing—ads in the New York Times, etc.—was really only something available to bestsellers in any case. (And, what is impact of ebooks on the free advertising that books used to get when someone saw you reading them on the bus; with ebooks, no one knows what you are reading (except Amazon, Apple or whoever sold it to you…)).

The importance of social media to literary marketing raises another question: what makes an author interesting to Facebook friends and Twitter followers? It’s more than just endlessly promoting books, appearances and project. What do people want from authors?

[to be continued…]

About Ed Battistella

Edwin Battistella’s latest book Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels was released by Oxford University Press in March of 2020.
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