I've heard a lot of bad things about traditional publishing, especially the big six - wait five, recently.  I've heard about how they make almost no profit.  I've heard how bookstore returns are strangling them.  I've heard how they take it all out on authors so they can turn a profit.  They see companies like Amazon or people self-publishing as the enemy.  They are tightening down the hatches, preparing for the storm.  

Clearly, something is wrong.

But what can they do to fix it?  I say, change their way of thinking.  Some things would be hard to change, like changing the return policies for bookstores.  It would require an industry-wide change in policies that isn't likely to happen any time soon.  But other things could be implemented right now without difficulty.

Instead of seeing self-publishing authors as the enemy, see them as doing work for them.  After all, much of the losses with publishing companies are from funding losing ventures.  How about only funding the winners?  After all, with self-publishing, we can easily sift the winners from the losers.  Who's a safe bet?  How bout that author that just hit the #1 bestseller on Amazon for 2012.  Publishers could eliminate the gamble in publishing, lowering the risk and increasing the return.

This would mean eliminating what is getting to be an increasing rare beast to begin with - new and mid-tier authors at major publishing houses.  But, honestly, these individuals could do better by other means anyway.  They have the resources.  They are probably expected to do a lot of self-promotion anyway.  They'd be making better profit margins on their own.  After all, some of them already have a fan base.

But how to recruit these Indie-authors away from their current avenues of publishing?  Well, there are some things money just can't buy.  One of those is time.  Take an author that has already made it and give them the freedom to do what they love - write.  Offer to manage the promotion, marketing, and et cetera.  Offer them royalties that, while maybe not as good as what they currently make, aren't that far off.  Hell, offer decent health insurance and I'm sure a few would jump at the chance.

The publishing industry is changing.  A few years ago, I saw publishing a novel, becoming an author, as a pipe dream that had no chance of coming true.  It was the reason I got into science.  I wanted to be an author.  Being a scientist would keep the lights on.  I never expected to be published and saw self-publishing as means for people to pad their own egos.  Now, I see having a published novel as something not in the realm of impossibilities but a possibility, even an inevitability.  It will happen.  It's just a matter of how successful I'll be.
3/4/2013 07:30:52 am

I really like this post. It's a great suggestion as to what the traditional publishing world can do to keep up with a rapidly changing industry. It's not going to wait for them.

And I think you have a pretty accurate point about health insurance. Seriously! I never even thought of that before, but it's brilliant.

Danielle Forrest
3/4/2013 08:34:39 am

Yeah, I got that idea from a twitter friend who went through a severe allergic reaction. Took weeks to clear up. That, and a friend's post about when she broke her finger. She ended up setting it herself, I think, because she had no health insurance and couldn't afford to go to the hospital. I wish I had known her when it happened, though. Hospitals write off people with no health insurance more often than not. They have to take in emergencies, but not everyone with a health emergency can pay.

6/8/2013 07:35:00 am

Interesting. Like S. M. Boyce, I'm intrigued by the idea of publishers offering health insurance. They could pay for it in a flash by eliminating the advance against royalties. Heck, do that, and they could pay for health insurance AND raise the overall royalty rate.


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