Monday, November 17, 2008

What Publishing Should Do, PUBLISHING

Last week on his blog, agent Nathan Bransford asked his readers what they'd like to see the big publishers do to help the ailing publishing industry.

Not being shy, I offered these solutions.


Publishers have failed to look toward the future of book distribution which is ebooks.

Like it or not, ebooks are the future. They are simply too efficient a delivery system, and with the price of paper and transportation skyrocketing as well as the slow death of the bookstore industry, they will soon be the only way many books will reach readers' hands.

Already, they are the growth industry within publishing. In September according to the AAP, they rose 77.8% in sales. To see the kind of growth ebooks are experiencing, go to the International Digital Publishing Forum ( and click on the industry statistics.

The publishers need to rethink their distribution deals with ebook providers, particularly Amazon which demands 66% of the cover price. This is utterly ridiculous since this covers computer storage and automated sales, not warehouses, human labor, and shipping.

Agents and authors with clout need to fight back against the 15% ebook royalty which in an insult, particularly for books that are going into paper where a vast majority of the book costs -- acquisition, editing, and cover -- are factored into the book's costs. If authors can't make a living in the system, the system will fail.

Ebooks may also be the solution to the shrinking midlist. The surviving bookstores and box stores are increasingly focusing on the bestsellers and list leaders, and the midlist has very few sales outlets.

The midlist is where the new authors and the next superstars come from so the publishers simply can't abandon it. They should move many of these books into ebooks or use the small ebook publishers as a farm system similar to what professional baseball teams use. This method has already been used by wily romance editors when they saw the immense success of erotica.

I cover this topic as well as the POD situation in more detail and give an overview of the current state of publishing in an article available on my website, . Click on the short story and article icon to find it.


Amazon is in the process of trying to take over the POD market. Currently, they are only going after the small publishers, but, as its history shows, the major publishers will be next.

Right now, a few small publishers are fighting back with lawsuits, but the conglomerates are ignoring the situation. They are fools not to become involved.

Sure, Amazon is only a small percentage of the POD market right now, but with bookstores disappearing, Amazon is setting itself up to be the major player in this form of distribution, as well.


The conglomerates need to move their offices out of NYC to cut costs. Baen Books moved to Wake Forest, NC, a tiny town outside of Raleigh, and they are doing just fine courtesy of the Internet, etc.

The money saved should be invested in better pay for editors and for reinvigorating the midlist by finding new talent.


CONTEST: Amazon and Penguin are holding a second annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in early February. For more information, go here: .

MARKET NEWS: Agent Kristin Nelson blogs about what some NY editors are looking for in Young Adult fiction on November the 11th.

AGENT: Emmanuelle Alspaugh is interviewed at Novelists, Inc. blog

Be sure to check out the related post section for links to other agents interviewed.

QUESTIONS? I take writing and publishing questions. Contact me via this blog or at marilynnbyerly at .

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