Thursday, January 14, 2010

Guest Post: Publishing is Changing - by Jerry D. Simmons

Publishing is Changing - by Jerry D. Simmons

Traditional publishing has always centered on print, with audio and foreign rights secondary revenue streams. The focus of the biggest publishing companies was on the printed book. Lists of titles were sold seasonally to an established distribution channel of booksellers via wholesalers, jobbers, retailers and eventually online stores. Manuscripts were scrutinized and only the very best were placed under contract. Discounts were standard, the rules of the game established, and everyone was making money.

Once print-on-demand technology was introduced as a way for publishers to reduce waste and streamline distribution everything begin to change. Publishers who feared losing the bookstore experience rejected the single copy print to customer demand and continued along their merry way, business as usual. Not to be deterred, the POD folks opened up their own publishing shops, accepting the written word of anyone willing to pay their price for services such as cover design and printing. The market exploded and suddenly everyone had a book.

However the marketplace that was nurtured and developed by the big six in New York decided to solidify their strangle hold on booksellers by subsidizing shelf space and retail placement. Through an assortment of discounts, fees and incentives, publishers and booksellers agreed to prevent the wide scale penetration of the "other POD publishers" by labeling everything rolling off those presses as substandard and of poor written and production quality. The strategy has worked.

Consumers today have a strong negative opinion of a self-published book, especially those that look and feel inferior to what they find in bookstores. POD printers understood their business model had to revolve around the upfront pricing instead of actual copy sales since they lacked direct sales and distribution a result of the rejection of the traditional marketplace. This decision strengthened the notion of inferior quality writing and played into the hands of the big New York publishers, eventually the marketplace was protected.

Today the self-published book is making a debut in a completely new format completely hidden behind the reputable imprint of experienced professional publishers. Booksellers are openly accepting these titles due to the fact that each one is vetted and proven to be of high quality in both the written word and production. Now through the advance of the digital delivery system, self-published books utilizing this exciting new concept is finding their work can be competitive on bookstore shelves with any published title.

As the book publishing business continues to evolve the key component for all authors in the future is control, ownership and rights over their content. Big traditionally publishers are resistant simply because their investment in each book must mean the forfeiture of an author's right to that content. Otherwise, they will go out of business. Nowhere is this fact more dramatic than the contracts that bind all authors to the large POD printers.

It is unbelievable to me that the mass produced, low production standards of some companies include retention of all files created for a paying customer, forever. Why would any writer who has invested heavily in their written word be willing to agree to such terms of publication? Unless the answer is price! The Wal-Mart mentality may work wonders for household products, groceries and paper goods, but not for books.

If you are shopping for a publisher for your manuscript, I strongly recommend you submit to the INDI Publishing Group. It's the model of publishing that will be the future of the written word.

~Jerry D. Simmons began his career in publishing at Random House in 1977, then later moved to The Time Warner Book Group where he spent over twenty years, later retiring as Vice President Director Field Sales. Jerry is now the publisher of INDI Publishing Group.

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