1. Not giving customers (ie readers) what they want
Do you really want another autobiography by this month’s semi-literate minor celebrity?
They are feeding the market for those who want to get rich and famous without any real effort or hard work. Occasionally, one of these “celebrities” might have an interesting story to tell but have you ever wondered why the supermarket top ten is full of them in the run up to Christmas? People are buying them for someone else.
Do you really want another“celebrity” cookbook? We’ve all probably fallen for it once (or been given one as a present) only to discover that the unpronounceable ingredients are nigh on impossible to find and are too expensive to buy anyway. If you overcome these hurdles, chances are you’ll be rewarded by watching your family ungratefully pushing your latest culinary masterpiece around their plates, with a puzzled look on their faces whilst wondering where the dog is when they need it.
Perhaps you have your favourite authors and you can’t wait for their next offering to be available. Of course, I have my favourites too and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with finding a few authors you like and sticking with them. Sadly, in my case, most of these authors are dead now and there doesn’t seem to be anyone stepping up to take their place. So once I’ve read their whole life’s work, that’s it, the end of the road. I’d like to start down a new road, preferably one where the author is still very much alive and kicking so that there’ll be plenty of new books coming along to feed my habit, but the traditional publishers don’t seem to be opening up very many new roads for me to walk down.
Perhaps I’m being a little harsh, I admit I’ve found the odd recipe of use and the odd bit of celebrity gossip has put a smile on my face for a few minutes. But the point I’m making is: is this it? Surely there has to be more to publishing than the same old same old? And of course there is – this gaping hole in the market has been spotted by eagle eyed writers who are busily self-publishing a wide array of exiting new books across genres to suit every taste, mainly with ebooks.
2. Not giving authors what they want
Ask any writer what they want and the likelihood is that they want to be able to eke out a living doing what they love. Who can blame them? Who wouldn’t want to do that? Some of them may secretly harbour desires of wealth and who could blame them for that either? I suppose you might say they’re being greedy but I prefer to think of it as ambition! Writing is no different to any other industry in that the majority of the workers earn the least amount of money, whilst a tiny minority at the top of the pile earn the lion’s share. Notice I used the word “earn” not “get”. Nothing gets given to you in this job. So how do we get there? Well in the old days, it meant convincing a publisher that you had written something so fantastic that a lot of other people would part with their own hard earned cash to rush out and buy it. This turned out to be as difficult for most people as the proverbial camel passing through the eye of the needle. Time, money, and a lot of hard work went into producing and sending off manuscripts just to have them dumped or (if you were lucky) returned unread. After all that effort, writers quite rightly felt hard done by.
The trouble is, it takes a lot of money to get a book into print and into the bookshops and publishers have learned the hard way not to be an optimistic breed. They’re from the same mould as insurance brokers. It’s all a matter of likelihood. The trouble with likelihood is that it’s much more likely they’ll make some real money on Miss Minor-Celebrity’s life story, dull though that may be, than they’ll make on an unknown writer, no matter how excellent he or she probably is. In the world of publishing, the unknown writer is like a horse that’s never run. No one will back it because they don’t know if it’s any good and there are plenty of favourites in the race anyway, so we’ll gamble our couple of quid on them instead.
All this has changed now that writers can self-publish on ebooks at very little up-front cost and the traditional publishers are losing out by being cut out of the game altogether.
3. Being too slow in embracing the new rules
So, the rules of the game have changed and who wants to play? Amazon picked up the ball and ran off with it but why aren’t all the publishers chasing after them? They’re acting like a bunch of Egyptian crocodiles – they’re in denial (in the Nile – oh never mind!). Don’t they want to play? Well, they do, it’s just that they’re sulking because they liked the game the way it was before. Why wouldn’t they? It worked very nicely for them for a very long time and now that things have changed, they seem to think that by denying it, they can just carry on as usual. The trouble with this plan is that they couldn’t be more wrong. Sales from hardbacks and paperbacks have been plummeting, whilst ebook sales have been rocketing. With more and more electronic devices being devised that can, amongst other things, handle ebooks, pretty soon almost everyone will have access to a device that can work as an ereader. Ebooks are not going to go away.
By not embracing new technology and the new openings that brings, they are standing on an ever shrinking iceberg.
So, what should they do now? In my view, by doing just about anything they are going to increase their chances of survival. At the very least, they should be attempting to harvest this new growth of willing self-publishers by offering them a platform similar to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Then, like Amazon, they can scrape off a percentage with very little outlay themselves. Perhaps they might like to go a little further and stick their head on the block and actually develop a programme of signing up and supporting new authors to their own publishing houses. Personally I’d be surprised if they were that brave. Perhaps better sales and marketing brains than mine will come up with new and ingenious ways of greater publishing diversity.
Diversify they must, because one thing’s for sure, if they keep acting like pandas, one day soon they’ll run out of bamboo.
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this blog. If you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said, please feel free to leave a comment. Perhaps you can spare a couple of minutes to have a look around my website before you leave!
Until next time,