Writer. Adventurer. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a series of steampunk novels and short stories.

News from the Publishing Hinterlands

As I get back into the swing of things, I have been catching up on some recent publishing news as well as a few things I wanted to discuss in April. Sorry if I’m a bit late to the game and these topics have been talked to death.

E-Book Sales Aren’t Quite Dead Yet

There have been rumblings in the publishing hinterverse that e-books sales are slowing and that maybe this crazy e-book bubble has burst.  Sounds like a lot of wishful thinking, but Nathan Bransford took a look at the numbers by using stats from the AAP.

Just a small interpretation of the graph:  If the e-book bubble had burst (assuming that there is a bubble, you know, that this think isn’t going to stick around as the new status quo), then the data would follow the logarithmic line.  So this graph tells me that the e-books are still not a mature market that is tapering off.  I’m not quite dead yet!

Can You Say Disintermediation?

I really enjoyed this article by Evan Hughes over at Wired where he discussed the book publishing industry and how legacy publishers are “scrambling to rewrite their future.”  In the last quarter of his article, Hughes mentions a word that has me giggling with glee.

In the long term, what publishers have to fear the most may not be Amazon but an idea it has helped engender—that the only truly necessary players in the game are the author and the reader. “I was at a meeting God knows how many years ago at MIT,” former Random House chief Epstein says, “and someone used the word disintermediation. When I deconstructed that, I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s the end of the publishing business.’ ”  At a time when a writer can post a novel online and watch the revenue pour in by direct deposit, the publishing industry’s skill at making books, selling them by hand to bookstores, and managing the distribution of the product threatens to become irrelevant. In Epstein’s vision, the writer may need a freelance editor, a publicist, and an agent who functions as a kind of business manager, but authors will keep a bigger share of the proceeds with no lumbering media corporation standing in the way.

The Internet has been the great equalizer.  It has taken away the distribution power from the legacy publishers and put it in the hands of the authors themselves.  Is self-publishing hard work?  Sure, but so is weeding Mr. McGregor’s garden.  Does self-publishing encompass a skill set that some of us are lacking?  Sure, but I can Google up plenty of experts and advise when I need it.

James Patterson’s High-Profile Ads in the NY Times

Back in April, James Patterson, NYT bestselling author of thriller novels, ran an advertisement in the New York Times calling for support of legacy publishers. I guess when you make 97 million dollars a year, you can do that kind of thing (and if you think the only way to keep making 97 million is to keep around the guys that helped you make that money in the first place). I certainly don’t begrudge Patterson his success; he’s good at what he does.

The ad James Patterson ran in the New York Times.

However, I cannot support a system that is not in the customers’ (readers) best interest and also takes advantage of the craftsmen (authors) providing the products for the marketplace. The legacy publishers are merely distributors, yet they want to keep the majority of the profits. They are not tastemakers; don’t let them tell you otherwise.

Back to Patterson’s advertisement, Joe Konrath had a great post about it here, and I agree with many of his points.

James Patterson gave an interview to Salon Magazine where he speaks out about his aggressive “book industry bailout” ads. What are his suggestions for saving the legacy publishing industry? Get kids to read. Tax breaks for publishers. Limitations on monopolies. Consider laws for what should or shouldn’t be done on the Internet. Give out books. Give out coupons to kids so they can buy books.

Yeah, I don’t really think any of that stuff is going to work. Do you?

“If there are no bookstores, no libraries, no serious publishers with passionate, dedicated, idealistic editors, what will happen to our literature? Who will discover and mentor new writers? Who will publish our important books? What will happen if there are no more books like these?”

I think that we’ve been finding each other on the Internet just fine, thank you very much. I’m sure we’ll get around to writing the important books as soon as we stop having so much damn fun. And in the words of Philip J. Fry, “Don’t you worry about BOOKS.  You let us worry about BOOKS.”

20 comments on “News from the Publishing Hinterlands

  1. amberskyef
    May 13, 2013

    James Patterson’s freak out is rather laughable, in my opinion. Worry about the books more than the entities that create them because they books will always be around, in one form or another because people always have a story tell, and some are determined to make it the best dang story possible.

    • tracycembor
      May 14, 2013

      I think that we should focus on the readers and give them the best books possible. In order to do that, we should support the authors and give them the opportunities to succeed. We should have a healthy industry full of experts willing to share their experiences with others.

      If we just get out of each other’s way, we will have plenty of those “important books” that Patterson is so worried about.

      • amberskyef
        May 14, 2013

        I left my dreams of the traditional route almost two years ago when I realized I wanted readers to be my gatekeepers, especially with the easy access of self-publishing due to the advent of e-readers. I will stay with small presses, especially presses who don’t scam there authors or are associated with scams.

  2. FH7 Productions
    May 13, 2013

    Good one, I was saying the same thing last week! Well, not the SAME thing… but close.

  3. mrschmoe
    May 14, 2013

    You gotta love capitalism. Before ole Georgy W Bush years, it morphed into corporate capitalism.
    Not to mention that publishers have a tradition of taking advantage of craftsmen of fiction.
    Aside from that. I don’t think books will ever completely disappear. E-books are basically not so recent. And yet not mature enough.
    Of course, e-books are another avenue, of which a work of fiction can be brought to a reader.

    • tracycembor
      May 14, 2013

      I think that books and e-books can have a peaceful existance together.

  4. adithyaentertainment
    May 14, 2013

    Reblogged this on Adithya Entertainment.

  5. katemsparkes
    May 14, 2013

    Save the libraries. Let the bookstores and publishers fend for themselves.

    I love that disintermediation bit. It’s true. Cutting out the middle-man benefits the artists and the consumers… it just hurts the middle-man. There will always be a place for publishers, but I like where things are going. When I look at my own attitudes toward publishing and how they’ve changed since I started looking into this stuff, it’s just crazy. I thank you for pointing me toward articles like these. :)

    • Dirk Porsche
      May 15, 2013

      I absolutely agree. I like that part the most, too. And, as a reader, I look forward with anticipation.

    • tracycembor
      May 15, 2013

      My thoughts exactly! Save the libraries because they aren’t able to fend for themselves. But publishers and bookstores can find their own way.

      I think that publishers will need to reconsider what they bring to the table if they don’t want to be disintermediated. Very little money, little marketing support, willing to receive little input from the author on titles and book covers, and long delays before the book hits the shelves aren’t positive selling points. There are enough editors and book cover designers outside the legacy publisher bastions that independent authors have access to all the expertise they need AND can keep all of the money too.

      • katemsparkes
        May 15, 2013

        Exactly! A year ago I would have said you were bonkers, or at least looked very confused. I’m so glad this information is out there.

  6. ericjbaker
    May 14, 2013

    The traditional publishing model, like the traditional record company model, doesn’t work anymore. It’s front-loaded with labor and cost. With automation technology, even hard copies can be printed on demand.

    • tracycembor
      May 15, 2013

      Exactly! If we can take advantage of technology to do things in a better way, why do we need to save the old, outdated system?

  7. Dirk Porsche
    May 15, 2013

    The idea of creating some community driven translation site for self-published authors is hunting me for some time. Basically widen the audience at no initial cost, through giving the translators some share of the sells of the translated books. Some peer review mechanism and rating of translators might be included.

    Might that be interesting?

  8. Pingback: Fantasy Friday: Evil Lords, Archives, and more | BEAUTYCALYPSE

  9. teamgloria
    May 17, 2013

    we came to visit you here because a certain russian-in-berlin suggested we did and we are So Tickled Pink that we Did.

    love everything you write.

    especially this: “I think that we’ve been finding each other on the Internet just fine, thank you very much.”

    oh. yes.


    _teamgloria x

    • tracycembor
      May 23, 2013

      Glad you found me on the internet too, and thank you so much for the kind words. :) I will need to thank this certain Russian-in-Berlin for helping you find me. ;)

  10. homepage
    February 14, 2014

    I am not sure where you’re getting your information, but good topic.
    I must spend some time studying much more or working
    out more. Thank you for great info I used to be on the lookout for this information for my mission.

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on May 13, 2013 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

Posting Schedule for 2014-15

Monday through Friday I will be posting about writing as business and craft, the science of creativity, all things steampunk, and progress on The Dreamless City.

Weekends are reserved for my Music Playlist.

Writers of the Future Honorable Mention

About the Author

Tracy Cembor attempts to juggle a preschooler and a baby, a full-time job, random geekery, and the writing life. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a steampunk urban fantasy novel. Come join the adventure.
%d bloggers like this: