Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Publishers and Author's Wake Up call

No one can doubt now that the publishing house is changing. As much as traditional publishers and book stores have tried to slow the trend and diversify their business model to adapt, the trend to e-readers is on an ever increasing pace. With the recent merger of Random house and Penguin books, giant publishing companies that once dominated the  industry now finding themselves pushed into a low margin, negative growth business, the change is increasing its pace.  How they choose to tackle their ever decreasing market share will at the very least be a Herculean task.
Publishers have seen a steady decline in margins for the past fifteen years with giant bookstores dominating the market and demanding greater margins and established author website demanding larger advances. This has propelled the industry into a risk adverse strategy, unwilling to gamble on new authors and titles thus continuing the spiral downward.
Publishing is just like any industry. Where once they were dynamic, fighting for the next literary genius that walked through the door, the next great American classic, the next Opus, now they churn out guaranteed themes from guaranteed authors. Publishing was a noble and admired industry that has been pushed into a corner of their own making, awaiting the next J K Rowling to once again renew and excite the market for a brief period.
It has become a fantastic opportunity for authors that have always wanted to publish, and there's been no shortage of opportunists promising new authors fame and fortune while delivering nothing more than massive costs. Authors are left with published manuscripts that never should have seen the light of the day for at least a couple more edits, if in fact there was one done at all, and readers are left with a sub-par product.
The reason for this first and foremost is that although many authors may be great storytellers and writers, they lack the services that publishers, bookeditor and a team of marketers, publicists, and sales people bring to bear on a book.
The number one complaint authors have is insufficient marketing resources and know how to properly promote their book and the number one reason reader complaint and reason for a bad review is poor or non-existent editing. The e-book industry right now is exactly where the dot com industry was two or three years from the bust.
For the industry to survive it needs to take itself out of the wild west stage and institute some controls on both the author side and the publishing side. We need to give authors the resources to publish a professionally completed novel and publishers need to band together to eliminate the myriad of fly by night operations that promise the world and deliver nothing.
We need to at the very least institute the following;
1.                  A clear, defined set of guidelines and industry standards  need to be set for vanity press, publishers and distributors.
2.                  An editing and publishing standard needs to be established for authors.
3.                   A clear, free and fair marketing platform needs to be established that will naturally allow great authors to rise to the best sellers lists and other authors to have an avenue to improve their writing, marketing or promotions as needed.
4.                  Authors need to have access to professional, experienced editors, cover designers and marketing professionals in a platform that can be trusted, with standards and ethics established for the industry.
We are in the midst of an exciting, potentially explosive industry but will soon start to lose readers if authors don't have access to  the high standard of book editing (many companies are using offshore editors whose English is a second language and are nothing more than glorified spell checkers), publishing companies aren't held to a higher standard and the fly by night companies that are preying on the dreams of people are eliminated and readers are guaranteed  a professionally produced novel if that is what  they are promised.
If anyone wants to learn more about what a truly great editor can do for a career, read Max Perkins; Editor of Genius. He was F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe's editor to name just a few. It's a great insight into what it takes to make a great writer's manuscript into a great published work.

Rick Momsen is the CEO of Pegasus Publishing