Friday, October 2, 2009

Traditional Publishers…They’re, like, So Last Year

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had this eerie feeling that I’m witnessing firsthand the end of an era. The era of authors needing traditional print publishers in order to break into the business. Every time I’ve asked the question of whether e-publishing will eventually take the place of print books, I get the same answer: NEVER!

I hope that’s true. I would hate to give up the book buying experience. It’s as calming to me as an hour-long bubble bath. But the explosion of e-publishing isn’t the only threat to the brick and mortar publishing houses dotted along Manhattan’s Madison Avenue. Self- and small-press publishing is also changing the face of the industry.

We've all heard the stories of previously self-published authors hitting it big. Heavy hitters like E. Lynn Harris and Zane got their feet wet by self-publishing their first novels. But those are special cases, right? They're not the norm, are they?

Maybe not, but with better distribution through the Internet, it's much easier for non-traditionally published authors to get their books in the hands of readers. A savvy marketing plan and strong network of friends willing to spread the word can do more good for a self-published author than a two-person PR department with a hundred authors on their list can do for a "traditionally" published author.

It's time to face the facts. Being published in the "traditional" way isn't the only way anymore.

What do you think? Is traditional publishing becoming a thing of the past?


Katrina Spencer said...

I think that writers are finding it harder to get an agent, therefore smaller publishing houses are the way to go if you want to see your book in stores. I don't think traditional publishing is dead, but I do think that writers have a lot of options where publishers are concerned.

Jewel Amethyst said...

That's true Katrina, many agents don't risk new untried authors. Farrah, even though I've gone the traditional way, it's good that there are options because many great writers die without getting their work in print, simply because they've tried the traditional methods and met the many road blocks.

I don't think traditional publishing will ever be a dinosaur, but it will co-exist with the various new methods of publishing.

Unknown said...

I don't think traditional publishing is the only way, but it never has been. I relate changes in publishing to the advent of TV. People thought the visual medium would kill the audio one. Didn't happen. People thought the rise of music videos would crush radio. Didn't happen. There is room and purpose in the market for radio, TV, film/video, DVD, satellite radio, cable, iTunes, etc. It's all about finding a place.

I think there will always be those who want words on paper, i.e. books. But for me, it's about getting the words into the marketplace. Whether they're on paper, on a computer screen, or on a PDA doesn't matter so much as being able to tell the story and have it consumed by the public.

Traditional and self-publishing can co-exist just as the underground music scene has flourished for years --- whether those artists make the Billboard Top 10 or not.

Genella deGrey said...

Girls - I blogged about this a while back - sounds like Stefanie and I think a lot alike.


KeVin K. said...

Two of my published novels are e-book only and there's no denying the growing presence and power of small, niche, and boutique publishing houses. While I disagree with you about the legitimacy of vanity presses and the wisdom of using one to springboard your career (As in: Sure, LeBron James went straight from high school into the NBA, but would you advise anyone else to ignore education and practice layups?), I do agree that the era of big-house-only publishing is passing away.

Karen L. Simpson said...

I think independent press will lead the way in dragging the publishing industry into a more profitable future. Traditional publisher tend to want to stick only with what they consider to be the tried and true even when readers want something new or different. Independent and self publishers can offer the new and different that people are looking for. I think both will exist in the future because both are needed.

Liane Spicer said...

I don't think e-books will replace the print version any time soon. Despite the industry excitement and hyperbole over the phenomenon, the figures tell the the real story: the number of e-books sold is just 3% to 5% of the total number of hardcover books sold. To take this further, even if the current ratio between hardcover and paperback sales is one to one, that's still a tiny percentage of the market.

Self-publishing is also subject to much hyperbole, probably propagated by those who profit most from it - and that's not the authors. For every E. Lynn Harris there are thousands of self-pubbed writers whose sales range between 0 and 70 books. So Zane et al are definitely the exception.

It's great that writers have more options to get their books into print, but traditional publishing is not about to go belly up.