Bracing for Impact–The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm

Have you ever witnessed a car accident? Have you ever seen the accident coming before it even happened? I have. I recall being on a road trip to Florida and we hit a terrible rainstorm. The flooding was so bad that all the cars were slowing down to maybe ten miles an hour so as not to hydroplane. I recall a bright red pickup went flying past doing at least 70. I remember screaming at this driver that he was crazy and he was going to get someone…

…and then I saw it.

The world suddenly sharpened and time seemed to slow down. Far up ahead, I saw a small compact car change lanes into the truck’s path, but I was powerless to stop what I knew would happen next.


Two people died.

Yet, despite hundreds of thousands of collisions, we see this time and time and time again. People on cell phones while driving, texting while driving, drinking and driving and doing all the things WE ALL KNOW are gambling with life. Why do they do it? Because they think that they will be the exception even though others have tried and died.

History repeats itself because we fail to listen.

So why am I talking about this? I am frustrated. Publishing has had at least seven years to make a better game plan. It has seen the music industry AND the film industry get turned upside down, gutted, then parted out. Why, then have they failed to innovate?

You can’t do this! You are going to CRASH! 

Quick History Lesson

The music industry, in my POV, has a little bit of an excuse only because it was one of the first industries to be hit by the digital tsunami. They saw it coming, too, but instead of anticipating change? Their plan was to pretend nothing would change and prop up the idea that, “People will always want to go to music stores and buy CDs.”

And it was this thinking that allowed iTunes to kick their tails.

Was change all bad?

For some change sucked…a LOT. But, the music industry was grossly wasteful. It failed to understand that the consumer–the music lover–was really who they needed to be pleasing all along. The industry made a bad business call; they supported the record store over the music lover and it HURT, and you know what? It should have hurt them. We should not reward waste.

Digital didn’t implode music; it liberated artists from waste, neglect, and stagnation.

We won’t even start on the film industry. Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy last month, so I think that sums things up.

So now we get to publishing.

I love New York. I love traditional publishing and always dreamed that one day I’d see a Big Six Publisher on the spine of my book. Still do sometimes. But when we love someone we are honest and we understand that excellence begins with honesty.

The truth will set us free. We cannot change and make a plan if we fail to accept reality. Whining is not a plan and complaining is not a strategy.

The Problem in Publishing

What has me on such a tear? Blame Porter Anderson and his AWESOME Writing on the Ether where I found THIS little nugget:

The Author’s Guild post, Publishing’s Ecosystem on the Brink: The Backstory. Some key lines stood out to me.

For book publishers, the relevant market isn’t readers (direct sales are few), but booksellers, and Amazon has firm control of bookselling’s online future as it works to undermine bookselling’s remaining brick-and-mortar infrastructure.


Whaaaaaahhhhh. Amazon is being a big meanie and isn’t playing fair.

Am I the only one who sees something wrong with their statement? Readers aren’t relevant? Um, maybe why Amazon is kicking so much @$$ is simply because it understands that the only thing that is relevant and ever has been relevant is the reader.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of monopolies at all. In fact, I am screaming and yelling and trying to get NY to make a plan because I want them to become competitive in the new paradigm. In fact, I have been yelling for FOUR YEARS and trying to get NY to listen, while agents continued to tell writers that social media wasn’t all that important and that readers would always want printed books.

A YEAR ago, I laid out a plan on this blog for NY to harness its strengths and recover. I even e-mailed the blog to Michael Hyatt of Thomas Nelson Publishers and to some agents in NY…and no response, unless one counts the form letter from Michael Hyatt’s personal assistant blowing me off.

Hey, can’t say I didn’t try.

I have wanted NY to pull its head out of the sand, and you know what? I still do. Competition is good. It keeps a market healthy. I want NY to avoid the fate of the music industry and the film industry, but I have been shouting for four years and now time is running out.

We are watching an entire industry capsize because we are…trying to save Barnes & Noble? The indie bookstore?

And the band played on…

People will always love CDs paper books and want to browse in music stores bookstores.

News Flash–Um, the music industry was in the music business and their job was to get music to people who liked to listen to music. They were in the music business, not the record business or the CD business.

Publishing, you guys are in the story and information business, not the book business. Your job is to get information (NF) and stories (Fiction) to readers who dig information and stories….regardless of format. Kinko’s is in the printing business. YOU are in the information/story business.

Hanging onto the print paradigm is like ordering another drink as the Titanic sinks.

It gets better…

Established authors, for the most part, do fine selling through online bookstores. It’s new authors who lose out if browsing in bookstores becomes a thing of the past. 

Browsing Roulette is the marketing plan for new writers.


I have been teaching how to build an on-line author platform capable of driving sales for YEARS. WANA has helped create some tremendously successful indie authors. Heck, how do you think Bob Mayer started out on social media? Remember him? The guy who’s selling thousands of books a day? Why not look to see who taught him social media and maybe see if she could help your writers, too? Bob thought it was a good idea.

In fact, WDW Publishing even offered an discount so agents and editors could order WANA in bulk at a discounted price to help ramp up their authors on social media. Guess how many orders we’ve filled?

To my knowledge? Zero. To quote Jerry Maguire, “Help ME, help YOU.”

WANA methods have continued to produce success after success. WANA methods are responsible for selling hundreds of thousands of books for ALL kinds of authors. WANA isn’t just a concept, it’s a movement. We are The Love Revolution, baby. Yet, instead of NY embracing social media or even WANA, browsing is NY’s marketing plan to help new talent get discovered.

*head desk*

The Trouble with the Browsing Plan

Last I checked, a book’s position in a bookstore was real estate negotiated by an agent, so here’s the hard truth. New writers? Forget about your books being in airports, first of all. Oh, and we can also forget about being at the front of the store. That’s for VIPs only. And the tables? Yeah, don’t count on being there either.

Most likely, new writers, you will be spine out on a shelf. Sure hope your last name begins with a letter the puts you at eye level or you are screwed in trouble. And we wonder why the failure rate for first-time novelists is so staggering.

But the Browsing Plan looked so promising.

Time for Tough Love

I know some might feel I am being mean, but nothing can be further from the truth. I LOVE bookstores. I grew up in them. But when we prop up inefficiency, we stymie creativity.

Artists have had to innovate and get creative. NY hasn’t propped up failing authors out of misguided sentimentality. Why do bookstores get a pass? But, since I do not believe in criticizing without offering solutions, here are some ideas.

Solutions for Big Publishing

The Big Six are hurting because of Amazon. Fine. But instead of whining and adopting strategies like “agency pricing” why not learn? After all that has happened in the past ten years, I have to ask the hard question. Why doesn’t the Big Six have their own e-publishing divisions? WHY, WHY, WHY?

Let’s Get Creative, Folks!

An e-publishing division could get books to market far faster. This way, when a regime crumbles, a candidate is elected or a natural disaster strikes, you can sell LOTS of books while people still care. You can take advantage of trends (like, um vampires) while they are still hot instead of gambling that you can predict the next craze or waste time chasing your losses.

In a world addicted to instant gratification, one and two-year lead-times are DEATH.

The New Kids on the Block

New York, if you guys had an e-division, you could take on new untested writers that agents deliver with very little risk. If a new writer sells so many e-books, she earns a print deal and can earn a spot in a…bookstore. Publishers don’t waste paper printing books that don’t sell and bookstores don’t waste shelf space on…books that don’t sell.

Now you have a system that rewards talent and hard work and you can afford higher royalty rates. Agents and writers are happy. Yay! More authors get a shot at proving their book is what readers want, and readers can feel secure buying your books because they trust traditional publishing for quality. Now you guys are doing your real business which isn’t printing, but, rather, finding talented teachers, inspirers and storytellers and connecting them to eager audiences.

In my opinion, there is no reason that the Big Six publishers can’t use e-publishing for vetting out new authors. How many books can a B&N shelve anyway? Let B&N keep carrying the bigger name authors and a handful of other hot authors/books in printed form. They need room for all their Nook displays anyway.

But what do the bookstores do?

There is no reason that a B&N clerk can’t be there to help guide a new Nook owner through a touch-screen to check out the latest e-published titles, too. Come on! Use some imagination! Just need to step up and embrace the service industry. Ten years ago y’all were whining that people didn’t read and now that they do? No whining.

You’ve already invested in the Nook, so why not partner with NY and invest in better POD technology? Customers can browse digital touch-screens and, if customers want a paper copy? They can have one. Swipe a credit card and hit “print.” Offer them a free cup of coffee and then they can pick up their POD book when they’re ready to check out.

Indie Bookstores! Want to Thrive in the New Paradigm? There’s an App for That…

Independent bookstores can find new life in the digital age. Why? Because we still dig nostalgia. In a world where everything changes, it is comforting that some things remain. But passive selling is no longer enough. You guys need could use a little imagination, too.

Indie bookstores could still carry titles of big authors that we all know will sell loads of hard copies. None of us worried that the last Harry Potter books would go to waste. But indie stores could embrace technology for greater advantage.

Technology is getting cheap enough that you guys could also have a touch screen where customers could order digital titles straight from your store. NY Publishing could give you an app to help customers order directly from their digital imprint (and you get sales credit).

Another benefit is that the program could be designed to capture customer information so that you (the store) and publishers can glean a clearer idea of who is buying and why. Oh, and you can probably also talk customers into parting with an e-mail address so you can keep them posted on the latest and greatest releases in both print and digital.

There are half a dozen computer geeks that could even design you your own app. How many readers would looooove a Book and Candle Indie Bookstore app on their iPhone? From that app, they get customized recommendations on what books to buy and can order straight from their phone, only you get sales credit from NY.

If you can’t compete with B&N on price, compete with service.

Sure, customers might pay a little more for an e-book using their indie app, but they get to feel all warm and fuzzy knowing that their purchases are supporting their local indie bookstore AND they are getting recommendations from a bookstore they TRUST. Your opinions and knowledge of books become a service people are willing to pay extra to use.

Be innovative! I know you can do it!

Booksellers still provide a valuable service in a world of 99 cent bargains.

Most booksellers are avid readers and can help drive sales. Just offer customers an incentive to order from YOUR kiosk or YOUR app, so you make money. Maybe we get free cups of coffee or free e-books if we order from inside your store from your POS system.

Working Together

Oh and NY? You can help booksellers out by offering incentives for pushing sales of new authors and digital titles. Since waste will be minimized, you can afford to offer financial reward for helping move titles in the digital lines.

Now the authors win. Because waste is minimized, we can earn higher royalties. Booksellers win because they can keep selling the same books they have always sold while minimizing waste and overhead and they can tap into the digital sales, too.

Publishers? You get to streamline and authors who write good books will sell lots of books and those who don’t? They still won’t sell books, only the losses will be a heck of a lot less. And, because the risk is diminished, you can afford to take risks on new authors and more authors.

Also, since you will no longer be bound by physical shelf space, you can now represent authors who have great stories that might not fit cleanly in a single genre. You can also now make money off types of writing that were, before in the print paradigm, a suicide investment. Poetry, novellas, short-stories and screenplays can now earn money.

Everyone wins. Heck if you want more ideas, check out this post from last year or better yet? E-mail me. Kristen at kristen lamb dot org.

At the end of the day, I love writers. I love publishers and bookstores. I love NY! But propping up inefficient systems, denying inevitable change and complaining only keep us from working on creative solutions.

We have watched the music industry crash, the photo industry and even the film industry. They failed to properly anticipate the markets of the future and they paid for their poor foresight. They had to reinvent from the ashes.

Traditional publishing is an institution and it does bring a unique value to the industry, but that alone is no longer enough. Amazon is looming and the future is now, so this is the multi-billion dollar question. Is big publishing going to race down that same road and crash, thinking it is the special exception? Or will they choose to learn from the past and work on creating a brighter future?

Oh, and NY? I am offering help. Seriously, e-mail me and we can work on creating some solutions. I believe you have a wonderful place in the future paradigm, but we need to stop strategizing from fear and begin using your imagination :D.

So readers! What are your opinions, thoughts, suggestions? The paradigm is changing so quickly most of us can’t keep up. Is this thrilling for you or terrifying? How have you dealt with the changes? Where do you struggle? How do you think NY can become more responsive in an age of instant gratification?

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of February I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Trolls, Sockpuppets and Cyberbullies by the amazing Anne R. Allen

Amazon Will Destroy You by Joe Konrath

Love the Life Givers by Ingrid Schaffenburg

Write Heart-Pounding Visceral Responses by Margie Lawson over at Jenny Hansen’s More Cowbell Blog

Why Romances are a Valid & Important Piece of Literature by my FAVE Jody Hedlund

Learn to Love the Pitch by Sarah Pinneo over at one of my favorite places Writer Unboxed

10 Questions to Ask Before Committing to Any E-Publishing Service over at Jane Friedman’s blog.

Really sweet blog over at Richard Monroe’s Blog A Little Girl’s Love

Oh and I just LOVE Gene Lempp’s blog. He has a neat post Designing from Bones–Demons, Daemons and Dramatic Struggle

A new fave? Came from #MyWANA of course! Jen J. Danna has a killer forensics blog. The post that caught my interest is about how to use bones to determine a victim’s age.


31 pings

Skip to comment form

  1. Fantastic post as usual. You are on my must read list for my clients as well as people asking me to train them to become social media coaches. Sharing as always on my Wall as well as in several writers groups I am on.

  2. JA Konrath has a similar blog–great minds and all that. Sort of like the Titanic going under and everyone stands around the deck and stares as the life boats paddle away.

    1. Yeah, I actually wrote this blog before I saw his post, but it is such an obvious analogy and that alone should be scary. I try to offer tangible suggestions to change things rather than merely criticize. But, yes. We are all watching the impending disaster and I hope they will wake up and turn things around.

      1. You, me, Seth Godin and Konrath – are all on the same page.

        You’d think that the publishers and book stores would listen, but … they cannot I believe, for they are deaf.

        Deaf? I suspect the reason that they are not moving to protect their territory is that they are paralysed with not knowing which steps to take next. Remember, these are people who are used to running a system, not seeing being revolutionaries.

        It is AUTHORS who have the imagination, the ability to envision and see possibilities, which is why the publishing industry’s inaction frustrates and amazes us.

  3. I don’t understand why the big guys aren’t catching on either. Surely they must have SOMETHING up their sleeves that they’re not telling us?

  4. Great post, Kristen. And one point you make may yet prove Amazon’s Achille’s heel.

    “Sure, customers might pay a little more for an e-book using their indie app, but they get to feel all warm and fuzzy knowing that their purchases are supporting their local indie bookstore AND they are getting recommendations from a bookstore they TRUST. Your opinions and knowledge of books become a service people are willing to pay extra to use.”

    Just as buyers use indie stores rather than the big chains, so they will, increasingly, use indie ebook stores. And this is especially so in the international markets where Amazon is seen as an unwelcome foreign intruder and “local” stores can play the patriot card.

    The big problem with indie stores is that indie authors aren’t made welcome, but that’s usually an infrastructure problem rather than a deliberate veto. There are ways in to the smaller stores and the international markets.

    Anyone interested, please contact me.

    PS For anyone knew to the KL blog wondering about Kristen’s assertion that “WANA methods are responsible for selling hundreds of thousands of books for ALL kinds of authors” our very own Sugar & Spice was not only the biggest selling indie book in the UK last year, but the eleventh biggest selling ebook, period. Thanks, Kristen! :-).

  5. I agree about music and I agree about publishing but I disagree about the film industry. People are still going to the cinema (check the box office figures) and they’re still buying DVDs, or renting them from services like LoveFilm or Netflix. They’re still “buying” movies through subscription TV channels. Yes, movies are still being pirated, but the problem with the film industry isn’t so much piracy, it’s that as budgets get bigger, so the movies need to earn more to recoup their losses. In the days of vertical integration that was easier since the studios owned both the means of distribution and the exhibition, but in a more open marketplace, that’s difficult to do. They don’t even need to throw so much money at a film to get a success – Paranormal Activity proved that. My point? Well the difference between the music and the film industries is that the film industry keeps changing its product (everyone’s sick of CGI? let’s release a black-and-white silent film!) and it offers new ways for fans to enjoy their content outside of the cinema (streaming, Blu-Ray, iPhone apps etc.). This could easily be adapted for the publishing industry, as you’ve already pointed out. The big publishers could learn a lot from the more innovative thinkers in the film industry.

    1. Yes but even film had to reinvent. Movie houses are going under (at least here in Texas). Many of them had to gut, remodel and start offering big comfy seats, fine dining and wine and bar drinks. It was no longer enough to just expect people would show up and watch a movie and get gutted on crappy popcorn and stale candy. Those cinemas that didn’t get mega screens and mini bars are now a Wal Mart. Bookstores can look to this and innovate ways to become more of a service.

      For instance, as Mark Williams points out, they could be friendlier to indies. I have had two #1 best-selling titles and yet B&N refuses to carry my book in stores. They have actually turned away people with money who wanted to order a paper version and have it sent to the store….and then they want to whine that they are going under.

      1. Hm, maybe cinema chains are different in the UK – wouldn’t hurt various industries to look at how other countries do things, perhaps?

        But yes, you’re right about indie bookstores. I only managed to get my book (published through an independent press) into a bookstore because I knew the owner! Bookstores COULD be something awesome…if only they were prepared to look at what else they offer the reader. We have a bookstore in England called Barter Books, which is in an old Victorian railway station, and you take in your books and get credit to put towards new ones. The stock varies from ancient tomes from the turn of the century to paperbacks from last year, but I’m always happy to spend money in there because of the warm atmosphere, and the fact they always have a roaring fire! Bit weird, maybe, but it’s a USP alright.

        • Celia Stuart on February 15, 2012 at 10:43 am
        • Reply

        And look how much faster movies are coming out on DVD. Not to mention the shear lack of imagination in the movie industry at large. It’s easier/safer/more of a sure thing to make a Saw IV or rerelease a Star Wars (Or Disney) movie in 3D etc etc etc. than try something new.

    2. We did see the same thing happening in the film industry as in the publishing industry in that services like Netflix and RedBox drove Blockbuster stores out of business. Blockbuster, just like many indie bookstores, couldn’t seem to adapt and compete. There are no longer any physical locations where you can go to rent a movie in my town.

  6. So very true, Kristen! Each and every word you wrote is right on target. amy beat me to the punch in mentioning JA Konrath’s blog post on this same subject, but you know that — you already have it listed in your Mash-up. Konrath’s most-telling comment in his post is that ” … they (Amazon) aren’t thinking about how to make money tomorrow. They’re thinking about how to make money in 2018.”

    Innovation and creativity will be the ONLY winning ways to succeed in this paradigm shift.


  7. At great insight into a new world for me Candice. I really just want to tell stories but all of this, that you make mention of is important, not only to me but thousands of others.

  8. Another excellent post, Kristen! I also did a blog post recently on what publishing can learn from the collapse of Kodak Eastman:

    I really hope NY sits up and starts to listen to you. I think your proposal sounds so exciting, and I love the idea of popping into the bookstore in my local mall to browse eBooks and enjoy a cappuccino. I’ve just polled my colleagues and even the most die-hard print book fan likes the idea of ordering a book, heading off to do the rest of her shopping, then coming back to collect her newly printed book.

  9. I love the idea of a digital kiosk where readers can order titles and the store receives credit for it.

    Whether it is e-readers or digital cameras nothing will deter a sale more for me, than to get interested in any device in a store, only to find a store won’t even turn on display items. This will result in lost sales for the stores.

    So, I really like the idea of having e-readers turned on *and* pre-loaded with books (even if they are sample chapters) because this literally puts books in the customers hands. As most of us know, when you put something in a customers hands, the chances of making that sale increase 🙂

  10. The publishing industry has always seemed to me to be fully of stoggy old men who wouldn’t recognise a reader if their life depended on it. All I can say about crash about to happen is….I can’t look.

  11. Some really great ideas. I would love to be able to go into a book store and order a POD copy. At the moment I am researching a historical novel and struggling to find books from the period but if they were all stored digitally and I could just order copy printed and sent to me… amazing.

    Another thing that independent book stores could do would be to offer customer cover designs for their POD books. They could get local artists on board.

    Honestly though, I’m just blown away by the possibility of this and hope that the book industry can get on board and make it happen.

  12. When the future rises like a cobra, the smart thing is not to slap it in the face. In reading intensively about the publishing industry over the past year it has never failed to amaze me how little interest the “old traditionals” have in their future. I’ve seen a similar response in the eyes of a ninety-year old in need of direct care but unwilling to leave their old house for a nice clean apartment with meals and friends included. It just doesn’t make sense to hold on to the past.

    The only direction in life is forward. The only time is now. They call static “dead air” for a reason, because everything changes, constantly – and what doesn’t change is lost and forgotten in the crackling haze.

    To illustrate the point take the “personalized app suggestion” – just like Goodreads does – or Amazon – great ideas don’t wait for the future, they are the future. If the traditionals are so concerned about lost sales they should pay attention to how those they “fear” are selling. Everything else is just waiting for the house to cave in and watching for a polar bear to appear in the static.

    Great post, Kristen, I hope they take you up on your offer.

  13. Great post. Good points. Wish the powers that be were listening to you!

  14. Last year, you ordered me to switch from paper to a Nook. Well, at Christmas I got a Kindle. I now read all my books on it.

    Okay, I’m a slow reader with very little time on my hands and have only read two…. so far. But, I do love my Kindle. It doesn’t give me the same warm, fuzzy feeling as holding a paperback, and I still and will always love book shops. In fact, I will never stop purchasing books, but I’m glad I have my Kindle. They are so convenient!

    With regards to publishing? I would be heartbroken if the traditional way disappeared. I love books, and from childhood dreamed of seeing my name on the spine of one.

    Yet, E-publishing seems the way ‘in’ for new writers. You just can’t argue with that.

    • Noree Cosper on February 15, 2012 at 6:36 am
    • Reply

    Great post, Kristen, I also read JA Konrath’s blog post and both are really pushing the analogy of the trade publishing industry being a sinking ship. I’ve been researching the options of going the traditional route of publishing or self-publishing. The more I look at it the more I see that the big 6 may not be a good option for the future.

    I am reading your book “We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media” and I do have a question about branding. Now that Twitter is using the names instead of handles, is it still important you use your name as a handle?

  15. We’ve been talking about this for a long time at WWBC. Glad you posted this, and I hope someone in NY reads it. It’s time for Nero to quit fiddling and put out the fire.

  16. Ah yes, Kristen, once again the voice of reason is shouting in the wilderness. Ma’am, ya caint talk to deaf folks, they caint hear ya. So many innocent people will find themselves out of work because a few at the top lack vision. That Kodak reference says it all quite clearly.
    Imagine a future where the WANAs rule, Kristen Lamb is the goddess of e-pub. Millions of the faithful make the pilgrimage to her blog to hear the wisdom of She Who Saw It Coming. Not such a bad picture, is it?
    Have a great day!

    • David Powell on February 15, 2012 at 6:57 am
    • Reply

    I think you are right here, BUT, (and this is why I always read your blog) what publishers have is marketing clout. Now, I know it can be done by self published authors, I know it is being done and will continue to be done.

    But I want to write stories, I don’y want to have a website to keep up to date, a Facebook Page, a Twitter account. I have internet ‘writer’ friends, who do quite well, not Hocking maybe, but quite well thank you very much. And I have two novels which I will self publish this year and I am DREADING it.

    Most of my working life was as a ‘big ticket’ (well up to £1,000,000) salesman and the thought of starting it all over again fills me with horror.

    And yet I can see no other way.


    Thanks again for your entertaining and informing blog.

  17. Your book We Are Not Alone: the Writers Guide To Social Media was the first book Who Dares Wins Pubishing brought out other than my backlist. That’s how important we believe social media to be. For decades the key was distribution to consignment outlets. Amazon is not distributing. They’re selling to readers.
    Publishers are bringing in “experts” who have no experience with direct sales to consumers to advise them. They’re bringing in tech experts who have no experience in publishing to advise them. What they’re not reaching out to are the people who have exactly the expertise they need: the successful indie authors, some of whom are earning seven figures, selling directly to readers. Who’ve spent the last couple of years innovating, taking risks, and working hard to figure out the new paradigm. At Digital Book World a tweet kept bemoaning that self-publishing is costing trad publishers 100 million a year. I turned that around and said indie publishers like Who Dares Wins are earning authors 100 million. The fact that trad publishers and agents continue to ignore that reality is their problem.
    I listened to many of these “experts” speak at Digital Book World and my take was they were at least a year behind where the top indie authors are at as far as digital publishing.
    As we say at Who Dares Wins: Lead, Follow, or Get The Hell Out Of The Way.

  18. Can you just move to New York and fix this already. I mean, duh! None of this is impossible. And then newbie authors would still be under the heading of the Big Six. We might be spineless, but still…

    And that dig at Kodak. Ouch. We know. Here in Rochester, we know too well about the lack of innovation.

    What has happened to America’s pioneering spirit? This is the new frontier. Be brave. Be bold.


    *whining* Can’t you just fix it already? You fix everything else. 😉

    1. I am working on it, Hon. Working on it :D.

  19. The reason my small press publishers, Bellebooks/Bell Bridge Books, is still alive after more than 13 years, and even thriving, is because they saw this ebook thing coming and had the foresight to start their authors on that path, even when it wasn’t yet something as big as it is now.

    They are able to give debut authors a chance, as they did with my first novel. And they are able to give authors, who were published by the Big 6 and then released by them, another chance.

    I’d love to have supported indie booksellers and other brick and mortars, but just as they do, I have to look at the “business side” of this. Amazon has been supportive of my publishers and has found me new readers and has my books in stock (print and ebook), and even if it’s for their own purposes, so what? Brick and mortars do for their own purposes, too – that’s what having a business means.

  20. I’ve been saying this for years, but you can’t fix stupid.

    Let the chips fall where they may. Those who are willing to evolve will survive.

  21. You have the answer for the publishing industry and they aren’t paying attention? SERIOUSLY? No, I know what’s going to happen. Some troll is going to wait until the last minute, then present YOUR idea as HIS OR HER OWN.

    Don’t let that happen, Kristin.

    Mobilize us, your loyal nutcases, um, followers; point us in the right direction and tell us what to do.

    The clock is ticking.


    1. Yes, I am poising the WANAites to take over. Patience, my pretties :D.

      1. Patience? I don’t remember patience as being a big part of the WANA model. Maybe I need to reread the books. 🙂

  22. The second half of this post is filled with so many great ideas, Kristen. Thank you for putting common sense ideas for publishers out there. 🙂

  23. Another fantastic post. I think your suggested new business paradigm is solid. Here’s hoping someone within the powers that be listens and takes action.

  24. I am newly indie epub’d author thanks to Amazon’s KDP program, and am just starting to tread water with a basic understanding of social media and the new publishing paradigm thanks to We Are Not Alone (which I’ll finish reading this evening). Should I be surprised that your blog is as awesome as your book? Logically, no, I shouldn’t. Yet, here sit I, upon the hearth, huddled with my pleasantly warm laptop and three pleasantly warm little dogs, reading your blog with goosebumps. Your insight into the industry is prophetic, and I, for one couldn’t be happier to be jumping into the pond right now, when the book-buying readers, not a slush-pile-reading intern, get to decide what a good book looks like.

    …And who am I to tell Bob Mayer that he’s absolutely correct about the so-called experts? I’m just a reader and an author enjoying the slightly smoother water in his wake. But what the heck, Bob Mayer: In my humble opinion, you are brilliant. Immeasurable thanks to Bob and Kristin for your guidance! (…and why did I have to wait so long to find you both?? No time to lament- gotta go finish that wip.)

  25. Kristin, when I saw
    For book publishers, the relevant market isn’t readers
    it made my brain go sideways. Guess that just goes to show how out of touch most publishers are. Well, it’s the year (decade?) of the people rising up and demanding what they want, so guess it’s either get with the program or go down. We’ll see who pays attention.

  26. A great post – and one that makes me wonder what form my manuscript will take when It gets ready for publishing – I can’t warm up to an e-reader, I love to hold books in my hand. One thing that concerns me is B & N – with the rumblings of bankruptcy , what happens to their nook? It seems the only safe e-reader is Kindle. Bookstore battles could end up hurting the whole industry – I agree there needs to be a new marketing in bookstores that makes Amazon pale in comparison. Well done.

  27. Wow, Kristen. This is the post of the year so far for me. I have been grappling with small press vs. agent. It’s not the agent that worries me as much as the outdated publishing model the Big Six are working from. Why risk an agent – no matter how great they may be – taking two years to maybe sell the book when I could go with a small press that gets the book out within a year? As long as the editing and covers are strong, it’s a great way to break into the industry and learn. After all, the marketing falls to the author regardless.

    That said, it’s disappointing the Big 6 are taking so long to evolve, not to mention mindblowing. It’s a simple issue to me: we live in an age of technology that’s only going to continue to dominate as future generations become readers. While it may still hold a place in a writer’s heart, reading a printed book means less to many people right now, and that’s not going to change. Busy life, instant gratification. Kindle and Nook will win with the exception of a few holdouts (and that’s okay)

    And I love your plan for the Big Six to evolve. Here’s hoping they take the time to listen!

  28. Excellent as always, Kristen. Loved your comment about the reader being relevant and the fact that some of the big publishers lost sight of that. I remember an agent and an editor telling me about 20 years ago – or maybe more LOL – that when the houses started being driven by the marketing departments they lost sight of why books were being published. It was no longer so much about writers and readers and the connections they make through story, it was all about moving product. The agent also told me that the big six were always resistant to change. This is the way we have done business for 100 years and by golly this is the way we will continue, thank you very much.

    Like you, I abhor a monopoly, as good as Amazon has been for my bottom line, and I would like to see several entities providing the same service to readers so people have a choice of where they buy their books.

    BTW, I mentioned you on my blog today. A writer friend gave me the Versatile Blogger Award and I am acknowledging other writers who have blogs that are interesting, fun, and helpful by giving the award to them.

  29. I also hope that NY publishing will be able to evolve. Esp. for all the new authors that aren’t making as much money as they used to publishing with them.

    So why does the answer seem so obvious? Many of your conclusion are pretty simple and clear. Even Rachelle Gardner posted about publishers being in the business of storytelling, not books.

    And like you, giving up the idea of big publishing isn’t easy, but once I looked at the facts, it was rather easy. What a great opportunity for some new small presses, like Entangled. I hope more step up and follow in their shoes.

  30. :bows down: Yes. This. Totally this.

    In 2009, when I first thought about self publishing an ebook, it was with the intention of building a platform, generating an audience, for the series I wanted to sell to New York. By the end of 2010, with 2 titles out, I was eying NY like the Titanic you referenced above and thinking, wow, glad I’m in my own hands. In 2011 I landed an agent and suddenly NY was back on the table, but I cannot ever envision a reality for me that will not include at least SOME self publishing. Diversification is going to be the key to both author AND publisher survival in the new reality. Because you’re totally right, the only thing that is relevant and ever has been relevant is the reader.

  31. As usual, Kristen, you’ve provided wonderful advice for those who will listen. Unfortunately, the Big Six seem to be deaf.
    Every time I see how stubborn the Big Six are by holding on to their old-fashioned ways of doing business, I can’t help but be reminded of what has happened in the newspaper industry.
    I worked at a small, daily paper in North Carolina for 10 years. It was during a meeting with some of our corporate heads that I started wondering if I was on a sinking ship. They actually said to us that the printed newspaper would survive no matter what. They said that it had survived the invention of the radio, the invention of the TV, and even cable. Therefore, it would survive this internet thing. They continued to see the internet, and all its bells and whistles of providing news immediately to the reader, as an opponent. They wanted to sit back and wait while this challenger lost its “umph.”
    And all I could think of was “No, no! You’re doing this all wrong. Embrace this technology. Let it supplement your business, partner with it, and let it grow to new dimensions.” But no one listened until they were barely treading water. By that time, it was too late.
    It looks as though the Big Six are about to do the same.
    You have some really great ideas on how to help them get back in the game. I wish they would listen!

  32. “If you build it, they will come.” So LETS PLAY BALL ! ! ! !

    Seriously, I close my eyes and I can see hoards of writers and indie book sellers following you with picket signs and pompoms. We are surrounding the Big Six in NY and infiltrating their Big Six skyscrapers. We are chanting! We are stomping! Well, ok, I can’t afford a plane ticket to NY, so lets try something else….

    What if authors were the ones to freeze out the Big Six?

    What if authors and their agents turn a blind eye to the Big Six and set up camp somewhere else?

    You think they would listen if all-of-a-sudden they didn’t have any big names to sell?!?!?!

    I know it’s a risk, but I think seeing their money vanish just might be the only thing that will make them listen.

    Thanks for leading the charge, Kristen!

    ~Tiffany Lawson Inman

    #LawsonWritersAcademy at

    • Celia Stuart on February 15, 2012 at 10:34 am
    • Reply

    I remember a few years back listening to a speech Cory Doctorow gave (mostly on piracy, what happened to the music industry, and digital publishing…and this was back in … 06 I think? ) and was astonished (and horrified) to learn that artists are docked (penalized) for corrupt digital files. Like it’s their fault. That’s like penalizing them for scratched CD’s.

    FWIW you are preaching to the choir. The only pub that I think comes close to getting it is Harlequin (see Carina Press). But truly none of them really GET IT and probably won’t until it’s too late. They’re like our government, slapping on bandaids when in reality we need a trauma surgeon. Not going to happen. RIP BIG 6

  33. What an eye-opener! It’s hard to believe the Big Six still have their heads in the sand after seeing all the sales figures for both paper and e-books. Why do companies never learn–and then go bankrupt?

  34. This is by far your best, most innovative blog yet! I am still hoping to publish via the traditional route, but I also wish to be at the forefront of a epublishing. With your model in mind, even new authors like me have a chance at relevancy. I love your idea of print on demand in indie bookstores. Brilliant. I hope big publishing takes notice!

  35. I got interested in digital publishing in 1997, released my first digital book in 1998 and could not figure out what NY was doing! It was such a shock when I finally read someone saying that readers aren’t their customers! I was like, ARE YOU KIDDING? Though it sure explains their ham-handed attempts to deal with the digital wave over taking them. I wish they would listen, but they all seem to be tone deaf. Did you see that Penguin has now decided that digital library rentals CAN’T be delivered by wifi? No, patrons MUST download the book (over wifi) to their computers and then transfer them by USB to their device. And they are only allowing older titles to be checked out. I see so much discontent with readers for big six. I don’t ever remember readers being that aware of who is publishing what. These publishers are branding themselves to readers and not in a good way! Great blog! Not sure they will listen though. 🙁

    1. I’m one of those readers, and I completely agree. Many times I’ve gone to Amazon looking for a book I’ve heard about only to find that it’s published by the Big Six, and the Kindle price is just as high or higher than the paperback price. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not a price, it’s a calculated insult. Their pricing for ebook readers seems to send a clear message: “We hate you and want you to go away.”

      I’d never really given any thought at all the NY publishing companies before I got my Kindle, and now it would take some pretty major effort by those companies to overcome their incredible bad impression they’ve given.

  36. I, too, am with those who say this blog is your best so far, for me of any. As an essay, it is a thing of beauty, which is so rare these days but especially in writing. I am “sharing” this column with every reader and writer I know, and although mine is a small group (some only email), I have long believed in Margaret Mead words: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

    As always, thanks.

    1. You made me get all misty. Man, I hope so. I want to start a revolution in NY. I want them to join the LOVE Revolution. Dang it! FIGHT for what you love and what you believe in and NY needs to realize it is in a life and death battle RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW. WANA–working together to change the world, ;). Thanks for the lovely compliment and for your continued generosity of support and comments.

  37. Your key line is where you suggest publishers put out books as ebooks first, then those that sell the best get a print deal.

  38. I had an epiphany on this same topic about a year ago when the Macmillan/Amazon fiasco about pricing hit. The now former agents of Wylie-Merrick agency (they have since opened an indie e-pub Ampichellis Books –go figure) wrote a post about lack of reader input into the traditional pub chain. They took the time to explain to me in a comment reply that in traditional big 6 publishing the customer was NOT the reader. This was news to me at the time and a source of unending puzzlement still. And, in fact, publishers have NO WAY to capture reader interests, buying trends, or any other direct sales markers because of the intermediary interests of the distributors and booksellers. Reminds me of a line from the old movie Charade: “That’s like drinking coffee through a veil.” The other aha moment I had on publishing trends, floated by Konrath and others, was that the problem for new/debut writers was not piracy but obscurity. So in two separate areas big 6 publishers were focusing on the wrong things entirely. Shame on them! Great post, Kristen! Keep fighting the good fight.

  39. Fantastic Kristen! Change is so terribly hard for some and offers such huge oppurtunities for others. Love it.

    I linked you blog in mine.

    Keep them coming.

  40. Thank you, Kristen. After reading your blog for weeks, I now finally know what WANA stands for! It’s a book. And it looks like a book I must have. I’m doing my darndest to grow my platform, but I admit it’s a bit of a struggle and I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing wrong and what more I need to do. I think your observations here are harsh, but astute. And obviously you’ve proven your ideas work. Looking forward to checking out the book!

  41. Fabulous Post! Absolutely right on! Hope they’re listening!

  42. I’m so new to this industry, that I don’t know what to think, but I love all of your information and resources. I love the feel and smell of books, but I did download a Kindle reader to my Mac recently, and I suppose I will eventually start reading online. Even my mother has a Kindle, and she is 88.

  43. There is so much greatness in this post I don’t even know where to start commenting. As a yet-unpublished author it makes me scared but also hopeful. Maybe all the WANA people should have a field trip to NYC for an Occupy the Big Six. The best idea was to release new writers digitally. It would be so cheap and easy for them. I’m simply befuddled that they haven’t changed a thing in their model.

    • Lee on February 15, 2012 at 12:07 pm
    • Reply

    This is so brilliant, I have to read it ten times more . . . keep it coming. . . .

  44. Isn’t it amazing, that the end user is considered the least valued by the big players? All I can think of when I hear the complaints about the playing field by giants big enough to be game changers is that old “who moved my cheese” thing that circulates in corporations during times of upheaval and change. NY – the cheese has moved – I say again – the cheese has moved. Get with the program or get gone.

    I’m not sure about the warm fuzzy w/indie book sellers. Too many are banging on the hate drum and for a shopper of books, I find that tiresome. Also, many are snobs to genre, at least by me, and genre is what I like to read. So I shop where it’s easy and pleasent.

    As an author, browsing roullette is a sucker’s game. You’re so dead right about that. Innovate – it’s what we need to do – and remember our readers are who counts the most.

    Looking forward to reading We are not alone, and are you there, blog, it’s me, writer.

  45. Kristen, I don’t think anyone could have said it better! You’ve just said out loud what a lot of us have been feeling for a very long time. Well, you do have a bigger platform. lol

    But what is it about change? People hate it. Companies hate it. It’s not just the entertainment business. It’s affecting every business. Well, unless you’re Microsoft or Apple.

    The business of selling has been around for a long, long time. Look, wasn’t it Eve that threw the first sales pitch out to Adam? Even though that didn’t work out so well, it worked.

    So may the force be with you Kristen. The force behind the WANA tribe!

    Now if only we could all write a great book. That would really put some weight behind your words! 🙂

  46. Fantastic post. A lot more constructive than Konrath’s IMHO. We need competition. Amazon isn’t out to make life better for authors, their out to cash in on an opportunity and they would just as happily make life worse for authors if that proved to be the way to make money. I think you have some fantastic ideas here and I wish the industry would listen. I don’t want to self-pub and go it alone. I like the idea of working with an agent and maybe a smaller press of some kind because it is already a lonely business. I am taking your class so I can learn build myself a platform, but I look at this chaos and think I may have to go it alone if something doesn’t change soon.


  47. Either way, its an exciting time to be a new author – as we are having to learn new ropes as well as the established authors…and the mid-list guys are getting trounced on too.

    Let’s see if the BIG6 pays attention…although seeming like “establishment” I am not hopeful. They are defeating the very thing that authors are – ENTREPRENEURS – and guess what? This is what I believe our up and coming generation will be …we are becoming an entrepreneur society and I love it. Tired of being laid off 4 times I started my own business and was successful, recently closed it to write novels …1st one coming out next month and I fully believe that most of my success will come from ME with marketing, promotion, networking and passing on the love, etc.

    I do NOT want to depend on another BIG ENTITY to control my fate anymore, no matter what my business. It sure would be nice if they got on board with the entrepreneur spirit and partnered with authors. They would win tenfold and thousands of amazing voices would be heard, that are now being silenced before even heard at all.

    For now, HOORAY for the free spirit and will to make it as a small fish in a big pond and I strongly support my local indie bookshop and encourage all to do so! Its where it used to be at…and hopefully once again the main streets of America can become revived from getting back to the local guy. Its the sweat and tears of what makes up America. I want to see it come back.

    As Stacy Green says above – POST OF THE YEAR! Thanks

  48. You forgot the wine bar, Kristen! I wrote a post last year about the future of the bookstore, and you said in a comment that it would need a wine bar. Which I think is an excellent plan. I recently saw a video on the future of the indie bookstore and it involved lots of personal appearances, readings, talks, and classes from authors. With a wine bar, it might be a whole new kind of entertainment venue. They might even sell a few books. That nostalgia factor is not to be ignored.

    This is such a great post. A must-read. I’ll spread the word.

    1. The wine-bar was an idea I was saving for when they hired me for consulting, LOL. But YES! Stop quivering in fear of Amazon and use imagination! This is a BRILLIANT time to be an artist a writer and even a publisher if you are ready to be INNOVATIVE!

  49. My cousin is the Admin Assistant to John Lynch, The B&N CEO in NYC.

    I will send this blog along to her. Perhaps Mr. Lynch will have a look.

    I will further add that in the scenario proposed here, the Big Six and B&N teaming up to counter Amazon, that one of the big keys for B&N to succeed with it would be to be able to say that they have most of the big name authors exclusively, and better overall content because they are the gatekeepers that keep the slush out, whereas Amazon has a massive slush pile of crappy books and riff-raff authors. Only with this edge will B&N/Big6 be able to compete.

    I hope that they figure out a way, because if Amazon is the only one left standing, there will be no one to keep them honest, and they’ll probably become less author-friendly and take bigger chunks of profit. 99 cent books could go away, and author cuts could go down, so they could take it on both sides. They will almost assuredly do this unless there is someone to keep that in check.

    1. YES!!! Let’s go to the mattresses! FIGHT! FIGHT TO WIN!!!!

      1. Seems like the perfect place for a picture of sumo wrestlers wearing logos on their outfits… my imagination is a bit off.

        1. LOL! I like it.

          I think there are some great minds running around out here, and many of them are a bit off. It’s more fun that way. 🙂

  50. Oh, and many thanks for the shout-out for my post on the dark side of blogging!

    • Michelle Roberts on February 15, 2012 at 12:36 pm
    • Reply

    I LOVED that post! Seriously, it makes sense. I can see this system working. I know I, for one, would hop right on board. And having to prove your worth as a writer to sell print copies? Genius! 😀 I really hope NY takes your advice, because it’s golden.

  51. Thank you for writing this post, Kristin. Truly. I will pass it along to my industry colleagues.

    Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Rusch’s idea of e-book cards is another brilliant idea for how to sell digital products in physical bookstores. My e-publisher and I ran with that idea and now my publisher is about to launch, in order to create e-book cards for more authors. It’s such a simple and awesome idea. Here’s more info about it:

    I look forward to sharing your ideas with my peeps!

  52. I am almost ready to publish my first e-book and I am going with Amazon because the “Big Boys” aren’t interested, and they don’t offer any kind of e-book solution to the problems. WANA provides me a way to get my book out there and get the public to hear about it.

    This is a great article and the world is changing fast. Either you change with it or you become part of the cigarette butts on the side of the road. I head someone say yesterday on the radio. The current generation has never been in a music store. They purchase all their music from iTunes. It wont be long everyone will purchase their books from the internet, and at the current rate, Amazon.

  53. I know e-books are not just the future, but the here and now. But I’m going into the here and now kicking and screaming. I haven’t bought an e-reader (can’t afford one, really), but I did download the kindle app onto my computer. I downloaded all sorts of free and low-priced books, and you know what? I don’t read them. I still pick up a paper copy over a digital copy any day.

    I like the feel, the smell, the texture of physical books. I like that I can put them on my shelf and admire them. To me, the most important thing I own is not jewelry, or other expensive item, but my book collection. Digital books I never get around to, because I don’t see them. They’re on my hard drive somewhere–out of sight, out of mind.

    Maybe that makes me a middle-aged old fogey. I do, however, have no problem with the idea of selling any book I write in a digital medium. I have no problem with the concept of self-“publishing” and getting my book out the in the digital ether. You can make as much or more money on your books that way, anyway, especially if we follow your WANA advice. I know that while I might prefer the old way to read, the multitudes don’t. And so, when I finish my novel, I will bask in the glow of my computer screen as I figure out how to turn the dang thing into an e-book…

    1. There will always be a market for paper. I download NF books first because I read way faster on my Nook. But then I also buy a paper copy of the ones I like so I can go back and dog-ear and make notes. There will always be a market for print, but it cannot continue to be so ridiculously inefficient and the technology is to a point that it is realistic to make these changes in a cost-effective way….but NY needs to WAKE UP.

    • Viv on February 15, 2012 at 1:17 pm
    • Reply

    I’m watching from the sidelines, like another Cassandra.
    I’m also far from convinced of the wisdom of giving away books the way Select suggests. I heard something today that turned my blood cold. A good friend and talented writer Andrew Meek mentioned that a colleague of his wife’s, when asked if he’d bought Andrew’s e-book yet commented that he didn’t buy e-books any more. At all. He believed they should be free. This is a keen reader of several genres, refusing to pay a paltry few £s for book that took Andrew 10 years to write.
    There are other things happening in response to what the industry is doing and I’m not sure they’re good news.
    Like I say, I’m watching through my fingers the way I watch a scary movie.

    1. Yeah, but I think people like that are in the minority. They are like the guy who doesn’t believe in tipping. We all know he is an ass, and we tip double to make up for him being a troll. I know there is this notion that people will expect everything for free. That is garbage. Just because we didn’t like getting gouged for $17.99 for a crappy CD with one good song doesn’t mean we will all run out and pirate free music. That is absurd. Most albums have 10-14 songs so at 99 cents a song? That it the same price we would have paid. You wanna make $15 for an LP. Have FIFTEEN GOOD SONGS.

      Same with books. Most of us have no trouble paying 9.99 or even 10.99 for an e-book that is well edited and likely excellent content. Now, no we aren’t going to pay the same for an e-book as a hardcover and frankly that was dumb to expect anyway. That is highway robbery and bad business. But I believe in the good in people and most of us have no problem paying a fair price for a good product.

      Most people don’t want pirated video, pictures, movies, music or even books. We don’t want to go to creepy foreign sites that infect our computers with malware. We want good content for a fair price with easy access. No, NY you won’t make $17.99 for a paperback book. You will only make 9.99 for an e-copy….but you will sell twice as many copies with a heck of a lot less waste.

        • Celia Stuart on February 16, 2012 at 10:20 am
        • Reply

        You will only make 9.99 for an e-copy….but you will sell twice as many copies with a heck of a lot less waste.

        And I think this is what some “old school” authors don’t get. A top tier author will get 10-15% royalties on a HC book–that’s 2.60 – 4.00 on a 26.99 book. IF, and this is a BIG IF, they’re getting 50% on that 9.99 ebook, that’s…gee…4.99. Oh and 8% (that’s the standard royalty rate on paperbacks) of 9.99 (the cost of a venti paperback) is a whopping .80. Gee no wonder the Big Six are so digging in their heels (though obviously these scenarios don’t calculate in the cost of paper/print books).

        That said, I don’t think hardcover/print sales have eclipsed ebook sales for any top tier author (someone please correct me if I’m wrong) but at some point, in the very near future, they will.

      • Celia Stuart on February 16, 2012 at 10:12 am
      • Reply

      A shame he doesn’t believe in paying for ebooks. What some folks forget is that you’re not just paying for the cost of making the ebook but the story–because it’s the actual story that’s the commodity, the goods, the product, not the PDF itself.

  54. New York, if you guys had an e-division, you could take on new untested writers that agents deliver with very little risk. If a new writer sells so many e-books, she earns a print deal and can earn a spot in a…bookstore. Publishers don’t waste paper printing books that don’t sell and bookstores don’t waste shelf space on…books that don’t sell.

    This is pure genius. 🙂

    1. I agree, and although they’ve been slow, a lot of them are doing this. Pocket, Grand Central, and Kensington are all launching e-divisions. Avon already has with its Impulse line. It will allow them to get books out faster without the same kind of cost and risk. We’ll see how well they can do.

  55. LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this post – and not just for pointing out what’s going horribly awry in the publishing industry, but for concrete, tangible strategies and solutions for everyone from the big 6 to the indie bookstore. Pure genius. All of us WANAites need to spread the word and continue to do that until NY sits up and listens. Thanks for giving us such a succinct, clearly thought out plan of action!

    1. Anyone can criticize. There are no monuments erected to critics. I don’t believe in pointing out problems unless I can offer a plan of action to solve them. I’ve tried before, but I am hoping my WANAites can make the difference. I didn’t have all of you guys before so let’s see if we can take over NY and drag them into The Love Revolution.

  56. WOW you’ve really done a great in stating what is going on. I am hearing a lot of my friends who used to say “I will never used a e-reader” now backing down and saying “well maybe”. I read both ways, but can see the benefits of e-readers. I just signed with an electronic publishing company and am finding their outlook promising and their business growing.

    • Ed on February 15, 2012 at 1:40 pm
    • Reply

    And to think they pay entire teams of market researchers to do what you’re giving away for free here… 😉

    1. Actually, the difference is WANA works, LOL. Hey, and you think this stuff is good, you should see what they would get if they PAID me, hee hee :D.

  57. Kristen, why don’t you collaborate with an indie publisher and monetise your wisdom? It’s NY problem not yours that their business strategy suffers from myopia and greed. You have a great following , a talented crowd, to get enough indie authors on-board, and if you succeed it’d become the best validation and output for your views and activitities.

    1. Actually I might. I’m actually working on something big right now, but you have to wait for the unveiling ;).

  58. As a newly published author, I can relate to so much in this post. I got a lot of compelling interest from the Big Six for my novel, LITTLE 15, but none of them wanted to take a risk on a new writer like me. They also didn’t think that it fit nicely in any particular genre, so they were unsure “how to really make it stand out on the shelves.” And … this is what killed me … they thought perhaps it was “too controversial” for the average reader. Really?? So is that why I’m getting nothing but 5-star reviews and readers who are telling me that “they couldn’t put it down”? Long story short, none of the Big Six could make up their minds on it, so my agent and I pulled it from them and published it ourselves. NY is way too careful – and a slave to their own design. And they are losing good talent because of it. NY needs to listen to you, Kristin! I believe!

  59. YES!

    This has to be one of your best post to date, Kristen.

    Since the big six publish authors who create imaginary worlds in their works of fiction, you’d think it wouldn’t be much of a stretch for publishers to have an imagination and be able to think outside the box. Not this bunch, they’d rather start a battle AFTER the war has been won.

    ‘For book publishers, the relevant market isn’t readers’ – there you are then – says it all and WHY they shall fail. Not only are they not thinking of their customer, they don’t know who the customer is in the first place.

    I put money on it that Amazon starts opening bookstores and in a couple of years time (or less) they buy B&N for a song.

    Last October I did a blog post on focusing on the reader and the future of publishing from a reader’s POV.

    • Gilliiad Stern on February 15, 2012 at 2:08 pm
    • Reply

    I agree with this whole-heartedly. I am amazed at how slow media has been to make the transition to digital, especially in books. I love paper books but the companies need to face reality. E-books will be prominent in the near future and not planning for that now seems like a major mistake to me. You have to stay up with the trends, it’s a bad business decision not too. Great post!

  60. I agree with this whole-heartedly. I can’t believe that the big six haven’t figured out that the paper book is one it’s way out for most but the select few. I love being able to have a paper book that I can hold and read, but the trend is digital and it is going to stay that way. For these big businesses to not be following the trend and trying to hold on to a fading mode of sales, just seems like a bad business decision. They need to step forward and embrace the change, not push back against it, if they want to be around in the future. Great post!

    • Amy Eyrie on February 15, 2012 at 2:21 pm
    • Reply

    Great post, Kristen.

    The problems in the book industry stem from publishing companies focusing on books as commodities rather than readers. If the Big Six focused on readers instead of stockholders and quarterly statements, they would commit to developing new writers and would prioritize communication over short-term profit.

    As the industry stands now, publishers put money and resources into pushing “brand name” authors while releasing new writers in an anemic fashion, without publicity or a commitment to developing the writer as an artist. By their sophomore novel, many writers are dropped.

    In a system like this, publishing with a traditional publisher is a risk, since sales numbers can potentially become a scarlet letter, dooming your future as a writer. With this attitude, it’s not surprising the Big Six appear to be tone deaf to the kind of communication system you’ve created at WANA.

    The Internet is forcing the issue and democratizing publishing. Readers are finding writers who inspire them. Readers are the sustaining force for writers and the Internet is now the crucible for emerging artists. The current e-readers are like the first generation of PCs. In the future, e-readers will become lighter, quicker, more ingenious and capable of holding vast quantities of information. Eventually, e books will surpass treebooks on a tactile level and then all that will matter is whether you have adapted.

    The medium for distributing information has already changed. Publishing should be about the message, not preserving a medium that is no longer viable.

  61. Some NY big guns ARE taking the step of creating an e-division. I know this for a fact.
    *insert mischievous smile here*
    From my understanding, one Mover-and-shaker is doing so with the intent mentioned in your post. Less financial risk for taking on a new (or newer) author, because of the huge cost of print runs and bookstore real estate, but giving that author a chance at making good sales online with the help of the well-recognized company’s branding and reputation. Win win for both parties.

    I think it makes total sense and if a couple make a success out of the new plan then the rest will follow. At least we can hope. 🙂

  62. Ditto what others have said above – a fantastic post. You are tight, you are right, and you are on the money.
    I think it’s a fantastic time to be an author and I agree with what Kait said above about author diversification.
    I’m also tired of whining, blame gaming and companies spending their time playing games instead of strategizing how best to marshal their own resources to do exactly what you said – provide the content readers want to the readers at the best price and experience.
    BTW, I read and have referred many to your WANA book and as others have said, it is a must read for all authors. I have been very pleased with the progress of my first title and look forward to seeing the full results of WANA when I have a catalog of books to offer rather than just one title. Too bad NY isn’t listening to you AND NY published/represented authors aren’t listening either. Any author, rather indie, traditional or self-pubbed can apply your strategies to increase sales. I’m shocked at how many traditionally published authors don’t apply these principles – at all!
    Too bad for them but bully for the WANA tribe!
    Thanks for another great post.

  63. Will have to share this one with my agents. Excellent thoughts, Kristen. Every time I read your posts I learn more and more about navigating the business world of books. Thanks you!

  64. Great post. I’m nowhere near looking for an agent or being published but the knowledge you’ve imparted will serve me when I am.

  65. The key in this for me is that you’re not trying to force indie against big-6 or traditional against e-publishing. You’re trying to find a way for everyone to reinvent and work together to get the stories that need to be told into the hands of the people who want to read them.

    History proves, almost 100%, that internecine wars are only good for vultures and attorneys (with the primary difference between them being coat color rather than species). It’s time that people stopped whining on all fronts and focused on writing, producing and distributing high quality stories.

    Traditional books are not going away. E-books will continue to rise. There is room, and demand, for both – but the winning players will be those who learn how to speak both languages fluently.

    • Liz on February 15, 2012 at 3:43 pm
    • Reply

    Awesome post Kristen. On my blog I posted about the very first Barnes and Noble Nook signing. No print books. The HVRWA authors came armed with promo materials to sign. Management was happy and are bringing us back right before Mother’s Day and plan to put us by the Cafe where it’s busier.

  66. I have to admit this post really stirred a response in me above all others. I want to shout it out to the world — not sure if they’ll hear me from down here in little old New Zealand but hey there’s always Facebook — ‘there’s a revolution happening so get smart and listen to the ones in the know (like yourself K!). I read somewhere yesterday that B&N is predicted to go out of business in the next few years if they don’t change. Heads up people instead of checking out the sand!!
    Yvette Carol

  67. This is brilliant. Enough said.

  68. Authors need to get acts together, too, for larger slices of the cake. The usual thing has traditionally happened – a farmer growing the produce gets the smallest slice of the payment for it. As book sales become less dependant on the publishers and printers and selling agents and bookstores, all of which took the major part of what the reader paid, so the writers should structure things so that a living can be made out of it even if one isn’t selling millions.

  69. I think you’re right. The publishing industry IS entering slow train wreck stage. And I think the scene is absolutely changing. For trad authors that means adapting or dying. The question is HOW to adapt – which I think will mean rolling with the punches and being able to swing quickly into new marketing paradigms, as the industry shakes down.

    I think, though, that for trad authors one of the key markets – just now – is indeed the sales team. I recall once being brought in to give an address to my publishers’ national sales team meeting, specifically to prod them into marketing my books to the trade. It worked. Right now I’m working with my publishers’ editorial team to pitch my next title to their sales reps. The issue in NZ is that reps often have to contract to two or three publishers in order to make their own ends meet, which means books can often fall through the cracks.

    The way ahead? To me, I think we have to understand what’s happening and then swing to meet it. I am in some doubt that the trad publishing industry has thought its way through that. Also, I think the ONLY way ahead is positive co-operation between authors, bloggers, indie publishers, etc. I just posted a comment on Caitlin Kelly’s blog about that – how authors, small publishers etc, can all work together. It’s not a question of competing; it’s a question of working together to build a bigger market. I think it’s going to take a lot of hard work on all sides to make it happen. But then, hard work isn’t something to be afraid of.

    Thanks again for your thoughts & insights – always a step ahead!

    Matthew Wright

  70. Hey, Kristen, I am ALL ABOUT social media, digitized selling. I am writing, writing to get the first volume of my series finished so I can start shopping it with you guys, okay?

  71. You know, it’s funny. At a conference last year I talked with a B&N rep. My big complaint? Why, oh why, did you take out all the big comfy chairs? I used to go there to read, to write, to just hang out and have coffee. In a nice fluffy armchair. Somewhere in the corner surrounded by books. I always, always, bought something while I was there. Then one day it changed. The armchairs were gone. There was a stool here and there but you can’t hang out on that. There’s a cafe, but the chairs are hard wood things you can’t sit on for more than 5 minutes without getting chair-sores.

    So why did they take out something I considered a service, a value added to my book buying experience that I can’t (and this is key) get on Amazon? Oh, the chairs got too messy. People wouldn’t clean up after themselves. It was gross, so we took them out.

    Excuse me? You took the one thing you do DIFFERENT from Amazon and threw it away because you didn’t want to pay a cleaning crew? Exactly how hard is it to replace a chair? (hello, bulk purchases and discounts!).

    I still shake my head at that. And these days, I go to Starbucks to hang out. And THAT is why they fail. They don’t listen, and they don’t care. Stuck on old marketing paradigms and married to some idea someone had in a meeting once. I’ve been in those meetings…*shudder*

    I pray someone opens an indi bookstore near me that has a mini-bar and huge comfy chairs. And books, lots and lots of books. 😀

    1. Our B&N still has big squashy chairs. Thank goodness. I’d be upset if they removed them, too. What a terrible decision!

      Mini-bar. Squashy chairs. Books. I’m THERE!

  72. I think B&N is going to try and innovate – The HVRWA recently had a NOOK signing at the B&N at the Palisades Center in West Nyack, NY.

    The store announced over the intercom that we were the first ever NOOK signing and they were happy enough with the turnout to invite us back before Mother’s Day and talked about how we/they can improve it. We had no print books but lots of promo material to sign and info about buying on the Nook.

  73. This is such a great post. I have nothing to add but another HUZZAH, KRISTEN!

  74. Fantastic post! *bows down to you* This is the same conclusion I’ve come to in regards to NY. I love the “idea” of a NY publishing deal, but I honestly don’t know if they’ll survive.

    In the Phoenix area, we have a wonderful indie bookstore, Changing Hands. They’re awesome at supporting the writer community, bringing in authors for talks/booksignings, etc. And they recently started selling ebooks through GoogleBooks. They know how to adapt to the changes in the industry, and I really hope they’re successful.

    • historyweaver on February 15, 2012 at 6:31 pm
    • Reply

    I have a great indie in Village Books in Bellingham WA. They have the best booksellers and have been working hard to help authors meet readers, be able to be a part of the e-book revolution by offering aps and in-store help to download books onto I-pads and even have an Expresso machine for indie publishing or downloading books from some of the major publishers.

    I’m happy to say that my self-pub book IS on the shelf, now moved to the front because book clubs are asking for it. My indie has helped me to create a fine looking novel that they are proud to have on their self as well as many author events that helped me to improve my writing. I’ll always support indies because I believe that in this car wreck, there will be a place for them and the new paradigm.

  75. It’s interesting because I’ve been watching entities like Carina Press (Harlequin) get up to speed and thinking about what a great vetting tool this is for publishers. Yet, with all that, most publishers are still only offering like 25% of net on e-books. WHAT??!

    In a world where authors can go to WDW and get more than twice that amount or go in alone and earn more than triple that amount? It’s stunning to me. I know that New York has word of mouth power that a new author can’t hope to match but the print model just seems so wrong to me. Soooo glad you wrote this post!

    And thanks bunches for including Margie Lawson’s post in your mash-up! She’s definitely awesome and so are you!

  76. So, Kristen! Don’t hold back! Tell us how you really feel about “traditional” publishing and the future in e-books! This was a great blog and you make many valid points. As one of the “newbies” however, I’m still somewhat intimidated by the e-book industry. Your books are helping. I just need to speed up my learning curve. Keep telling it like it is, Kristen. We love it!

  77. “Whining is not a plan and complaining is not a strategy.” – GENIUS! I am officially adding this to my list of “things to remember in the face of adversity”. Thanks for this post, Kristen.

  78. As a reader, I get pissed when I go to buy an eBook from my favorite author and it’s just as expensive as the paperback or even worse *gasp* it’s MORE expensive. WTF? I no longer want to buy the book at all at that point.

    As an author, marketing is already tough. Keeping up with trends and change is…frightening at best. I just want to write books. But alas, there’s more to it than that.

    I find it ironic that on my Google Reader today there are no less than five posts about this very subject. Amazon being the big bad wolf. Well, we love our bad boys don’t we?

    I digress. The Big 6 need to ride the wave, not swim against the current if they want to survive. I am one tiny little author with a few books out, working on more. But I’m not alone.

    Shame on them for not listening to you, and others who are in the “know.”

  79. I like how you opened your blog post. Grabbed my attention from the first line of “Have you ever witnessed a car accident.” I’ve been suggesting to my friends for awhile that social media is here to stay…like it or not.We’re all witness to the changes in the music industry and traditional film. We’ve watched CD’s become dinosaurs that kids practically laugh at. At the same time, photography has changed radically as well. Why in the world wouldn’t the world of publishing change? Thank you for a well written article.

  80. I love the points you made in your blog. Strangely some of them sound like what I have heard around our kitchen table only you go much further. There are a couple of points that occur to me.

    You have heard the phrase “They are preparing for and fighting the LAST war. Okay this refers to the military but it also applies to the publishing industry and the agents that have traditionally fed it. Were they looking for stories about young wizards and magic when J.K.Rowling submitted her manuscript? What about stories of Vampires and paranormal romance? My point here is that the big six are focusing on what worked yesterday. This includes how they do business. It is a narrow “blinders on” focus and by “soldiering up” and toughing through these hard times they are not seeing the opportunities for their industry…. or the talent of the new authors out there. It is a two pronged OOPS. Your point about incorporating e-books and new authors with the big six was a great suggestion for them as was your thought about the apps for the indie booksellers.

    This is the Age of Speed (by Vince Poscente). Truly. Any person, any industry that isn’t poised on their toes, ready to adapt and move quickly, is destined to be overrun. I’m not a fan of any monopoly so I do wish the big six would listen to you instead of blowing you off. Change is inevitable. Wake up and adapt!

    Good blog! I’m now following.

  81. I love the idea of the big houses using e-books for vetting talented writers. Great idea.

    I have also used the music industry analogy before as a way to delineate between novels and short stories:

    To truly be analogous to the music industry though, the short story should really be the radio single at 99 cents. If a reader likes what they read they would willingly pay the ‘album price’ for the novel. You can probably guess I’m not a fan of 99 cent novels. In any case, if the expectations were not already set on Amazon, etc. that 99 cents gets you novels and not short stories, then this could have been a viable way for readers to vet unknown authors.

    Yeah, yeah, not everybody writes short stories and not everybody reads short stories. I cringe when I hear that objection. Every new writer should be required to write at least one good short story before tackling a novel – it builds character (pun intended). And I fail to believe in our 30 second sound bite society that readers don’t read short stories.

    One of my readers made a very strong argument against 99 cent novels. He said people are more than willing to dole out $20 to see a 90 minute movie, but don’t want to pay more than 99 cents for at least 10 hours of entertainment reading a novel.

    One point where the music industry and publishing diverge is where the money comes from. In music, it’s not all about album sales. Musicians make the real money from concert tours. And of course, this can drive more album sales.

    But the 99 cent song on iTunes did not really kill the music industry, because people still wanted to hear great music and were willing to pay big bucks to see these artists in concert.

    We need an analogous revenue stream to rock concerts for authors. What do you think? How can we make this happen?

    1. For writers, social mefia presence is analogous to concerts. Discussions in blogs, online conferences – readers asking questions, videopodcasts of dscussions between writers. And writers do have gigs anyway – touring presenting their books

      1. Yes, writers tour and live out of suitcases like musicians, but this in itself is hardly a revenue stream. Currently, it’s still about the sale of the book. And for this, many authors actually pay a lot of money out-of-pocket to promote their books.

        There are some authors who are popular enough, or have a niche expertise, to get paid for conference appearances. These appearance fees pale in comparison to concert tickets. In general, writers do not have an analogous revenue stream to rock concerts.

  82. You make really great points, Kristen. I can feel your frustration. It’s palpable. I can’t believe no one responded to you from NY. That just boggles the mind. They certainly can’t keep their heads in the sand forever, but it would seem they’re going to try.

    There are a lot of things I don’t like about this new digital publishing world and I’ve fought against it for a while (just as NY seems to be doing), but I’m coming to grips with the fact that it’s not changing (or rather, it is changing at a rapid rate every second – which is why it’s overwhelming to a person like me who is not web savvy and who doesn’t particularly enjoy all that goes into being an author in this new paradigm) but I’m trying to grow and change with the times because that is the ONLY thing I can do. I’m curious when NY is going to learn that lesson as well.

    I literally think all your ideas set forth here are brilliant and I’m sure I’m not going to say anything that hasn’t been said already in the last 112 comments, but I just wanted to thank you for putting this out there for all of us to think about and discuss.

    I also think Jason’s (the previous poster #112) ideas are amazing and I don’t have an answer to his rock concerts as it pertains to authors, but I think he’s spot on about everything he said. What are the answers? Selling novels that writers toiled over for years for .99 is definitely not one of them, in my opinion. It makes me so mad that this is what we have to contend with now. It diminishes, by leaps and bounds, the value of our work. Crikey.

  83. Kristin, this is a powerful post, and so much of what you say rings true for me. Over and over. I’ve seen ebooks coming for a while, and experienced it myself (I LOVE my Kindle and the ease at immediately downloading any book I want). I also love print books…but so much has turned digital and ebooks continue to expand. I agree that publishers should be producing their own ebooks. I love your model, where authors who sell a lot then get print books. It makes so much sense. (My first publisher hasn’t yet made any of our books into ebooks, which I find very frustrating.)

    That you see so clearly what’s coming and that you shared your knowledge and a way to help the publishing industry is admirable and so lovely of you–and so far-sighted (4 years before many people saw it). That no one responded…or took you up on it…it seems a little short-sighted (or perhaps fear-based–not wanting the publishing world to change). BUT I think it’s becoming more and more clear that ebooks are becoming incredibly popular…I wonder if the publishing world would listen to you now? Most publishers are at least releasing ebooks….

    Thank you for sharing your vision, your knowledge, and helping the rest of us.

  84. OMG. This was the best one yet. Just had a most wonderful ah-ha that is going to jump start my sales (or so I hope). Either way, this blog has me moving forward. Thanks!

  85. All I can say is, “Amen, Sister Kristen!”

  86. Kristen, can we just put you in charge? Great ideas, great article. 🙂

  87. Kristen, after publishing a few of my back list books (published in NY in the 90s) to Kindle, I bought your book We Are Not Alone, and no I recommend it to every writer who is struggling to publish and promote in this new world. You are brilliant and anyone who doesn’t listen to you is NOT. I’m still working my way through the book as I put up more books and get a couple of new ones published by E book publishers. This new world of publishing can be very good to writers if they’ll work it right. With two workshops on publishing to Kindle coming up, I am recommending WANA to everyone who attends. Thanks for sharing so much of your knowledge.

    1. Awww, thanks Velda. On Monday I am rewriting WANA to make it more up to date. It has been a valuable resource for a lot of writers and I am so grateful every day that I can serve my fellow writers in such a profound way.

  88. Sorry, Kirsten. A type it’s not no I recommend, but now. Sorry.

    • Brianna Soloski on February 16, 2012 at 11:56 am
    • Reply

    Awesome post. As a fledgling author, I am struggling with whether to go big six or self-publish. I live in Vegas and the state of culture here is pretty much nil. Bookstores are closing right and left, the culinary union is trying to ruin the entertainment industry, libraries went from being open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. seven days a week to being open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. seven days a week. That’s a pretty significant loss in a city where people work all kinds of crazy schedules. I am a huge supporter of Amazon – Jeff Bezos knows how to do business. I firmly believe that the future of books is going to be electronic. I am already seeing it. I have a Kindle and actually prefer to read books on there. I want to buy a Kindle Fire (I think). The revolution is electronic and will not be televised.

  89. Kristen – You have helped me so much. You have no idea. I touched briefly on it here: I’m making changes. I’ll be making more. Thank you for sharing your expertise with those of us struggling out here to grasp the Fun House that is social media/networking. Great post. I hope NY calls!

  90. Kristen,
    Your analysis is interesting, to the point, thoughtful, and scary. I bought your book, We Are Not Alone because I knew as a social media novice I needed it. While I’m targeting traditional and e-publishers, I know I’ll have to beef up my social media presence and maybe even go the indie route.
    Carolyn Rae Williamson

    1. I always wanted a traditional deal, too, but in light of some of these gross errors, I don’t know if I trust them to make good business decisions for me when they cannot even make sound decisions for the industry. I really hope they embrace some real changes or the future doesn’t look good. We might all be indie by default.

  91. Brilliant ideas! It makes so much sense to use ebooks as a proving ground for new authors. And how I would love to get POD books in my home town without paying a fortune for one. If Big 6 partnered with indie book stores by making them printing venues, everyone would win.

  92. As one of those “new authors,” the digital possibilities dazzle me. I don’t necessarily want to see my name on a shelf in a bookstore, but I do want my story to reach as many people who want to read it as possible. And if I have to strike out on my own with self-pub through Amazon, so be it!

  93. Awesome post. The Big 6 seem to be leaving room for a host of new age publishing gurus springing up, ones that combine self-publishing and self-marketing with printing, businesses that offer editing and other services for a free. With e-books, there’s less need for such large numbers to be printed, and seems like a good place for us newbies to hang out. And lots of these gurus care about helping authors be successful. Wasn’t that what publishing was supposed to be about????

  94. I feel ready to be innovative after this post Kristen. With you at the helm we shouldn’t be so scared of indie publishing and such-like. Even picture books are being e-published now. It’s all very tempting. Awesome post!

  95. I am thankful to have discovered your blog. What great insight you have in this matter. You definitely gained an enthusiastic follower here… and I’m buying both your books!


  96. I wish it weren’t so, but honestly? I think all of this is talking about closing the barn door after the horses are already out.

    For many publishers, at least, it’s frankly just too late. Why?

    1) B&N is circling the drain. It got a reprieve thanks to Borders going under first, but two straight years of losses coupled with over a year of stock value *lower* than their estimated real worth (i.e. they’re worth more dead – broken up and parted out – than alive) is bad news. Very soon, ebooks will be a high enough percentage of sales that most of their brick and mortar bookstores will no longer be able to function (they’re already, on average, unprofitable and have been for two years). And B&N’s website is across the board an inferior shopping experience compared to their primary competitor. If I was B&N, I’d be investing every cent I could into the best web developing talent available.

    2) Trad pub has already lost the battle of the ebook.
    Data: Amazon sells about 70% of ebooks in the US, give or take 5% or so. That makes their comparative sales charts more accurate than Bookscan is for print. A January survey of six top fiction genres showed that of the top 25 books in each genre, from 72% to 92% were self published. About half of the remainder were published by various small presses or Amazon publishing subsidiaries. Virtually the only books on those lists by major publishers came from Big Name writers: King, Koontz, Roberts, Martin, Patterson, etc.

    A survey done this month of one genre dove deeper, examining the top 200 books. Of those books, 152 were self published; 76%. The remaining 48 were split between small press, Amazon publishing, and NYC. But again – and notably – very nearly the only authors who made the top 200 from major “big 6” publishers were major, already known names. For newer and unknown writers, what that means is that someone just “browsing the stacks” in that genre on Amazon has to go down to page 17 or deeper to even see that their book is for sale.

    As Kristen pointed out so well, “Browsing Roulette” is not an option.

    3) Publishers are incredibly BAD at marketing to readers. They’ve built an enormous industry over the last few decades focused on selling to chain stores: B&N, Borders, Walmart, Target. They have glossy catalogs. Extremely expensive book fairs. They consider the important reviews ones in magazines nobody except chain store buyers read. All sorts of things focused on one thing and one thing alone: selling books to retail chains.

    But in a world where (shortly) almost all books (print and ebook) will be bought online, that’s sort of marketing is dead. It’s a waste of money. Amazon will take all their books. ALL of them. B& too. Kobo? Apple? Sony? Yup, for the ebooks. So the days of working hard to get chain bookstore buyers to fill the shelves are ending. As they end, that sort of marketing is becoming useless.

    Publishers were really good at that sort of marketing.

    They’re really BAD at marketing directly to readers. And they’re flailing as they try to figure out how to respond.

    Now, some publishers are doing an excellent job in the transition. Mostly smaller to mid sized presses, from what I’ve been seeing, but I think in two years or so we’ll see a few new major names that used to be smaller operations. How will publishers survive?

    1) Old benefits are dead.
    Physical bookstores are on their way out (not all, perhaps, but most). Distribution is no longer exclusive. Readers are proving they *prefer* self published books to trade published ones, proving the much vaunted “curation” publishers are supposed to offer is basically useless or even harmful on the open market. Editing is not expensive, covers are cheap, and ebook formatting is free, as is distribution to ebookstores. Most of the old benefits publishers offered are no longer useful for writers, or at least are no longer difficult to get elsewhere. But publishers continue to harp on those same old benefits as if they still mattered.

    2) Offer better value to writers.
    Well, yeah. They need to convince writers now that what they are offering is worth the percentage they’re taking. Right now, for most writers, it flat out isn’t. And the math is easy enough that writers are figuring that out. Writers are their suppliers; no writers, no product, no business.

    3) Give more, take less.
    That’s what value means. The distribution lock is gone. Now publishers will have to fight to acquire each new book. And that’s a good thing, for writers. Already, many publishers (mostly smaller ones) have boosted ebook royalties to 50% of net. Some have gone as high as 70% of net. Couple 50-70% of net with more added value, and you have a winning proposition.

    4) Market to your real customers.
    Readers are the customers now. Not bookstores. Online bookstores will take all your books, and stock them forever. Readers are the folks publishers need to convince, and quite obviously from the numbers they are not doing a good job there. Marketing needs to be redirected toward readers, fast. If a publisher can market effectively to readers, then they can offer writers an *exceptional* value. Ridan Press has had (far as I know) every single ebook they have released hit its genre top 25 list on Amazon. That’s *amazing*. No NYC publisher has that level of marketing success. Ridan is offering an outstanding value for the percentage they keep of profits. Major publishers need to get on board with this.

    Frankly, I’m not at all convinced most of the major publishers could do all this even if they had plenty of time. And they don’t have much time at all. All those writers who’ve bypassed these publishers and are now in those top 200 lists are the ones readers are seeing. The ones readers are buying. Some of them are going to become the new Kings, Roberts, and Pattersons. The new big names with large fan bases. Every day which goes by simply entrenches the new system more firmly, and sets all those new names more firmly in readers’ minds.

    For many publishers, it’s probably already too late to be able to produce enough change, quickly enough, to remain relevant. But it’s still possible, if folks get on the ball quickly enough. They’d have to move fast, though; not a trait NYC publishing is known for.

    1. Best…comment…EVER! NY, are you listening? Wake up!

    2. Love this comment! I agree completely! Well said!

  97. Part of the problem too seems to be that writers became an overlooked resource. We became simply cattle that would be herded this way or that until the day came when non-traditional marketing and distribution methods caught up with our ambitions and dreams and changed the playing field. When previously unpublished authors are suddenly selling thousands of e-books that should be enough to open the eyes of the publishers.
    Of everyone.
    THAT should have changed the game because it showed that the public still reads and will still take a chance on someone if their story, or pitch is compelling.

    You are completely right on in that being traditionally published by a publisher is something you should earn but in saying that they need to give others a chance to earn that spot. Sadly, the shelf life on books isn’t long anymore. With so many publishers chasing the newest trend and then hitting that trend until it’s been utterly drained of life it alienates the readers. They get just as bored as we do of seeing a hundred vampire books, or zombie books, or what have you.

    The publishers should have been leading the change. THEY should have contacted Apple to push for a simpler, better paradigm for putting books on portable devices. THEY should be working with App makers to create the best apps for books and should be encouraging their authors to get behind this movement completely.

    The money is still there, it just changed how it gets distributed. You won’t make a fortune on that big contract but by working to get the book into hands and on devices and will be a partner so that the book is consistently supported and pushed. The more it sells the better for everyone. And if it doesn’t sell the book isn’t suddenly pulled and dumped but is nurtured so that if the next book hits that last one is ready to be snatched up by the new fans.

    It breaks the heart to see how unwilling publishers are to change.
    How unwilling they are to embrace volume over per item price.
    Charging me ten dollars and up for a basic e-book does not make me NEED that book, it makes me want to wait for it to hit some manner of digital remainders bin.

    It’s good to read posts like yours because SOMEONE has to shake this industry into consciousness before it’s too late and it’s getting to be about that time.

    – chris arrr

  98. I’ve asked a lot about those ideas you stated before. Not 100% identical ideas, mind you, but paradigm-changing ones. You know, stuff along the lines of embracing ebooks, ereaders, and rewarding hard work instead of being nonsensical about all of this. The system is definitely sluggish at best as it is now, and it can be revitalized for the better, but I feel so frustrated with that thought because everyone’s either saying it’s all going to go to crap anyway or Amazon’s a monopoly and the real problem, etc.,etc. It just feels like everyone’s pointing the finger elsewhere instead of actually trying to improve or change the industry. Or is that just me?

    1. Nope. It isn’t just you and I am blogging more about this next Wednesday.

  99. Wow. What an incredible post. The ideas sound fantastic to me – but with NY listen? Maybe we should all send them a hundred e-mail a day until they do.

    1. That is an excellent idea. I hope they do. Amazon is okay, but I don’t know if I am ready for them to rule publishing.

  100. Kristin,
    Spot on. How can one not see it?
    Keep talking. Someone might just hear you.

  101. I love this insight and I agree with you on all except the indie bookstores. And here’s why. I can’t remember the last time I went into a bookstore. I don’t have time. And I used to be a devoted book reader and felt that I would be nostalgic toward holding an actual book. It wasn’t long after I got my Kindle that I realized there was no nostalgia.

    In fact, I prefer an e-book over a physical book every time EXCEPT for children’s books for my kids. Technology hasn’t quite gotten fully to that market yet – it’s certainly making strides but has a ways go go yet. If a book is not in ebook format, I won’t buy it. Because I can carry 100 books with me at all times in my iPhone but physical books I’m pretty much limited to one or two unless I’m carrying a suitcase. If I’m talking with someone about a book, I pull out my phone and look at my highlighted sections to share a quote or reference from the work. I can send an email with a link to purchase it for a friend so they don’t have to try and remember the title and search for it later.

    In ten years I’m not at all confident that bookstores will still exist as we know them now. The overhead is too high for that. In regards to selling the technology side, we have those in place. Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Apple stores and many others. I hope I’m wrong but ultimately, people like convenience over sentimentality or nostalgia. Would I rather spend an hour driving to a bookstore, browsing the shelves and walking out with nothing that interested me or spend ten minutes doing a few keyword searches, finding what I was looking for quickly, ordering it and then being able to spent the remaining 50 minutes either reading it or with my family and friends?

    Yes, NY absolutely has to wake up to reality but sadly, much like Wall Street and Big Banking, I don’t see that happening until it’s too late. They’re too convinced of their invincibility. A few might realize or reinvent themselves but not many.

    Great post as always Kristen!

    1. No actually you and I DO agree when it comes to indies. If they believe that just dealing books will insure survival, that is (in my POV) flawed thinking. They need to be more. Even Wal Mart does it. Heck, they have a nail salon at the front of the store! Businesses are hybridizing all around in order to draw people out of their homes. We have so many comforts and conveniences there isn’t a lot of impetus to make us come out of the cave. For instance, when I can get streaming video at home and pause the movie when I need to run to the bathroom and can eat all the food in my kitchen, the movie house has to up its game to lure me out of my home. The ones here in Texas have. They have full bars and restaurants and comfy leather plushy seats. If everyone else is having to up their game to survive, bookstores don’t get a pass because of nostalgia.

      1. Oh I see what you mean. Guess I got confused at the idea of the electronics. I think Starbucks has a somewhat interesting business model that could work for Indie bookstores but they’ve have to improve on it. Comfy seating areas for people to gather in threes and fours or larger, with a selection of quality foods and drinks (not just coffee cause not everyone likes coffee – *gasp* I know it’s blasphemy to coffee lovers but it is nonetheless true) as well as a dose of entertainment access. I love to gather with my friends but my apartment isn’t really the place for it as it’s too small. Indie bookstores could be a central gathering space for people and do a better job than cramped and noisy coffee shops. (As an aside, gas stations are going to soon have the same problem except in regards to gas.). Excellent post and thanks for responding!

  102. I couldn’t agree more on all counts.
    My husband has chronicled the comics industry going through these same changes – and watched one of his favorite stores decide NOT to jump on the digital bandwagon. Talk about shooting yourself in the face.

  103. Denver’s premier independent book store, The Tattered Cover, has the best strategy yet for “indie” survival in this digital age: In-store Print On Demand services.

    Physical books will become more of a “niche” market in the years to come. Wise owners of indie stores will take advantage of this fact. As convenient as buying and storing e-books is, if you really love a particular work, there’s no substitute for having it as a paper book.

    Notice their P.O.D. page lets you search for a hard-to-find title. If the title is in the database, the store can print it for you in minutes. Print-on-demand is the most convenient (and maybe the only) way to obtain certain out-of-print titles as paper books.

    And then there’s self-publishing. Print-on-demand allows indie stores to carry physical books from self-published authors. Those authors also benefit by having paper books available for book signings, family and friends (even if their “bread and butter” is e-book sales).

    Ironically, the N.Y. publishing industry published several excellent books about the implosion of the music industry, such as Steve Knopper’s “Appetite For Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age.”

    Too bad the Big Six didn’t read them…

    1. Nice, thanks for the wonderful comment and I will have to pick up that book.

      1. My local bookstore in Bellingham, WA (Village Books) also has an “Espresso” publishing machine so indie authors can POD. I think it is a great adaptation for a small indie bookstore. I do like your App idea for the independent stores. Staying alive and current is the name of the game.

  104. I wish more people understood what an exciting time this is for writers. Great article! Thanks!

  105. Kristen, I think you’re preaching to the choir here. They might realize it when it’s too late.

  106. True, of course. But one day there’ll be no one left who appreciates the fact that a printed book can be an art object in and of itself–that is, above and beyond the writing (and pictures, if any) and what the book is about. No one will ever discover a dusty “first edition” of an ebook like, say, Huckleberry Finn and have found a small treasure. And I say that as a technology junkie and a book designer who’s willingly setting up to produce ebooks. Just one who gets that there really is something the demise of which is really worth kicking and screaming about.

  107. “Hanging onto the print paradigm is like ordering another drink as the Titanic sinks.”

    I love that line. Because it’s true!

    Wow, what a great piece. I’m a new fan and will be back for more.

  108. I LOVE the idea of NY’s Big 6 having their own e-divisions, where if a new writer sells so many e-books they get offered a print deal, too! Are they not creatives, too?! How long will it take for social media to put the bug in their ears and take action?

  109. Great posts put please stop all the slash through words. It is very distracting and unpleasant to read.

  110. Great article and your points are so on! Nothing can replace the feel of books and magazines. I love the idea of picking up and actually reading and feeling and seeing the colors on the pages. It seems more real. Keep up the great work you are doing in pushing forward — we need more people like you!

    • Tom B on February 24, 2012 at 7:00 pm
    • Reply

    Kristen, a writer friend linked me to your website, and after reading “Bracing for Impact” I just wanted to log in with a few comments. Part of the problem is that when you couldn’t agree with a person more it’s hard to be critical!! But I’m in the scary position of being a writer in my 50s, never published, with a novel I’m putting the final touches on. My novel is about World War II fighter pilots in the SW Pacific, and I doubt the Big 6 would ever touch it. So my option is epublishing, and I want to know all about it! I’ve been keeping up with J. Konrath and B. Eisler and now I reckon I’ll have to keep up with you, too! Thanks for the blog and FYI, I’ve forwarded links to my writers group and writers I know.

    1. Wow, Tom. Thanks. I hope you will find a lot of useful stuff here. Eisler and Konrath have a ton of great information, but they can be limited in that neither of them is a true indie. They were both vetted by NY and had a large platform and name recognition and a LOT of published books under their belts when they went indie. The experience for a newbie with one or two books and no NY stamp of approval can be very different and really tough. But this is why I am here, and I look forward to helping you navigate these uncharted waters :D.

  111. Wonderful Blog Kirsten. So much content with useful links and advice for the aspiring writer.

    Best wishes.


  112. When I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four emails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove me from that service? Thanks!

    1. I have no idea how to do that and I am so sorry that is happening. Maybe someone will see this in the comments and tell me if it is possible. again, sorry.

    2. Josh – When you look at your e-mail for the comment, scroll down and find the link that says “Modify your subscription options.” Click that and it’ll take you to a page with a list of the posts that you follow the comments for. You’ll be able to delete this one and stop receiving e-mails. Hope that helps. 🙂

  113. “Whining is not a plan and complaining is not a strategy.” Excellent. I think I will always remember that one. Thanks.

    It’s right up there with “write what you love, not what you think other will love.”

  1. […] the must read post of the week by Kristen Lamb – Bracing for Impact: The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm. Anyone thinking about querying, considering Big Six vs. small press, or self-publishing needs to […]

  2. […] methods over another. I whole-heartedly agree with Kristin Lamb’s post today, and I recommend you check it out if you’re interested in current unstable publishing climate. The only thought I might add to her […]

  3. […] Kristen Lamb talks about Bracing for Impact – The Future of Big Publishing In the New Paradigm. […]

  4. […] Ms. Lamb is also a keen observer of changes roiling the publishing industry, and her latest post is worth a look by anyone with an interest in that world.  The post is called,  ”Bracing for Impact – The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm.”… […]

  5. […] yesterday my pal Kristen Lamb made a fantastic post about the new publishing paradigm offering suggestions to the Big 6 to keep them from….  It’s brilliant and spot […]

  6. […] reflects on how the industry has changed for the good and the bad, while Kristin Lamb talks about the future of big publishing in the new paradigm—will they get it together or crash and […]

  7. […] From Kristen Lamb: Bracing for Impact – The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm […]

  8. […] Kristen Lamb's Blog HomeAbout Kristen LambJoin the Love Revolution #MyWANAThe Pants of Shame « Bracing for Impact–The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm […]

  9. […] Bracing for Impact – The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm. A brilliant analysis of the shifting sands by Kristen Lamb. […]

  10. […] Kristen Lamb’s post over on her blog, Warrior Writers, talks about The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm–Bracing For Impact […]

  11. […] minds in indie publishing today exploring this subject. Amazon will Destroy You by J.A. Konrath. The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm by Kristen Lamb. Amazon is Creating Competition Not Killing It by David Gaughran. Readers Matter […]

  12. […] I really enjoy Kristen Lamb, I’ve already linked to her a few times. Her Thursday post is a great read Bracing for Impact-The Future of Big Publishing in the new paradigm […]

  13. […] Kristen Lamb beseeches the NYC’s Big 6 publishing companies to make a better game plan to avoid the demise that the music and film industries have gone through because they failed to plan to be a part of the digital age. She so wisely reminds us all that “history repeats itself because we fail to listen” and that “Whining is not a plan. Avoiding and complaining is not a strategy.” Good advice not just for the Big 6, but for everyone, don’t ya think? […]

  14. […] Publishing Social media guru Kristen Lamb actually answers the question what publishers should do to stay afloat in the changing world. […]

  15. […] Kristen Lamb: Bracing for Impact–The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  16. […] Check out Kristen Lamb’s post Bracing For Impact – The Future of Big Publishing in the N… […]

  17. […] Bracing for Impact – The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm – A well-constructed rant about big publishing’s mistakes over the past decade, which […]

  18. […] the publishing industry. Probably the best and most constructive I’ve come across was this post, Bracing for Impact–The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm by the amazing Kristen Lamb. The subject has probably been talked to death at this point, but I […]

  19. […] Kristen Lamb’s Blog is another voice the Big 6 will fail to heed. […]

  20. […] week, I picked on The Big Six in Bracing for Impact–The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm, so today we are going to talk about Amazon. There seem to be two camps when it comes to Amazon. […]

  21. […] Bracing for Impact – The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm ( Share some magic!MoreLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  22. […] Bracing for Impact – The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm ( Share some magic!MoreLike this:Like2 bloggers like this post. […]

  23. […] Lamb writes a great post about the new publishing paradigm. She too loves New York and doesn’t want Amazon to swallow everything. No one is saying that […]

  24. […] Kristen Lamb has two recent posts well worth checking out: Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts and Bracing for Impact — The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm […]

  25. […] Lamb recently wrote a very succinct article about publishing and the changes which are necessary for publishers to survive in the new digital age. An article […]

  26. […] my blog Bracing for Impact–The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm I said there was really no reason that the Big Six couldn’t sell directly to the consumer […]

  27. […] Lamb recently wrote a very succinct article about publishing and the changes which are necessary for publishers to survive in the new digital age. An article […]

  28. […] missed you. Before we address today’s topic, some industry news. Months ago, I wrote a post Bracing for Impact–The Future of the New Publishing Paradigm where we talked about the problems with the publishing industry and I even offered some solutions […]

  29. Visitor recommendations…

    […]one of our visitors recently recommended the following website[…]……

  30. […] Lamb writes a great post about the new publishing paradigm. She too loves New York and doesn’t want Amazon to swallow everything. No one is saying that […]

  31. […] further analysis about the problems traditional publishing is facing, read Bracing for Impact—The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm and An Industry on the Brink—5 Mistakes that are KILLING Traditional […]

I LOVE hearing your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.