Wednesday’s post, Big Six Publishing is Dead made me sad to write. Yes, I am an indie author, but I never have held any malice for New York publishing. I’ve liberally offered ideas, suggestions and help. Still do. I think competition in the market is good for everyone. Yet, the current situation does make me wonder. What went wrong? Why didn’t New York act quickly enough? They saw what happened to music. They saw what happened to Kodak. How could they fall victim to the same problem when they had so much warning?
Actually, it is simple. They were a victim of pride and fear. Why am I writing about this today? Not to beat a dead paradigm, but I think we all can take a huge lesson from this in our own lives. History repeats itself only when we fail to listen.
The same thing that happened to NY publishing can happen to you. It can happen to me. Every day we must really challenge ourselves and be unafraid to ask the hard questions.
Beware of the Defense
I can debate with the best of them. I used to be like trying to have an argument with an attorney. For many years I excelled at being “right.” But I didn’t grow. I didn’t learn. I was a lousy leader and had very few friends.
Oh, but I was “right.”
What I’ve learned through years of hard work and failure and criticism is that being “right” is highly overrated. These days, the second I hear myself defending my position…I know I am wrong. When we have to explain and defend, that is a HUGE sign of trouble. We are all wise to listen for this. Will save a lot of headache.
When NY started having to defend the paper-based paradigm, that was a red flag. So why didn’t they see the red flag? Why is it still SO important to be right?
People will always want paper.
Target Fixation Trouble
What we believe is true is not always true. It takes humility to ask others their opinion because we risk not being seen as “smart.” Pride leads us into believing we know everything.
Years ago, I was in paper sales (a tad bit of irony here). I recall being in a corporate meeting and they were putting together the core marketing plan for 2000. They were going to get the customers lower prices.
I was the only female in the room and about 20 years younger than most of the attendees. They were all older men who’d been in the paper business for decades. I was afraid, but I raised my hand and asked:
“Is this what the customer wants?”
“Of course everyone wants lower prices!”
“Um, well, uh, no Sir. Not always. There are other factors we might be overlooking, like lead-times, customer service, quality, etc.”
So I challenged them to table the marketing plan for two weeks. I would write a survey, and, if all the customers wanted lower prices, then at least we would know “lower prices” was where we needed to be putting our efforts.
Turns out price was rated #4 on the list of what customers felt was important. #1 Lead-Time. They wanted their product as fast as humanly possible.
See, the people who ran my company just assumed they knew what the customer wanted. They never bothered asking and it cost them dearly. Even though the customers almost unilaterally said they wanted faster lead times, my bosses would not approve a second production line that I proposed, and it would have only cost a few thousand dollars. They refused to rent a warehouse in Houston (my other idea) where we could have stored the most popular products and it would have given us the ability to have same-day service.
I even suggested that we get away from filling out orders by hand. Do it on a computer. We could digitize the catalogue to make ordering faster. If we used computers for ordering, it would have synced beautifully with the new SAP system that our customers were integrating.
Nope. Fill out the order sheet by hand. Make everything slooooooooww.
And they lost millions in business. I watched my territory hemorrhage customers. I feel it is part of why my health finally suffered to the point that I had to resign.
Granted the company beating our tails was actually cheaper, but time and time again customers told me they wanted to stay with us. They liked us and had done business with us for years. They preferred our quality. But, time and time again they needed our product FAST and we couldn’t get there. Eventually the customers preferred a less-than-stellar product NOW over a better product in a week.
My company never understood that. They had target fixation…price. It kept them from being innovative.
NY believes it can charge the same price for an e-book as for a hard cover and that people will pay it because of stellar quality. Yet, I might suggest learning from my paper parable. Sometimes a customer will take less quality NOW and CHEAPER over later and better quality. (And, the indies and self-pubs are closing in on having as good of quality if not better).
Can’t See the Stories for the Books
NY has had target fixation–protect the paper book–and it has hindered creativity and innovation. Instead of leading the charge into the Digital Renaissance, they’ve been protecting the Dark Ages with agency pricing and grabbing of author backlists. They were so focused on paper, they failed to see they were in the story and information business…no matter what medium.
New York is suffering from what I call “intellectual inbreeding.” This isn’t an insult. All of us will suffer this and we must take action to bring in outsiders and fresh perspectives in order to keep this syndrome at bay.
When people spend too much time together, they begin to think alike. At first this is really wonderful because it is easier to work as a team and there is a surge in creativity. But, after a while, the creativity begins to taper off. As a group, it is easier to get tunnel-vision and target-fixation.
The Trouble with Being an “Expert”
Experts run into this problem a lot. It is why we need to be willing to ask potentially embarrassing questions. It’s why, ironically and quite paradoxically we need to admit we don’t know everything.
Hey, we’re experts not omnipotent.
We need to be willing to leave the safe shores of our expertise. It is why, at the end of every post I ask for reader opinions. Alone, I can’t know everything. With your help? I can get pretty close, :D.
My opinion? New York thinks too much alike. They have too many “experts.” Publishing is centered in New York and has been for over a century. Everyone knows everyone and they all work closely together. It is why we writers must always be kind and respectful (aside from it being the right thing to do). Why? Because that agent we blast in an e-mail because she rejected us might one day be the editor at the house of our dreams. NY publishing is a close-knit community, to say the least.
Which is why it is at a disadvantage.
It isn’t that the folks in New York aren’t brilliant, wonderful people, but their very environment leads to group think. It is easy to become more interested in defending what is, than to think of what could be. I can appreciate the conundrum. How would I feel if I had to envision a world where my colleagues would be out of a job?
The Future is Ours to Shape
Yet, the sad part is they didn’t have to be out of a job. When we are brave enough to face the future, even the scary parts, we can make a plan. We have more power when we face fear and kick it out of the driver’s seat.
The folks in New York could have been retooling personnel. Teach them how to format and be the best dang digital formatters in the business. If e-books were in the future, then by gum, NY would lead the charge.
But they didn’t and I don’t know how steep the consequences will be. They started making fear-based decisions, which never work out well. They may be making some changes now, but the problem is those changes are three years too late.
Many of those in New York are feeling the way many Americans are feeling. In the factory model, we are replaceable, usually by machines or people in other countries willing to worker harder, longer and for less pay. This why it is SO critical now of all times to be proactive, innovative, creative and remarkable.
Top-down decision-making is a dead paradigm. Regular people have a hand in shaping our future.
Creativity Needs Fresh Blood and Brutal Honesty
Creativity and innovation are easier when we bring in those with a fresh perspective who have nothing to lose by offering us honesty. I feel New York can’t see the forest for the trees, and they have underestimated the intelligence of “outsiders.” Has happened to me on Twitter quite a few times. I’m not in NY so I don’t understand. *shrugs* Okay.
I think that publishing could benefit greatly by giving their toughest problems to outsiders. Eli Lilly did it with InnoCentive. Heck, I do it with the WANAs. Some of the best solutions come from everyday people. Sometimes us “experts” get a little blinded by our “expertness.”
It is a remarkable time we live in. We are in the Digital Renaissance. But as the world grows more and more complex, so do the problems. It is taking more than one mind to solve the present problems. All the low-hanging fruit is gone and we need to reach higher. Even writers. We can take a lesson. We need each other.
The 20th century was the Age of the Individual. The Digital Age is the Age of the Collective. We must form teams and work together or we are toast. We are in a global economy with global problems, so we need global solutions. We need each other. We need to be more creative than ever in human history. To do this, we have to be humble enough to admit we don’t know everything and open to outside help.
As this world changes and grows and presents challenges never seen, we have to remember We Are Not Alone. Even you, New York.
So what do you guys think? I think the Big Six is dead, but Madonna, Britney Spears and Robert Downey Jr prove resurrection is possible. Industries have been known to reinvent and come back stronger. Do you think this is possible? Or is it too far gone?
What about your own lives? How do you keep creativity and innovation fresh? Have you been the victim of your own tunnel-vision and need to be right? What are your thoughts?
I LOVE hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of May, 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 May I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
Winner of last week 5 page critique–Mona Karel. Please send your 1250 word Word document to author kristen dot lamb at g mail dot com.
Winner of 15 page critique for April is Heidi Thomas. Please send your 3250 word Word document to the same e-mail.
***IMPORTANT MESSAGE–For those who have not gotten back pages. My web site fiasco has been responsible for eating a lot of e-mails. Additionally I get about 400 e-mails a day and the spam folder has a healthy appetite too. It is hard to tell since some people never claim their prize, but I could have very well just not seen your entry. Feel free to e-mail it again and just put CONTEST WINNER in the header so I can spot you easily. (especially if your message is kidnapped by the spam filter).
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 . 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.
I live and work in NY, as do all the book industry people I know and work with. No question there’s groupthink and tunnel vision, but when people are fearful, as you’ve seen, they eschew risk. Newspapers went down the tubes and are still sliding in that direction when they refuse to re-think how to present material in a way that’s now more relevant.
The problem for authors remains — go with the dinosaurs (who still have, for the moment, a lock on street cred and distribution of our material) or spend your life marketing, selling and growing your social media networks while you indie publish.
Except those of us going the Jurassic route are still having to do everything BUT distribute our work. I see little light at the end of this tunnel.
Yes, it is a tough problem. When everyone is special then no one is. We all knew self-publishing would present new problems of discoverability. That is a problem for every modern product. People are so blitzed with ads that advertising is less and less effective. It’s white noise.
My solution has been to help writers form tribes. Work together. All of us is stronger than one of us. Our product is not so cost-prohibitive that consumers won’t buy more than one. The WANAs work as a team so the lone writer doesn’t have to do all her own social media. She has help.
Also blogging in ways that reach readers. Talking about writing and publishing all the time is fine if that is your demographic, but most Americans aren’t in the publishing business. Start blogging in ways that connect to outsiders. Connect and make them insiders.
It isn’t easy, but it is doable. This business has always been a ton of hard work, only these days we only have to leave the game when we give up. Perseverance eventually will penetrate a market so long as the product is good. This is why I’ve dedicated four years to teaching writers how to do social media in ways that also allowed time to write books. It’s why I instructed writers to build platforms BEFORE the book was finished. Now we have writers trying to pull a social platform out of the ether and it just doesn’t work that way.
I actually have some exciting announcements next week that might make you a bit more optimistic :D.
Wow! What a perfect follow up post. It is tough watching New York doing the denial dance, especially when you think about how many other careers are going to be effected by this, all the agents, editors, art directors, etc. I recall listening to an agent speak at Thrillerfest back in 2008 saying the digital revolution is an existential crisis for everyone. Publishers have to ask, “what is publishing” agents had to ask “what will happen to my business model in the midst of all this change” and writers had to ask, “I’m a storyteller, what is more important, the stories I tell or the delivery system I use to get them to my readers.” And it’s fascinating to see who really took the time to sit down and answer the questions. And I have to say I suffer from the “but I’m right” all the time, I went through a bunch of that with my mother as her Parkinson’s got worse, and I had to just let it go, and let her think she was right so we wouldn’t keep tearing each others hair out. Thanks so much Kristen for another insightful post.
Kristen, this is one of the best posts you’ve put up in awhile. I remember when I was extremely young and naive and about to embark on a career as the most brilliant theoretical physicist of all time (watch out, Albert!) I sat at a table with two older physicists. One of them had, as a young man, worked in the Manhattan Project. They asked me, “So, young man, what do you see as your research career?” Being, as noted above, both young and naive and arrogantly assured of my own brilliance, I told the truth: I was interested in faster-than-light travel. Guess you can imagine the laugh I got. My point is this: I said to myself, you guys might be right, but what your attitude means to research is that NO ONE IS EVEN LOOKING, and you don’t actually know for a God-given fact that you’re right. You can still start an argument on this one (was Einstein right?) but my point deals with institutional mind-set and the way it governs the very questions you ask. The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask, and the reason why you don’t ask is irrelevant.
One of the things I liked about the character of Captain Picard in STNG was that when things got a little too sticky he’d lean back and ask for suggestions from his subordinates. Hey, come on — nobody got on the USS Enterprise without having SOMETHING on the ball, right? USE that expertise rather than ignore it and get everyone killed because you were too damned prideful, arrogant, stupid, pick-your-favorite-negative, to ask! (Which also relates to your well-made point about teamwork.)
The really funny thing (in the sense of sad and ironic) about the story you relate concerning the publisher you worked for is that I distinctly remember something I learned in the only marketing course I ever took. It was literally Marketing 101. Sometimes, if I remember the lesson correctly, defining the service or product you provide is a matter of defining it broadly enough to insure flexibility in the marketplace. So here’s the other thing: never forget the basics! That’s why they’re basic!!
It might be simpler for us, as writers, to learn this. We’re just doing what we’ve always done — tell stories. I think that sooner or later as writers, especially in the digital age, we’ll find a way to reach an audience. But maybe if one thinks of that whole concept of a “New York scene” as a culture — as you say, a close-knit community — a way of life, even (although as a “way of life” it sort of reminds me of Ursula K. LeGuin’s short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”) — then it’s easier to understand why they don’t change. What will the Arabs do when the oil runs out, or someone comes up with a cheaper, cleaner, more efficient means of energy production?
To sum up, again, you’ve put up a good post with key concepts! Excellent work!
Thanks Tom! I always love your thoughtful comments. Hey, I have tried being omniscient and I SUCK at it. It is far easier to listen and pay attention and ask others. I wake up every day and marvel at the brilliance all around me. I feel when you learn to really LOVE people and listen to them you cannot help by be amazed every day. Life is so much more fun for me now that I don’t have to know everything, LOL.
Good post. Many in NYC share this view, BTW.
New York publishing is much like the paper company you used to work for: slow. Under the old model, slow worked, at least to a degree. The process of producing a book was seen as ponderous and complicated. In today’s world though, that is not the case. Books can be published nearly as fast as writers can produce them. Speed was one of the major factors to the success of newcomers like Hocking and Locke, in my opinion. Readers can always consume books much faster than writers can make them of course, but these two, along with others in the new Indie landscape, produced fast — half a dozen or more books a year — which pleased their fans and made them crave even more.
Many of the big boys are stuck on the quality of the product they produce. Yet, why can’t they take a different approach and produce more? If I were CEO of one of those companies, I’d be putting as many authors under contract as I could, reverse the production model and produce ebooks first, then, if the author is successful, move to paper. The problem with this scenario lies in the bloat that exists within their companies. Too much work is being performed by bottom rung employees to fund the big salaries of the few at the top. Just my opinion, of course, but that pattern has shown up in business throughout history.
Great post. The group think is the real killer. I’ve been beating my head against the NY wall for a couple of years, telling them they need to bring in the people who are actually succeeding selling eBooks– indie authors– for their expertise. It’s like asking dolphins to swim with sharks.
Tor announcing it was dropping DRM a week or so ago was greeted like some great advancement by the industry. I yawned. We NEVER used DRM to being with. I consistently see NY announcing “innovations” that are at best a year behind– which is an infinity in the digital era. And they’re still debating DRM as if it’s important.
I had two conference calls with Amazon this past week and have one with Audible next week. I can tell you those calls go much differently than my calls (if ever answered) went with NY.
We learned in Special Operations to changer quickly and try to actually be ahead of needing to change. To act rather than react. We’d ask for advice and input from anyone and anywhere. Most importantly we’d seek out people who had actually DONE whatever it was we wanted to do. Publishers seem to think they can learn how to do something without actually even doing it or asking those who’ve done it for help.
All the while I was reading your fine post, I was reminded of a conversation between Deepak Chopra and Oprah. Not unpredictably, Oprah’s final question to him was, “What do you know for sure?” Quite predictably, his answer was, “Nothing.”
The moment is all we ever have, and it will take us to the next moment, as your post so beautifully demonstrates.
To add insult to injury, many supply houses (electric parts, hardward, etc) insist on sending out mass quantities of their catalogs, even though almost all sales are done electronically, using the web presence. Companies end up recycling the catalogs, UNOPENED because these supply houses can’t move into the 20th, much less the 21st century.
And-WOW, THANKS for the contest win. I’ll be sending off as soon as I get something ready
Your old company sounds a lot like Dunder Mifflin. I think the reasons for NY’s slowness to react are two-fold: first, sales figures show the industry is still making money. It’s not like the domestic auto industry, which a few years ago was bleeding money. Secondly change for the publishing industry is like turning around a massive ship. The economics are so tied to print and distribution that the thought of tearing down that infrastructure will entail massive dislocation. I would love to see a brave publisher put up a killer online site like Amazon, offer deep discounts on the work of mid-list authors and special genre related promotions (Romance Week, Mother’s Day specials). The first one that does that is going to clean up. Thanks, Kristen, for this thought provoking post.
Wonderful post and I fully agree with your assessment of the current situation. I don’t see the place and profitability/viability for jobs in publishing in the future as clearly, but the future will have to show.
I’m a writer but also a proofreader and copywriter (and sometime-typesetter), so I’ve been on both sides of the desk on this. I’ve also owned a Kindle since the first models cost nearly $400 (and I’m almost NEVER an early adopter of anything because I’m also CHEAP). THANK YOU for this post. Although I love collecting print books (especially ones with my name on them), I greatly prefer reading on my Kindle. Once the glut of poorly proofed and edited writer-wannabes settle to the bottom of the barrel (which I hope happens soon), I see these shifts toward indie work to be an amazing opportunity for so many writers who have struggled with the painfully long lead times and response times of agents and publishers. I’m self-pubbing my humor essay books … and although I never thought I’d say this even two years ago, I think it’s time to give up on traditional publishing for my novels too. I have the prepress skills to get a manuscript ready for e-pubbing and feel I’m missing the boat the longer I wait. GREAT POST, Kristen, as usual!
There’s a marvelous New Yorker cartoon on this subject. Here’s the link http://www.newyorker.com/humor/issuecartoons/2012/05/07/cartoons_20120430#slide=2 Two medieval guys looking at a book. Caption “It’s nice, but as long as there are readers, there will be scrolls.”
I think the big publishing industry will recover, the question is when. These companies haven’t been around for decades without being able to adapt and change, however slowly; and they have big corporations propping them up. Chances are, some will disappear, and more will be sold, spun off, or absorbed into others before the dust settles. Aside from the unwillingness of many involved to brush aside long-held paradigms, they also have to contend with long-term contracts with landlords, printers, and others involved in pbook distribution. Then there’s the horrendously inefficient business model of consignment sales and returns. Chances are, much of the change will indeed come when the parent companies see that profits are going to depend on changes in business philosophy, and will force outsiders into key positions in the publishing companies.
Hopefully, the booksellers will get on board too, before the remaining big one goes the route of Borders…
Reblogged this on Il Borgataro english version.
Change is scary, but also exciting. Thanks to the ease of accessibility via the internet and our various electronic devices, we live in a world of ‘now’ and ‘instant’. We don’t want to wait months for something we can have in seconds. Why write a letter abroad to family when you can call them, or even better, Skype and talk face to face as if you’re in the same room? Why search through a library for a journal article when you can whisk through online? Why trawl through encyclopaedias when google can answer any question?
And as you’ve said, this ‘need for speed’ has already happened with music (download in seconds rather than waiting in endless queues) and photo (waiting for films to be developed as print when we can have instant digital photos to be distributed online). All forms of entertainment media have had to adapt to this demand for ‘instant’- now we can watch our favourite TV shows online or stream films, rather than recording to video/ DVD or renting out. Even video games can be downloaded instantly, instead of buying hard copies. Books are no different, particularly as reading tends to be further down the list of ‘things to do’ that the more visual media, so they need to be able to compete more than ever.
Being able to read books on smartphones, iPads, other tablets, e-readers etc has brought literature to our fingertips in a way never before seen, and we need to embrace and adapt to the change. Simply saying that ‘reading on an ereader is not the same as a book’ is not good enough. Of course there will be purists fighting for this corner, but they are not making up the majority of the market. Ebooks are thriving, and can reach a much wider audience than ever before.
Darwin might have talked about ‘survival of the fittest’. I see it more as survival of those who adapt. The Big Six will have to think long and hard about their future choices, but as you say, it might already be too late.
Great post! 🙂
Intriguing post. I believe there’s always hope for ressurection, just not in the same form as before.
I’m still a bit confused as to how all of this affects us as authors. I’m also curious about how the changes affect smaller publishing houses and agents. Perhaps I have some post re-reading to do…
Well, we as writers have to look at what is happening in our industry and plan accordingly. It is all the more reason to understand social media and to build a platform. It can only help if the Big Six pull out of the tailspin but if they crash? That platform could mean life or death. It means authors have more options and NY is not necessarily the best one.
It is easy to say “A good book is all that matters” but is that the reality of things? When bookstores are disappearing left and right where will readers meet us if not on-line?
“It is easy to become more interested in defending what is, than to think of what could be.”
Brilliant Kristen! LOVE this!
The only problem is, if you think of what could be, you may not be right. 🙂
It’s great to find you here, Kristen. I’ve been advancing slowly and painfully along the path from authorship through publishing inventions through self-promotion, and it’s been quite a learning experience. Quick summary: 1) wrote book; 2) got rejected in print industry; 3) played with stories in book; 4) invented software that changed writing style; 5) copyrighted / patented the whole mess; 6) started promoting from Second Life by building story settings there; 7) went to conferences with the technology and stories; 8) wrote a converter to get stories into epub form; 9) got the Second Life site into college art shows where visitors saw the book components; 10) started marketing the patents; 11) watched the whole publishing game morph a dozen times; 12) got ignored at genre conventions; 13) got nibbles from various places; 14) kept on going.
All this has taken place from 1993 to the present, with the inventions in technology starting in the early 2000s. This doesn’t cover the regular e-pub of a number of my stories, nor does it touch on other patent work I do, nor does it get into the art side of designing covers and exhibits, which I also do. Bottom line: no one knows what the hell is going to come of it all. Every expert I’ve listened to has turned up wrong enough for me to go look for another expert. And I’m no expert either. Also bottom line: I’m not making money in all this, just like most others. But I’m having a lot of fun. Seeing your post and getting your writer’s guide just give me more hope that I’m in the best of company.
Want a quick dip in my work? Try this: http://www.danapaxsonstudio.com/DR%20Latest/Website/RandomPlunge.htm
Great post – and it’s true about EVERYTHING, not just publishing.
You need to have people around you who are different from you – different backgrounds, different passions, different think. But that’s not comfortable. Did you see the John Cleese video on creativity? He talks about being creative in terms of being able to sit longer with a problem, to be okay with the discomfort of not knowing the answer. Einstein said much the same thing. But because it all is so uncomfortable, people don’t do it.
The trick, I guess, is to train yourself to be okay with it, and to surround yourself with people who think along different creative lines than you do. But while each of us could do that individually, trying to get a corporation or an industry to be willing to be that uncomfortable – I don’t believe it can happen. Can enough of us do it that it becomes the norm? I don’t know.
At large gatherings, eat with people you’ve never met before. It’s a great way to learn more, especially when you don’t agree with them.
This is true. Maybe that’s why college is such a creative time – I know my freshman year I was constantly eating with new people. It’s just hard to model in daily life. Too bad dinner parties (at least in my life) have gone the way of the dodo.
My friend organizes a new “mastermind” group every year, with a dozen people with diverse backgrounds. The idea is to create a support system filled with new ideas and differing perspectives. I was lucky enough to be in the group one year and it was interesting. You very clearly got out of it what you put into it. Some of the relationships were forced and others were very fruitful and the best moments weren’t necessarily with the people I would have expected to hit it off with. (And then there was the guy who – when my *mother died* – made it all about him. I admit it, there’s a limit to my openness. Clearly it still bugs me a year later – and I have weirdly completely forgotten his name. Talk about not being able to sit with the discomfort!)
Nice work and thanks for the blogs.
I’ve just read both articles, the Bix Six one and this. You know, I thought about the time BEFORE paper books. When history, traditions and stories were handed down verbally from generation to generation. The first books were painstakingly handwritten, only available to the very rich. I’ll bet someone, somewhere, once said “Books? They’ll never catch on”. The internet was never going to allow people to communicate real-time. I agree, you would think the publishers would have learnt from the musi industry and the camera industry – and the internet. Who buys a newspaper anymore? And how many on-line papers are now charging to read their content? Why? Because newspaper sales have dropped. Why battle with a broadsheet on the train when you can read it on your iPad?
You are so right!
I’m a firm believer in never say never but also believe you gotta call a spade a spade…and the TradiPubs are the spades who may “get” it but refuse to do anything constructive about it!
Before I became a Bestselling Indie Epub Author, I worked for one of the Big Six’s Returns Centers! One basic fact will help y’all understand what’s going on here…pubs make more money shredding returned books that are then made into toilet paper than they do loading those books on trucks to get back into a store!
And once you understand the returns business, you’d know the TradiPubs were doomed to bite the big one!
Terrific post. Very helpful as a newbie writer and self-publisher. As a matter of fact, I just downloaded your We’re Not Alone Writers Guide and as soon as my Kindle recharges, I am all over it. I am so glad you came on my radar this morning. I have been marketing our first book traditionally [collaborative effort with my photographer husband and my design and prose], knowing Social Media was to be my third prong, even though I knew I still had a lot to learn about this venue. And the publishing biz overall. Since finding you, I feel I now have a reliable source. Woo-hoo…let the fun begin!
Thank you Kristen…but now I’m really depressed. I have a Children’s rhyming story that audiences love (children and adults alike). It needs illustration and could be either paper or e-book…I can see it working in both formats …. Self-publishing is simply beyond my pocket book..
A friend who is an editor and published writer feels that I should be trying to find an agent and my focus has been New York even though I live in Canada… Any suggestions would be great….
I just purchased both of your books and look forward to reading them….
Wendie at blueheronwrites.wordpress.com
Some people would rather be right than happy (or have a business!). Have you seen The Business Rusch this week? Her website is under attack, so it was reposted by Sara Hoyt:
I publish with a small press and have since the beginning, though I did the NY submissions dance sometime ago. In the end, I decided I wanted the flexibility that working with a small press offered me as a small business. Yeah, its tough, but I’m writing what I want to write and I have a great partner in L&L Dreamspell. It’s not for everyone (and I think that could be another blog for you – we aren’t all alike, so why would/should we all make same choices?) but it works for me.
thanks for more words of wisdom and encouragement. We all need them down here in the trenches (wry grin here)
400 emails a day? Yikes! Sounds like you could use a full-time secretary!
You have a lot of insights. Too bad folks won’t listen like they should. Thanks again for the great advice.
Kristen, I thought of you when I came across this blog post http://www.idealog.com/blog/random-house-maintaining-a-big-field-force-while-the-industry-wisdom-is-to-cut There is something to be said–sometimes–for zigging while everyone else is zagging.
I’m not convinced that NY publishing is behind on things. They may simply be concentrating their efforts on what they do best, preferring not to compete with the techies who certainly bring their own brand of genius to the table. But–it’s not the only brand of genius.
There is an outspoken breed of reader that feels that if every Big 6 release was flushed down the toilet, we’d all be fine with what’s coming from the indies. But there’s another breed that feels the content coming from the Big 6 is worth paying a premium for. I’m not sure the music/film analogies hold–for reasons I said in the comments on your other post–and although it looks now as if digital content will be a big, sweeping tidal wave, there are other ways to envision the future, which demonstrates the value of content from both camps.
I was right with you (and overall I am there with you) until you wrote that this century is the age of the collective. I respectfully disagree. From a philosophical standpoint, the 20th Century was the age of collectivism (see, e.g., World Wars I and II). When dictatorships placed the welfare of the collective above that of the individual, the concept of individual rights was sacrificed and in the end, all individuals suffered.
From a pragmatic standpoint, yes, we need to work together, but for me, this is fueled by rational self-interest. I work with others because it benefits me. Like other humans, I am a social being, but it is important that I work with the right people. And so I choose to work with people who make me a better writer and person (yes, I have a phenomenal writing partner). But never do I lose ME when I work with others. In order to write, I must find my own voice, my own path, and define my own reality. As we all must.
So perhaps the 21st Century will be the age of empowerment. Individuals will work with other individuals for their own betterment without sacrificing their own interests or the interests of others. And in finding common causes, like the one you’re leading, we truly will not be alone.
LOL. I am far from a communist, ha ha ha. I mean in respect to authors. In the old paradigm it was up to us to write a good book a better book and hope for the best. Hope the planets aligned in just the right way to spark word of mouth. It was an age of the individual writer. Succeed alone, fail alone.
Many authors bring this old paradigm thinking to social media, which is why it so quickly overwhelms them and they throw up their hands and just resort to spamming folks and hoping for the best.
In the old paradigm there was no way to form a team. These days? We can connect instantly and globally. The same collective power that can overthrow regimes can help an author’s platform…but she can’t try to do this alone.
Unless we happen to be savvy salespeople with 20+ years in high-pressure sales like Locke or come from an Internet marketing tech background like H.P. Mallory, the odds are stacked against us trying to do everything alone.
One of us is not as smart as all of us. And I feel the BEST teams are a fine balance of the individual with the collective of the team. Too far either direction is a formula for powerless tunnel-vision.
Kristen I loved this post and included it on a list of great posts about listening. Also, you have been tagged. I don’t know if you have time to play but either way, have fun.
Kristen I get bogged down every time I work too long without a break. I like to think that I’m very good at resting. But truth be known, even on my day off I’m uber-productive. I can’t stop. However every now and then I’m lucky enough to have a friend stop me in my unstoppable tracks, and say ‘Hey I haven’t seen you in ages let’s catch up’. Then, despite my need to keep marching, I do stop and suddenly it’s as if I’ve entered another page of my own story. This very thing happened yesterday. Today I woke up completely refreshed, rejuvenated, rejigged, and rearing to go. A proper rest (actually not ‘doing’ anything) is a rare tonic!
Great blog on e-books and the future. I do believe NY is truly a little too far behind. The techy world is here and we all need to get on the bandwagon. Keep writing. ENjoy all your blogs.
Another great post, Kristin. You have a knack for getting to the heart of the matter. In this case, the customer is always right. The e- reader explosion says it all. I don’t believe the Big Six are dead at all. To some degree, they’ve been blind-sided, but they’ve been working hard to figure out the new rules and add some of their own. Again, the readers and writers have spoken. I love all this new energy.
Once again Kristen, you are on the mark. Every day in the writing world is now a new, interesting one. It is great when writers can look out what to do with their own work. Posting the link on my blog, I am an Author I Must Auth.
As usual, Kristen, you are right “on target.” Another example of the dead living again is radio. I can recall the “death” of radio being anticipated when TV began to grow. Instead of competing with television, stations found their individual “niche” and formatted for a specific target audience. Radio is thriving today.
I’m one of those who still holds on to his ‘dinosaur’ beliefs, largely because I write children’s books, picture books in particular, and I like to believe that children ALWAYS will want to turn paper pages as their parents and grandparents read to them. Not so! Today’s kids are already playing with smart phones and iPads almost before they can walk! It isn’t hard to look ahead and see the next generation of children’s books being produced primarily in e-book form.
So, thanks for leading the discussion about change. Change is inevitable. How many dinosaurs do you see in zoos?
The term I use for ‘intellectual inbreeding’ is ‘incestuous amplification’. Because in my mind the relationships in a company or field become incestuous and it amplifies the problems. Like genetics fresh stock is needed or the breed goes extinct.
I agree that collective work is going to be what is required for success in the future. I wonder how much human nature and our culture will allow that though. Humans form into troops like any ape and do what the alphas tell them to do. Even if it’s a bad idea.
On the flip side our culture encourages individualism, often to a pathological level. This makes it difficult for people to collaborate.
Thank you for this, romanticheretic1. Comparing ideas and companies actually works. Communism is a pretty dead idea. Humans will fall into troops. American culture IS the most individualistic culture. It is a bit dated, but parts are still apt. It was written by Monty Python member John Cleese, with his therapist, Dr. Robin Skynner. They talked about the United States at one point, and its individualism. Some of that individualism made sense once, but there needs to be some sort of balance. I’ve read geneticists have also isolated genes, they call wandering and entrepreneurial. The United States has those genes in spades, LOL!
“Intellectual inbreeding” – I think this is a huge problem in particular, but it can also happen with self-pubbers and indie presses thinking they’ve got THE solution for everyone. When I hear someone say “you must,” I question it. However, tell me why you think something is so great, and I might be convinced. Hey, that’s why I started blogging; some blond-headed lady at a writers’ conference said it was a fabulous idea and made a great case for it. Thanks, Kristen!
😀 And we are so glad you listened.
Kristen, this was an excellent post. I too was involved in a company that wouldn’t do things in an innovative way, clinging to the vestigages of the tried and sometimes true business plans of the past. It was beyond frustrating. I am a fledgling writer who is watching the debate between indie and traditional play out, learning from others as I prepare to enter the fray. I have linked your blog to mine, I referenced your books and your blog in a post. Have a nice day!