State of the publishing industry

book-1659717_640Rather than an article, I include below links to two others, with my thoughts on them. I think they show pretty well the current turmoil that the publishing industry is in.

The first is titled “Cover Story: The Quiet Catastrophe, Then Reinvention Of Book Publishing”, by John Birmingham on which-50.

Here’s a notable excerpt:

The last ten years have thrown up such a perfect storm for publishers that it can be difficult to tease out whether the collapse of a chain like Borders has more to do with the recession, the rise of gaming as an alternative to reading for children, the rise of streaming TV as an alternative to reading for adults, or simple predatory action by Amazon — also fondly known as the Beast of Bezos.

In the end it hardly matters, because the industry seems determined to remain in denial anyway. Its methods and patterns of thinking are rooted in the era of sailing ships and hand-stitched leather hardbacks. Publishers will dutifully speak at book fairs and conferences about the brave new world of data-driven business — but even as they merge and downsize and skate to where the puck was five minutes ago (colouring books!) their business remains rooted in the vagaries of instinct and gambler’s superstition.

You should read the full article here. No, really, you should.

Birmingham gives an excellent analysis on how the big publishers were caught not ready, how their tactics and strategy are mired in old dogma that is no longer relevant, and how they are trying to cope – badly. Their strategy these days seem to be based on either established names or instant successes, which has the unfortunate side effect of them not cultivating the next generation of writers.

All those other writers, meanwhile, are looking into small press and self publishing, and are building themselves up to the point that a big publisher is – almost – unnecessary. The only aspect where publishers are still leading, is in putting paperbacks in bricks and mortar shops, which as an indie author and publishers are hard to break into.

This makes a nice segue to the next article. When authors look at distinctions, being on the NY Times best-seller list was always a prime one. The NYT looks at sales from a few specific physical stores, over a given a week. The actual stores, while not officially disclosed, are an open secret.

Which means it’s easily rigged.

It allowed a completely unknown, no reviews, no buzz book, to make it into the number one spot:

Buying your way onto the bestseller list is not technically illegal, nor is it that hard if you know how. Many conservative publishers have found success through bulk-buying books then giving them away as, say, subscriber gifts if you sign up to Newsmax or the like. The thing is, usually the New York Times make note of this and include this as a footnote of sorts to the list. Here, there’s nothing. Pulling this kind of trick is hard to conceal, but here it’s especially glaring.

Read the full article on How This Book Buy Its Way Onto The New York Times Bestseller List. Then maybe go an read the Wikipedia article on the NYT Bestseller List, especially the sections on criticisms and controversies.

On the plus side, Amazon is begging to take action against of prolific scamming that goes on in KDP:

Citing violations of Kindle Direct Publishing terms and conditions, Amazon has filed arbitration complaints against five individuals who it says offered services to KDP author and publishers aimed at helping them manipulate the reading platform for financial gain. Amazon is demanding a combination of injunctive relief, account termination and in some cases, triple damages.

Full article: Amazon Alleges Violations by KDP Authors, Publishers

So where does that leave us?

I’m honestly not sure. Publishers might be dying, but they’re not dead. Brick and mortar shops are still important. Movie deals with Tom Hiddleston and Jennifer Lawrence are still a far goal.

But there is one thing that IS clear, that is imperative to success, and that will not change, no matter what.

Want to be a successful author? Write good books, and publish them professionally. Keep writing (you can’t be a success on a single work), and then produce it to the best of your abilities. Hire editors. Get professional cover designers. Work on reaching out to your target audience. Repeat.


  1. Really like the article and I’m going to read that first one you linked.
    I’m not only an author, I’m also a bookseller who works in the bookshop of a publishing house. I’m seeing the industry under many angles, and I am upset, I’m telling you the trueth. Not of what I see, because I know we are now in a changing moment, a moment where everything is changing at such a speed that it seem to destroy rather then build. Of course it’s confunsing and therefore scaring, but I know that things will finally set down in the best possible way. What upsets me is that the confusion of today are making people do things they don’t really know they’re doing and they might regret for a long time.
    Personally, I don’t think traditional publishing will die. It will change, maybe slowly, but it will. And I don’t think indie publishing will be the sole future of publishing, becasue it’s so diverse that it will never be a cohesive environment for writers or readers (in my opinion).
    What I fear is the enthusiasm of people (writers and readers) who think they can do whatever they want, when in fact they’re doing whatever a stronger power drills into us. If as a writer I only publish on Amazon because ‘it’s enough to be there, you don’t really need any other paltfor’, am I really doing what I want? And if as a reader I only buy on Amazon because ‘it’s easier, why should I bother going in search of other providers?’, am I really doing what I want?
    I often hear authors say this is the best moment to be an author. I’m sorry, but I disagree.

    Liked by 1 person

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