Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How to Save Big Publishing- Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Have a safe and enjoyable holiday.

In the spirit of giving, here's a plan to save Big Publishing. How's that for generosity!

These days, traditional publishing in the U.S. is controlled by five multinational companies, with offices in Manhattan. Because they are profit-driven, they want big-selling books, and don't want to bother with the ones that don't sell much. Oh, they'll tell you how they're still the Guardians of Culture, but any look at their catalog shows their devotion to the bottom line.

And they say they're hurting, despite larger profits from the sale of ebooks. Because with ebooks, one doesn't need to mess about with printing, shipping, storage, or returns. So in many cases, they're actually making more. But they say it isn't enough, they want more.

A big part of the problem is that they want sure winners, all-blockbusters. But it's near impossible to accurately predict the big sellers, unless it's a Stephen King book. So their business plan is based on gambling- putting out enough big sellers every year to offset the losses from the books that didn't sell as well.

And they're notoriously bad at picking which books to publish. Part of this is that some years ago the publishing houses decided they didn't want to read submissions anymore, they'd let agents do the screening for them. An agent is supposedly someone who knows the book business and can help an author connect a manuscript with a publisher. They advise the author on the arcane publishing contracts- despite, in most cases, having no law experience. One does not need any sort of licensing or qualification to be called an agent, they can just stick up a shingle and begin business.

So the Big houses want good books to publish, but they're using a faulty system to find candidates. Here's a plan that will help them, and maybe save them bundles of money so they can keep their Manhattan offices. Hey, maybe they could even pay authors more!

In the Indie publishing world, authors are putting books out and letting readers decide if they want to buy it or not. They go direct to the readers, unlike Big Publishing, who deals with bookstores, not readers.

Follow this plan- crowdsource potential manuscripts. Get an x number of screeners, who would be happy to volunteer their opinion (see Goodreads). Manuscripts go out to the screeners electronically, who then vote to publish or not. Most of the cost is collating the data. Track the reader choices: reward the ones who consistently select better-selling books, and drop the ones with higher failure rates.

This way, a publishing house could screen a vast number of potential books for minimal cost, and have a better record of hits for the better ones. It's not one agent or one editor doing the screening, it's several hundred power-readers, who'll do a much better job.

So there's the plan- simple, easy, inexpensive, and win-win for everybody. How about it, New York? Then you can stop complaining about Amazon.

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