The news this week that ebooks are currently ranking as the top format in all trade categories ( is giving fresh life to a recurring question: How will the big publishing houses survive the digital revolution? Obviously it’s a critical question coming at a critical time. With much of their money still being invested in printing and distribution, costs that ebooks are making increasingly irrelevant, publishers are really giving off that dinosaur smell.


Just floating an idea here, but I think there’s a strategy for getting them through the next few decades. Please let me know what you think. Despite all the upheaval in the industry, the big publishers still have one advantage: They’re well-known brand names trusted by readers to put out (relatively) good books. I’m thinking that’s the key to their futures. They’ll survive not through great distribution, but through great branding and marketing.


These days, thanks to digital self-publishing, anyone can put a book out in  the world. But selling and marketing the damn thing? That’s hard. Between Kindles and iPads and Nooks and mobile, between Amazon and Sony and Kobo and Diesel and hundreds of other franchises and devices, negotiating the morass of digital networks takes constantly changing expertise.  That’s where the publishers of the future come in. They’ll not only find and produce good books like they do today, they’ll know how to sell books in the universe of ever-shifting digital strings. Their marketers will be book-loving geeks who’ll stay aware of new sites, blogs and outlets, they’ll know which ones are delivering results and which ones are fading, they’ll start a web of blogs themselves.


If publishers can switch to ebooks and put their money and creative energy into marketing, they'll have real chance at succeeding. Writers need a change like this. Readers need a change like this. Everyone needs a change like this. So my thesis, simply put, is this: The best publishers of the future will be the best marketers.


What are your thoughts?


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What is needed is a publsiher who comes up with a business plan that makes them a nice profit catering to mid-list authors.  Shying away from the mega hit writers and their mega hit signing bonuses.  But maybe this is farcial day-dreaming on my part.

BR, I think you're talking about the small and medium sized presses that exist today, I think they're doing exactly that.


John, from what I've seen, they also carry too many authors, and they do not promote at all. They count on library sales.  My last publisher had a policy of non-promotion and non-return. That doesn't pay a decent income to their authors.
Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful replies. Gotta say something about CrimeSpace: I've been a member for going on two years, and I've never seen another blog-site with so many people responding passionately and intelligently to discussions. It shows a commitment that most other places can't attract. Must be something in the BLOOD.
Oh, thank you.  :) On behalf of all.
I know I probably would have had second thoughts if I'd known what was going to be involved in trying to get published.
But hell, Dan.  If they ran they wern't, deep down, really committed to their craft.  A writer writes. Period.  Now, getting published is something else . . .

You know, BR, I think the books are being published, they just aren't selling. Imentioned somewhere else in this discussion that I'm surprised we haven't seen some kind of e-book-of-the-month club.

So, I don't think the next change we'll see will be with traditional publishers, I think it will be with new marketing ideas, getting the books that have been written and published into the hands of readers.


If someone got a lot of indie authors together and started up a subscription service - six books when you sign up and one new book a month for a year for some crazy low price, people may sign up. Like the old clubs, you could accept the book sent to you or pick something else from the ever expanding catalgue of indie authors.


An "Indie Book of the Month Club."


Maybe we could start one here, the "Crimespace Book of the Month Club" and see where that leads.



You know, that's not a bad idea. There are a lot of folks on here that, when I read their posts, I think "I need to check out their book." But when I'm in the store or on Amazon, I fail to look for them.

I think an e-book of the month club is a great idea, John!

Speaking of resistance to new technology, I read this today in a book called The Printing Press as an Agent of Change. When John Fust, the man who bankrolled Gutenberg, set out to sell the first dozen printed Bibles, he ran into members of the manuscript-copiers’ guild. The copiers were “alarmed at the appearance of an outsider with such an unheard of treasure of books. When he was found to be selling one Bible after another, they soon shouted for the police, giving their expert opinion that such a store of valuable books could be in one man’s possession [only] through the help of the devil himself, and Fust had to run for his life or his first business trip would have ended in a nasty bonfire.”

Yes, funny in retrospect.  Not so funny at the time.  People were burned as witches.  Fortunately good sense prevailed and the invention caught on immediately in most countries.


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