There's plenty of speculators out a-speckin' about the death of the author. This is tied to the demise of publishing as a profitable venture. The forecast is pretty dismal.

What I haven't heard a lot of are models for the future. There's foggy talk about eBooks and eReaders, but nothing concrete. Here's my idea:

My Plan

In X number of years, instead of querying a publisher, writers will query major retailers of digital content. These retailers will be the gatekeepers, like it or not. They will still accept crap from anyone,
the difference being how the retailers market writers. This will arrive out of a need to sort content according to quality, demanded by consumers frustrated with content bloat (this is already happening).

The cream (sellable content) will rise to the top, the crap (not sellable content) will not. This may not always be ideal, but it's been that way since publishing began.

We're already seeing a handful of digital retailers grab most of the market (Apple, Amazon, etc). Placing them as content gatekeepers would allow them to claim quality over their competitors. This demand for quality will come from consumers who are overwhelmed by the millions of books available.

Your Plan

What publishing business model do you see taking shape in the future?

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I have a feeling that is exactly what is happening at Amazon. Their Kindle Encore editions are vetted both for quality and saleability. They tend toward established authors.
There is no such thing as "death of the author" to me. You're always gonna have writers. When the music business collasped, no one said, "the death of the singer". It's impossible. The only way this will happen is if folks stop writing and believe me, real writers won't.

The only thing that's dying right now is traditional publishing and bookstores. The authors will be okay if they are the kind to adapt to change. They have to if they wanna survive. The old way of what publishing used to be will be gone. The dream of "being on bookshelves" matters less to most writers everyday. As long as new mediums like epublishing and other things come along, authors are gonna multiple because they now have so many options to take matters into their own hands.

I read an article a few weeks ago where they said more and more writers (new and previously published) are self-publishing ebooks on Smashwords and releasing books straight to phones and ipad, etc. Believe me, writers are always gonna find ways to get their work out there. More and more are uploading their unpublished manuscripts on their websites and pricing them a few dollars and selling the ebooks from their sites.

There are tons of more options to getting published now than before but you gotta know what works best for you. The traditional model is dead and from someone who has been published traditionally, I can tell you first hand, you know the signs. There's a new breed of writers coming along that aren't waiting around for publication. In some cases this is smart, in others it's not because not everyone is equipped or ready to be published and unfortunately these folks as well are able to put their work into the market.

A few weeks ago I said I thought agents would always be around even though publishing is changing. Now I am not so sure. Everyday I see agents griping about not getting deals and about how epublishing has transformed the industry. So who knows, agents might not be around forever if authors don't need them. If everyone's epublishing or doing it on their own anyway in the future, well I see why agents are worried.

As for publishing house editors, a lot of them have freelance editing services on the side. They'll be okay. Also a lot of big house publishing employees are opening their own epublishing and POD houses and I've read about many big time traditional publishing editors who were fired a few years ago who now work in epublishing. You have more and more people who worked in the traditional industry who are not supporting the choice of authors "doing it on their own" or "finding their own methods". That says something.

People say it's a revolution that will benefit the writer. I agree. If anyone who has been published traditionally like I have knows, you make NO money. The average traditional published book doesn't sell enough to cover the advance. Add how long and slow it takes to get published. It's true that a writer (with a good ebook, not just trash thrown together) can hock their ebook on sites and sell more copies and downloads than a traditional midlist author. It's true.

I have many friends who are in epublishing and I also have friends who have published many books through major houses. Guess which ones are taking checks to the bank EVERY month?

The epublished writers and yes, even the self-publishers. One of my epublished friends writes Erotica and (this is no lie), she's been able to pay her morgage payments on her ebook sales alone. How many traditional authors can say that? Not many because first off, you rarely make that much in one royalty period, and you gotta wait over six months for each check.

The key for writers to do good with this change is they better become savvy business people. That's how. I say, study, research and learn how to market, profit, etc. Treat writing like a real business and you can make wonderful things happen.

Agents and physical bookstores, to be honest, don't know how long they will be around.

And let me say this. I don't feel sorry for the big pubs at all. They've cheated authors for years! On top of that, they no longer promote or do anything to ensure a book's success or at least give it a chance at success. They publish a book only to fit a space and cut it loose, leaving the author to fend for themselves anyway. So if traditional pubs no longer promote and have the authors' backs like they used to, what's the need of going with them when you can do what you want through other means?

If they collaspe it's their own faults for going corporate and putting money over creativity. A lot of wonderful writers weren't getting their fair shake and it's one of many reasons people are turning on traditional publishing or big houses at least.

Best Wishes!
You're spot on about writers needing to become more business savvy. I've encountered too many who blew opportunities to make gobs of money because they didn't have an understanding of how markets operate.

The most common mistake I've seen is authors who think readers will buy a book just because he/she wrote it. Wrong. It takes time and sometimes money to put a book in front of readers.
I can see a middle-man developing -- someone who will pay advances and then take a cut when those books sell.

A new system will build on the old, afterall. As IJ says, Amazon is doing it now an dthey do lean toward established athors. Their first AmazonEncore as publisher book is JA Konrath' sixth ina series - thre previous five all from traditional publishers. And, AmazonEncore has paid him an advance.

So, what they're saying is they wan a little more control over what's submitted to them(as their premiere titles that they;'ll put their marketing behind) and the only way to get that is to pay for it. Maybe they'll be satisfied with whatever books people write on their own (and invest their own money in copy editing and cover design, marketing etc.,) but maybe not.

Maybe AmazonEncore and Barnes and Noble's self-publishing and all the rest will pick the cream off the top that rises naturally, ut I have a feeling that they'll want to have more of a say in what they sell.
Yes, the retailers will definitely play a larger role. But I don't see a middle man between the author and retailer. That sounds like an advance-paying publisher, a role currently being dissolved. If you mean a distributor, such as Ingrams, then I'm still not sure there's a role.
So, the idea is that at first the writer goes into debt writing the book, hiring the copy editor and cover designer (well, whole book designer) and marketing the book. Then gets paid back through sales. Maybe enough sales to act as its own advance for the next one and so on.

In some ways, I like it. The internet is very anti-capitalist in many ways, taking the power away from people/institutions who've only had power because they've had the capital. Publishers have had the power because they've had the capital to offer advances and marketing and distribution, buy co-op tables and so on.

And writers are only human, as long as someone is offering an advance and offering to do the marketing and detail work, writers will give them a cut.

But we'll see, you could be right.
On his blog, Joe put it this way:

Q: What kind of money is Amazon paying you?

A: I signed a non-disclosure agreement, so I can't discuss contract terms. But I will say that my terrific agents have been involved from the very beginning of negotiations, and have been essential in getting me a very favorable contract. I couldn't be happier.

The rest is here:

Joe also has a few things to say about the kind of marketing Amazon will be doing for him. Right now it does look like Amazon is competing with traditinal publishers.
"The cream (sellable content) will rise to the top, the crap (not sellable content) will not. This may not always be ideal, but it's been that way since publishing began."

That first sentence jumped out and bit me. Sellable equals cream--not sellable equals crap? That reads like a Goldman-Sachs pamphlet on bundled sub-prime mortgage instruments. By that definition a great deal of great literature and glorious writing is crap, and by the same token a huge pile of formulaic junk is cream. And the second sentence--thus it has always been--has been an excuse for all sorts of abominable mischief since we human beings began our sorry history.
Peter. . . I think, in a majority of instances in today's publishing world, 'sellable' means 'generic crap' publishers think they can milk profits from. Has nothing to do with 'quality,'

Just my opinion.
In the Amazon (Kindle) Encore paradigm, the interest is in authors who have had great reviews (both print and customer) but who have not had the sales their publishers expected.
Just a figure of speech, Peter. It's business. If you were a publisher or retailer, would you invest your resources in what sells or what doesn't sell? One of those will keep your job, one of them will not.
Publisher's don't know what will sell; they just act like they do. They have vague and unproven notions about what will sell that usually turn out to be wrong. They almost never see a bestseller coming. And when it happens they get busy buying imitators, thinking people will want to read the same thing in slightly different form. If they knew what they were doing, their ratio of bestsellers to non sellers would be much better. Good business, it seems to me, would be to buy the best books they could buy, publish them well, and then get behind them.


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