The new publishing landscape: 2020 and beyond

From Rick:

I had a different post planned for this week, but in the middle of the week, Kris Rusch grabbed me with an excellent her post on her blog. I know I mention her a lot on this blog, but she has her finger on the pulse of publishing, so her advice is always worth passing along.

In the past she has talked at length about the “old ways” of publishing, this post of hers in just a few pages gave, in good short detail, the story of how modern publishing in the twentieth century really began, what its true goals were, and what it evolved (or devolved) into and how it was slowly painting itself into a corner that, until this year, had not completely spelled its doom.

Those of you who have been paying attention will have seen that the landscape is changing, and I don’t mean just in terms of indie publishing.

Those who have not been paying close attention still believe with all their hearts that the best route to getting published is to seek out a publisher. And I run across at least one such deluded individual every few months.

I’m sure all regular readers of this blog are tired of hearing me rant about this misperception, but you can do your writer friends a huge favor by telling them the truth when you run into one who tells you he or she is looking for a publisher. Unfortunately, those who really need to hear it don’t read my blog. Just a couple of weeks ago I ran into one individual who said he was looking for a publisher for his nonfiction book (and we know that those are often a harder sell than fiction). This gentleman mentioned that one publisher did express interest. Can you guess what kind of publisher it was? Yep—the good old paid-to-publish kind.

I’m just trying to save writers the heartache of making that mistake or of wasting many months (or years) only to discover that no legitimate publisher wants their book. Even if the book is an excellent one, it’ll get rejected if they don’t see it as the top-seller kind. I’m sure we’d all be happy if our books sold 10,000 or 20,000 copies. If you figure that a self-publishing indie author can make at least two or three dollars per copy, those sales numbers would be very satisfying. But to a traditional publisher, those numbers barely move their sales meter needle.

These writers have convinced themselves that their book will be a bestseller, not realizing that their concept of a bestseller is probably nowhere near what a publisher considers a bestseller. Further, these writers still don’t realize that even if they do land a contract, they will have no choice but to sign away most or all of the rights to their book for the rest of their life and beyond, and when it doesn’t sell or doesn’t sell well enough, they’re not going to be able to get back the rights to pursue other avenues.

Maybe the next time I run into one of these naive writers, I need to try tough love and just tell them in no uncertain terms how stupid it is to go that route, and “Don’t come crying to me when you find out I was right and you get screwed.”

Am I cruel enough to say that? I’m not sure because I’ve seen enough stubborn people who won’t listen when I try the gentle approach. Maybe the shock approach will at least make them think—even if it means that they won’t listen to me ever again.

And I could add that “Even if you do find a publisher and your book does well, in the end you lose because you’ll sign a contract that benefits only your publisher, who gives you table scraps in exchange.”

Anyway, here’s the link to Kris Rusch’s post. It makes for great reading even if you’re a savvy author. It’ll be fun to see what indeed happens in the publishing world in the next couple of years.

BOOK PROMOTION 2020

Enjoy.

–Rick

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