Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Booking The Future -- Ransom Stephens

From Australia.To News
By Ransom Stephens

Three mistakes will plague the six huge publishing conglomerates, a.k.a., the Six Sisters: first, their blockbuster profit model is unsustainable; second, they're not capable of marketing those titles that are in the market segment with the greatest profit potential; and, third, they've stopped nurturing the majority of their talent with the editorial and promotional nutrition necessary for them to blossom into bestselling authors, the so-called mid-list authors whose early efforts showed enough promise to be published, but didn't return a profit. It looks a lot like what sickened Time-Warner/AOL, Sears and IBM and killed DEC.

Publishers' role as the gatekeepers of quality has always been dubious. Do book buyers have brand loyalty? Do you check the publisher before buying a book? Once we jump the low hurdle of spelling, grammar and minimal storytelling skill, literary merit is nearly as subjective as your favorite color. In a world where musicians can sell their best songs on iTunes, the only thing maintaining publishing's quality-control role is the carefully manicured perception that self-publishing is anathema to aspiring professional authors. Publishing, through its marketing plans and budgets, today effectively controls who sees what book. But the grip of the industry's role of gatekeeper is about to go.

The publishing company that turns the corner, leaving the Six Sisters in the dust, will leave will leave quality control to authors - even grammar and spelling.

The obvious candidates include Yahoo and Amazon, but I think they are already too big and stodgy to make the move; Google has everything necessary on its place, but might be too fragmented to make the move; the big self-publishing companies Lulu and iUniverse are well positioned but might be too burdened by the "vanity press" label to emerge. Right now, I think the smart money is on Scribd.com. Anyway, for the sake of argument, let's call the emerging company NetBoox. . .

Read the rest of this economically sound article Here. You won't regret it.


Mick Rooney said...

Wonderfully insightful article, Cheryl. Thanks for spotting it.

It just underlines how fluid things are in publishing at the moment. I thought Stephens was also pretty phrophetic when he looked at the analogy of IBM and how they took their eye off the ball in computing to allow so many other companies into the computing party.

It seems publishers today are making the same economic mistakes in their efforts to squeeze most of their profits from 20% of the book market. Like IBM, it may all come tumbling down and companies like Google, to a lesser extent Amazon, will sweep in and take the rug from under them.

It brings to mind the old saying, 'look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves'.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

Thanks Mick. I agree, this is one of the best articles on the subject I have seen since I have been doing the news for the peeps.

Very insightful, so much so, I think I have read it three times already.

Yup, all those lovely pennies add up. I should know, I got jugs of them. :)

Ransom Stephens said...

A confluence of events, (1) the Booking the Future article (which I actually wrote 2 years ago and then rushed onto the web when it started coming true), (2) a friend told me that scribd.com was about to become the iTunes for books and, (3) I just finished polishing my novel, The God Patent, combined to form a cosmic gauntlet thrown on the mat. I had to stop dealing with agents and publishers - or at least put it off for a while and see how the future looks. Now, The God Patent has become a scribd-sensation and is on its way to emerging as the first debut bestseller from publishing’s new paradigm.
Thanks for your nice comments about the article. I'm going to revise it and do a youtube presentation in a few weeks. Keep an eye out.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

Thank you Mr. Stephens. Your article was the most well articulated I have seen on the subject, and I have been recommending that all Indie authors read it and read it again.

Good luck to you on Scribd. I recently began to offer my work there as well.