The Revolution in Publishing

by Mike O’Mary

How many of you have tried to publish a book and been rejected? As an author, I was rejected many times. It’s not fun.

As a small (three books last year), indie publisher of other authors, I can also tell you that it’s not fun to reject book proposals — especially proposals for good ideas by some very good writers. But I have to reject books anyway. Part of it is due to limited resources (mainly my time). But part of it is also a matter of knowing my limitations when it comes to marketing and selling books. It’s hard enough to sell books that are in my area of expertise (short creative nonfiction and memoir). It would be really hard — and ultimately disappointing for the author — for me to try to sell books that target other audiences. So I don’t do it. Even if it’s a really good book.

Sometimes I will direct the author to another publisher that might be a good fit. But more and more, I am tempted to give this advice (and you are hearing it here on Freelance-Zone first!): Do it yourself.

That’s not novel (pun intended) advice. Everybody knows that a revolution is taking place in publishing. If you didn’t know, read The Author Uprising Against Big Publishing by Smashwords Founder Mark Coker. It’s pretty easy to publish and even distribute your own book today. For my money (and I mean that literally), the Expresso print-on-demand machine is the most revolutionary machine since the printing press itself, and the e-book is the most revolutionary invention since the Expresso print-on-demand machine. But there’s a stigma to “print-on-demand.” And there’s a stigma to “self-publishing.”

The POD stigma will go away in the next few years. It’s going to be hypocritical for distributors and bookstores to turn their noses up at POD books when more and more “big” publishers are using POD to manage inventory — especially for their backlists. It’s going to be even MORE hypocritical if those distributors and bookstores are insolvent.

The self-publishing stigma will be more difficult to shake. I think the solution is going to be a new sort of publisher…a publisher that serves more as a facilitator than a gatekeeper. The gates are already gone anyway. If you want to publish and distribute your own book, I can give you the basics in a 10-minute conversation, and you can have your book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in a month or two. So the notion of publisher-as-gatekeeper is already obsolete.

The notion of publisher-as-publicist is an antiquated notion, too. Most authors are already responsible for most of their own publicity. The only exceptions are best-selling authors who arguably don’t NEED any more publicity. (What, exactly, was the point of buying advertising for the last few Harry Potter books, for example? Did they really expect to win over the two remaining people who hadn’t read a Harry Potter book?) So the notion of publisher-as-publicist is obsolete, also. Has been for some time.

That leaves the publisher-as-facilitator…or the publisher-as-partner…and I’m going to argue that beyond facilitating/partnering functions like advising the author on editing, printing, distribution and marketing, the highest value the publisher of the future can provide will be quality control. If you are basically going it alone as an author, there might be some value in being associated with a brand that has some integrity.

Notice I said “associated with,” not “published by.” I think that’s where publishing is headed…as “association” of good authors…a commune of sorts that forms an “umbrella” over your publishing venture. If you’re an author, I think this is going to be a good thing. It will be easier to get published, and your royalty is going to be bigger.

The hard part (for anybody not named Shakespeare or Grisham or Rowling) is, and always has been, marketing.

Mike O’Mary is owner and publisher at Dream of Things.

2 thoughts on “The Revolution in Publishing”

  1. I’ve been trying to encourage one of my clients who’s a printer to investigate the Expresso — seems like a nifty technology that would be in line with their focus on digital printing. (I’ve even considered pitching it as a business partnership, putting my money where my mouth is.) If you have a moment, I’d be interested to hear some of the benefits that you’ve experienced that could help me make my case!

  2. Glad to talk any time, Jake. I don’t own an Espresso, but it’s not out of the question. They cost about $100K. Would make a lot of sense for a small group of people/printers/publishers to go in on one. My guess is that CreateSpace and Lightning Source have warehouses with rows of these machines cranking out POD books AS NEEDED. The quality is pretty good, too. Not great, but good. I did short press runs of my first three books on a digital press with the world’s largest printer AND I printed the sames books via POD w/CreateSpace and Lightning Source. The POD books came out better. That combo of no inventory and good quality is tough to beat. Only thing that might trump it is ebooks.

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