So yesterday my pal Kristen Lamb made a fantastic post about the new publishing paradigm offering suggestions to the Big 6 to keep them from sharing the fate of the Titanic. It’s brilliant and spot on.
Something that stood out for me was a quote she pulled from The Author’s Guild post, Publishing’s Ecosystem on the Brink: The Backstory:
For book publishers, the relevant market isn’t readers (direct sales are few), but booksellers.
I’d wager you never thought about the fact that as a reader, as a buyer of books, your opinions don’t actually matter to big publishers. They don’t really care what people are really reading. They’re busy making projections about what will sell in two years and that’s what they are buying. Which comes back to that futures analogy I used a while back. Because at the end of the day, while they are making educated guesses about what will sell, they’re just that. Guesses. They’re passing left and right on indie stuff with proven sales potential (and I don’t mean mine). Hey, their loss. The readers still get their shot courtesy of self publishing.
The whole idea of the reader’s irrelevancy simply because they are a step removed from the publisher (at least in traditional publishing) via the bookseller seems totally…well, whacked. If all the bookstores go belly up, what does NY plan to do then? Not considering that issue is just like all the newspapers that are playing ostrich and pretending that this online, web-delivered FREE NEWS is not going to change their business (they’re going out of business, in case you didn’t know).
Readers matter. In the long run, readers are the only thing that matter because whether you are traditionally published and have the intermediary of the bookseller or if you’re self published and sell directly to the reader online, if you have no readers, you have no sales, period. Nobody wakes up and says “I want to write so that I can sell to BOOKSTORES!” (apart from that whole yearning to see our physical book IN a bookstore which is a whole other thing).
Readers are the whole reason we do what we do. Sure, we hope we’ll get paid for it, that we’ll eventually make enough money to quit whatever asinine evil day job is trying to destroy our creativity like a cancer (or maybe that’s just me). But the reason we write is that we want to share our stories with other people. We want to entertain them, make them laugh, make them cry, touch something deep so that they’re thinking about our characters and whatever message they shared long after the last page is read.
Never forget that. Never lose your respect for the reader or forget the end game. It might behoove traditional publishers to think about changing their business model to reflect that rather than the business of selling paper.