A Guest Post by Jim Donavan, a good writer and long-time friend and supporter of mine.
In the great debate about the “true” cost of producing an ebook, it appears that big publishing still has it’s proverbial head in the sand, much like it has since the beginning of the Internet. Back then, circa 1995, this shiny new object, called the Internet, was just starting to emerge.
Amazon had launched it’s store and the idea of book selling online was rapidly becoming a reality. Did the publishing industry welcome it and take advantage of this evolving opportunity?
Welcome it? Amazon couldn’t even get their phone calls returned from the major New York publishing houses.
Big publishers, rather than embrace this new technology and all it’s possibilities, stuck their heads in the sand like so many ostriches, hoping it would just go away.
Now with another major change occurring right before our eyes, the big publishers are right back in the sand, an oversight that may prove to be the beginning of their demise, should that eventually happen.
Personally, I hope it does not. Publishers still have a role in the process even if they themselves are not sure what it is at the moment.
Big publishing has claimed (whined) that the cost of an electronic book is as much as that of a printed one. Actually, if you look at it from their limited viewpoint, they’re right.
They cite, among the costs applicable to both print and digital, costs like author advances, editing, design, marketing and publicity. They’re right, however, what they are measuring is wrong.
You know it’s a changing industry when you have a right-brained, self-help author like myself explaining analytics to the bean counters.
You see, the problem with the model the publishers are using is that it’s flawed.
Putting the author advance aside, especially since it too is flawed, it’s true that there are design and editorial costs as well as marketing and publicity but, and this is the key distinction, they need to be measured differently.
In the printed book model, the publisher is spreading those costs across a fixed number of copies they expect to sell. This includes the author advance and printing and distribution costs as well as the (up to 20%) cost of returns.
The mistake they’re making with digital is trying to apply that same metric to digital book publishing.
To measure this accurately, we need to look, not only at a much larger potential audience, but to alternate revenue streams from paid content sites and the like.
Marketing is an entirely, different story. If there’s one thing changing faster than publishing in today’s lightning paced, online, customer driven world, it’s marketing.
Authors need to shift from passive cash cows, waiting to be milked, to, dare I say, partners, working with the publisher for everyone’s benefit.
Considering the current state of book marketing, any author who expects to earn a dime has already taken on the bulk of their marketing and publicity themselves. The days of the big publisher’s publicity machine moving behind your book are as gone as lead type.
In today’s book marketing, a savvy author can be blogging great content on their area of expertise while the publisher, with their huge support staffs can be making sure that content is reaching it’s intended audience.
While marketing is still a critical function for the big publisher, the way it’s being executed is changing. We have reached a time when it’s prudent for the publisher to partner more closely with their author’s in joint venture, mutually beneficial, marketing efforts.
In all fairness to the publisher, yes, there are costs associated with producing a digital book, but they are no where near those of a printed book and need to be adjusted to reflect that.
Publishers and, yes authors too, need to let go of the win-lose, all or nothing, publishing model that’s been around since Simon and Shuster were peddling crossword puzzles to merchants and start embracing the changes that are taking place in the industry.
Publishing is about to enter the most exciting period we’ve seen since the invention of the printing press and publishers and authors alike have to begin thinking from an abundance perspective, working together to create more win-win-win scenarios in which everyone, including the customer, succeeds.
Jim Donovan is the author of several international best-selling self-help books, including, Handbook to a Happier Life and This is Your Life, Not a Dress Rehearsal, and a recognized authority in the small press community. He has been published by a major publisher, self-published, and consulted with authors about book publishing and marketing. Learn more at www.JimDonovan.com