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How the Book Publishing Industry is Changing


October 23, 2013 by Jen Cudmore

The publishing world is changing. I‘d heard bits and pieces of information over the years but never truly understood the issues until recently. Jerry Simmons, our keynote speaker for the 2012 Alaska Writers Conference, explained the changes in detail. With 30 years experience in the book business, he had some great insight.

For decades large publishers controlled the scene. They use their strong media connections and discounts/incentives to draw in readers. But they have been slow to embrace the new variables in the market.

Here are some of the changes Jerry outlined at the conference and in his book, What Writers Need to Know About Publishing.

  •  Production and distribution costs are higher than ever, which isn’t surprising with the current economy.
  • Bookstores are shrinking their shelf space and becoming more picky on what they choose to sell. Independent stores are closing. Therefore, it’s harder than ever to get books into stores.
  • Very few authors can live off their creativity. Royalties are slowly going down, and yet advancements and payouts to a few famous authors are higher than ever. The distribution of royalties is unbalanced and therefore, unproductive.
  • While the 6 major publishers used to dominate, many small publishers are now available, and quite successful. Authors have more options and don’t have to rely on the major houses anymore.
  • Decades ago, signing with a publisher meant they’d take care of the author and very little marketing effort was needed. Now, even the major houses spend very little time and money on promotion – the author is expected to do most of the work.
  • Ebooks are becoming more popular and successful. The return investment is better because distribution is unlimited, royalties are higher, word count is meaningless, and initial costs are much lower.
  • Self-publishing is becoming more popular and successful. Since authors do most of the marketing anyway, their approach is more personal because the author goes deeper with the readers.

Do you know of any other trends that contribute to the change?

©Jen Cudmore, 2013 ___  Subscribe to my blog or my email newsletter on the right side of the page!

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  1. Excellent summary. The cost of self-publishing via ebook is also significantly less than self-publishing through a company. A friend recently used Create Space and was very happy with her experience.

    The one thing authors can do to change the perception in readers’ minds about self-publishing: Put the time and effort into the craft and produce a quality product.

  2. Wonderful post! The other advantage of working with a small publisher is the personal contact. It’s almost like working with a family member.

  3. Mary says:

    *insight, not “incite”. I’m fifteen, and trust me, I hate to be THAT person, but a misuse of that word changes the entire meaning of the paragraph. (I want to be an English teacher when I grow up, can you tell? Haha)
    Okay, I’ll just sneak away now…
    But good article, I had never heard of any of those issues and changes in the publishing industry.

  4. Karen Lange says:

    Great summary – thank you! Things really are changing. It’s hard to keep up sometimes. Glad we have so many resources to tap into.

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