Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Book Industry Audit

There are so many ways to publish a book.  You have the Big 5 – Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, MacMillan Publishers, Hachette Group, and Simon and Schuster – which dominate the best-seller lists.  There are medium-size publishers, independent small presses, university presses, and the publishing arms of foundations, non-profits, and corporations.  There’s self-publishing, vanity publishing, print-on-demand, and hybrid publishing, where authors pay some of the costs and share in the profits.  There are audio book publishers, e-book publishers and vook publishers (video + written content).  At the turn of the 21st century there was a much different landscape in book publishing than what exists today, but one thing is clear about the book marketplace:

More people than ever before have a chance to be published.

Additionally, the chances someone’s book will be purchased or read are declining, as the marketplace is getting flooded with more books than readers can handle.  Copies of each book published today are sold to fewer people than in years past because:

There are more content choices than ever before – from movies, video games, plays, music, television shows, concerts, ballets, sporting events, websites, blogs, social media, etc.

The industry has to confront the following issues:
  • How do we improve the quality of the books being published?
  • How does each book compete against so many new and old books – plus other content available 24/7?
  • How do readers find books they would like – and discover ones they didn’t think to pursue but would enjoy once found?
  • What role can or should a publisher play in a marketplace where writer-to-consumer is available?
Everyone in the book industry has a question to be answered, including:

Literary Agents
  • How do they stay relevant?
  • How do they make good money when publishers aren’t doling out large advances as often as they used to?

  • How do they hook a literary agent or publisher?
  • How do they get a better royalty deal?
  • How do they balance time writing with promotions, marketing, and doing social media?

  • How do they acquire great books – and not break the bank?
  • How do they market a book successfully?
  • How do they find authors who have great platforms and can sell a good amount of copies?
  • How do they find authors who will buy up a lot of copies of their book?

  • How will they make a book not only better, but truly great?
  • How will they keep up with the crushing burden of a big workload?
  • How will they make a decent living when editing can be outsourced for cheap?

  • How will they get major media to cover not only their A-list, but the rest of the line?
  • How will they keep up with social media AND securing traditional media, especially where authors don’t contribute much to their campaigns?
  • How will they break through the digital clutter and reach influencers who can really move book sales?

  • Can they sell enough books – along with non-book items such as toys, DVDs and music – to stay in the black? 
  • Can they expand our space or the number of stores owned?
  • How can they transition into becoming valuable community centers and hubs of intellectual discussion?
If the book industry was audited and put under a microscope, you’d find enough material for a Broadway play. Make it a comical musical.  There’s a cast of many here.  The art of writing, editing, promoting, and selling books is one that has been practiced for centuries and is very much alive and well today.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

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