Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Is The Book World Fair & Open To All?

Is there a sense of democracy or fairness to how the book world works?

Today no one can stop a voice from being heard.  If you want to write a book, it can be published, whether by traditional publishers, hybrids, or self-publishing sources.

If you want to share your message with the masses, you can do so through traditional media, digital media, advertising, or social media.

So one would say that democracy thrives in the book world, but does it?

If the vast majority of best-sellers come from five huge corporate book publishers, does this mean the only way to really get your book distributed and sold is through three five mega-publishing conglomerates?

If one is published by a publisher, whether a big or smaller one, the author will still need to have a great book and a marketing plan to make it a success.  Of course, he or she would have to work even harder when self-publishing.  So what’s the equalizer to having a big imprint behind your book?  


But money can’t just buy your way to success.  It gives you a chance though.

Money can buy ads and pay for some reviews.  It can buy the hiring of a book publicist, who can peddle your message to the media.  It can be invested to make elements of your brand look great – an awesome web site a quality business card, book giveaways, other premium giveaways, etc. It can buy your way to a best-seller list.

But if your book isn’t good, or its message has limited appeal or you do a poor job at book signings and media appearances – or if the book is not priced right, is packaged poorly or the cover is ugly --  you will likely fail.

Getting reviews in one of the many ways one can raise a book’s profile, but that process can be tied to money and politics.  A company that advertises in a book review publication may have a better chance of getting its books reviewed.  Same goes with the media.  If a book is sent to a newspaper from Simon & Schuster, it has a better chance of getting attention than a small indie imprint or a self-published author.

So, in theory, there is free speech and opportunity for all to succeed when it comes to the book world, but all access is not equal nor are all books treated fairly.  The book world may mirror most of American industry.  Every industry has its giants or leaders that dictate what consumers get access to and how the media covers things.  But anyone can be an entrepreneur in a business, the way anyone can self-publish, and anyone can pay for advertising, use social media, or seek to get product reviews.

But there’s something about the book industry that needs to be different from the rest of the nation’s businesses.  It’s a vital industry one that cuts into all aspects of life.  Without books, society is ignorant, dull, uninspired, and operating in the dark.  We need to ensure the free flow of books, the ability to get published and have one’s access to the media and the citizenry it serves, to remain protected and unfettered.

The whole industry chain must be given a chance to flourish. Writers need fair compensation.  Publishers need more bookstores and points of distribution.  Bookstores need educated communities to serve.  The media must give its attention to books and spread the ideas coming from our poets and authors.

But the book world does have its pseudo monopolies.  Amazon and Barnes & Noble run the book retail world.  Five book publishers rule the publishing of many best-selling, awarded, and critically- acclaimed books.  We need a reverse of such consolidation, but thankfully there are still alternative choices.

There are still more than a thousand other publishers besides the Big 5, from small presses and university presses to larger indies.  And though B&N and Amazon sell the vast majority of books, there are several thousand indie stores and other retail outlets one can purchase from.  More than 70% of all book titles published are self-published, so there is a wide variety of choice available. 

One thing that does still exist in the book world is competition and merit.  If your book is truly great, a literary agent or book publisher should recognize that, right?

Well, sometimes agents and publishers make mistakes.  Or politics get in the way.  Or commercialism pops into the picture.  Publishers want books that will sell so they will publish a thriller over poetry, and amongst the thrillers, they look for authors who will buy books, invest in publicity and marketing, show testimonials from high-profile people, have big social media followings, or have connections to distribution points (such as an author who can sell books to members of an organization that they run).

But not every publisher looks for the same thing – and not everyone publishes based on sales potential.  Some publish books they feel deserve a voice, that offer something meaningful to the world.

Self-publishing can make a lot of sense, especially if:

·         You have no other way of getting published.
·         You believe you can sell books.
·         Your message will appeal to the media.
·         You have resources to market your book.

However, and this doesn’t get said often, but some books simply should not be published.  You know what I am talking about.  They lack editing.  They add nothing to their genre.  They are boring or lack any creativity.  They contain bad advice, fake facts, or views that are nothing short of hate.  Everyone has the right of free speech, but everyone should also exhibit a little responsibility, self-control, and ethics when deciding what to publish.

Lastly, consumers help democratize the book industry.  If you like a book, tell everyone.  Same if you hate it.  The consumer can influence which books win or lose, which one is resonate with them and which one is not worthy of attention.

So every step of the way, books have to pass some kind of test and win someone over, from literary agents and publishers to news media, bookstores, and the consumers.  

Will the best books make it through!?

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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