Rebalancing the Book Ecosystem - Authors, Bookstores, Readers

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler
Favorite authors and headliners draw readers to BookCon. Theo Wargo / Getty Images Entertainment

Publishers Offer Author Education

Continued from Whither Amazon? Rebalancing the Book Publishing Ecosystem

Authors (and those who aspire to be) need to understand that in most cases marketing nearly is as important as their writing. To that end, publishers are stepping up the DIY education. Self-publishing services like BookBaby and traditional publishers like Penguin Random House, Workman, Simon & Schuster and others are now providing resources like social media training, infrastructure for educational webinars and speaker's bureaus to help authors learn marketing tactics and create additional revenue streams.

 

Taking a page from indie authors, publishers have launched ebook-only divisions to emulate the successful track record of those (especially in genres like romance and new adult) who have had ebook-only sales success.

Authors Leverage Bestseller Power

Author voices are best heard when organized, as some did during the Amazon vs. Hachette stand-off that financially hurt authors. Then, powerful authors — like Stephen Colbert and James Patterson and Douglas Preston and Scott Turow — led the charge effectively.

But more organization is needed and advocacy organizations like the Author's Guild will need to help authors and their agents continuously and vociferously push back on any low-royalty contractual terms ebooks — or on any new bargain basement royalty rates that might be floated as a result of the emerging subscription ebook models for readership, like Amazon's Kindle Unlimited.

Bricks and Mortar, Flesh and Blood Readers

The successes of BookCon and Indies First / Small Business Saturday have shown that the direct-to-author connections made on social media have helped create readers who want more connection, who welcome the chance to meet and interact with writers whose work has already connected them and virtually touched them.

 

Readers' exposure to authors at brick-and-mortar bookstores, book signings, libraries, book readings, book fairs and festivals and events like California Bookstore Day, book conventions, book parties, and book tours helps create more lasting connections between authors. Some regional independent bookseller associations, like SIBA, are inaugurating consumer days at their conventions.

And, as today's media savvy people like to be "inside" the industry as well, trade-to-consumer innovations such as BuzzBooks from Publishers Lunch can make an impact. Buzz Books makes book excerpts available to the reading public free of charge, in the hopes of enticing consumers to buy the book...

And getting people to buy books is the name of the game, of course. How much do readers value books? What are they willing to pay? 

It varies, of course, according to the specific content and its unique value to the particular reader. Which means that there are as many answers to that question as there are books and readers. But nobody is going to pay more than they have to. Which is what makes the book publishing business and pricing it's gazillion different annual "products" so awfully hard.  

Which brings us back to Amazon.

Whatever you think of the retailer, they are part of the ecosystem, sometimes friend, sometimes foe, fighting tooth and claw to get as much as possible from the publishers for the service they provide. And, yes, it feels to many that they have an unfair financial advantage and so have been getting the lion's share. 

There is much to shake out and undoubtedly more attacks to fend off. But the signs of a new nimbleness and fluidity of roles and smart expansion markets for repurposed book content — and the capabilities to develop and distribute them — is heartening. If resourced and leveraged properly, these will help maintain and increase the value of content, and support every part of the industry that helps put it in the hands of the paying public.

With proper care and feeding, publishing ecosystem will adapt and survive.

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