Bob Baker's Artist Empowerment Blog

The Ugly Truth About Book Publishing in 2006

Learning (and Unlearning) the State of the Book Industry

A lot has happened in the publishing industry over the past several years. And that's why both veteran and aspiring authors are eager to learn all they can about book creation, marketing and sales. But there's another aspect to this education process that I recommend you learn as well: To unlearn much of what you've come to accept as the book publishing gospel.

The things I'm about to suggest may ruffle a few feathers, but I feel they need to be said nonetheless …

The State of the Publishing Industry

The January 2006 issue of Writer's Digest magazine features an article called "The State of the Industry." Here are a few of the findings expressed by writer Tom Connor and some if his industry insider sources, along with my own comments:

Industry truth: One of the major obstacles these days is the sheer volume of books. In 2003 alone, more than 195,000 new titles were published.

My truth: Sure, that number represents a lot of new books. But why sweat it? The vast majority of those titles do not compete with yours. And because short-run digital printing is so accessible to amateurs, many new titles sadly reek of poor quality and will never be marketed aggressively by their authors. Which means there is still a place for good books from smart, self-promoting authors.

Industry truth: One industry pro said, "At the same time that publishers are chasing readers, the waves of new titles are chasing the same pool of consumer dollars."

My truth: Hogwash! This is simply old-school scarcity thinking. There's plenty of money being circulated by consumers -- billions and billions of dollars. If the benefit that your book delivers has value in the minds of readers, many will find a way to purchase it, regardless of what their previous book budget was. People spend their money on what's important to them, whether the purchase involves a music CD, computer game, magazine or movie ticket. Do all you can to position your book as an important resource to your target audience.

Industry truth: Another source remarked, "The biggest trend is that most titles are failures."

My truth: According to whom? For a major publisher, a book that sells 10,000 copies over its first two years may be considered a dismal failure. But to a self-published author, those same sales figures could supply a healthy income. One person's loser is another's bread and butter title. Create your own definition of success.

Industry truth: A publishing veteran asked, "How the hell does anyone who self-publishes get noticed among 195,000 new titles a year?"

My truth: By being concerned only with -- and promoting the heck out of -- your title (or titles). Who cares that there are 10,000 new mysteries or 6,000 titles on how to heal relationships? There's only one book on your topic written from your one-of-a-kind perspective. Exploit your uniqueness!

Industry truth: Bookstore returns of 30 to 50 percent and shrinking book coverage in the media are causing headaches for traditional publishing companies.

My truth: Let them stock up on pain reliever. You can rest easy and simply choose not to expend excess energy on retail distribution and book reviews in the mainstream press. Don't believe the doom and gloom, though. Authors are getting lots of media exposure -- just in areas other than book review pages. Experts and genre specialists will always find a home on talk shows, lifestyle pages and web sites of all stripes. And bookstores? Well, as Dan Poynter says, "Bookstores are lousy places to sell books." Find your own avenues to reach readers and book buyers.

It can't hurt to learn all you can about the publishing industry -- as long as you're willing to unlearn much of what you hear and then carve out your own version of the truth.

To your success!


P.S. For more articles like this, visit my Self-Publishing Tips & Resources page.


  • I like your style and have provided a link on my blog. Thank you for your articles and optimistic attitude.

    Gordon van Vliet

    By Blogger "van Vliet" Art Blog, At 2:57 PM  

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