Thursday, 31 March 2011

Does Conventional Publishing Deserve to Survive? II

Editing and Gate Keeping yesterday. Today I'm looking at Marketing and Career Sustainability

3. Marketing
All authors are told to use social media - FaceBook, Twitter, blogs etc. So you could argue that the publishers have already opted out of marketing. But, social media aside, they have most of the other outlets sewn up. It's very hard for an outsider to get coverage in a magazine or newspaper or at a literary festival.

It's also hard for an outsider to get into supermarkets. You might argue that with e publishing you don't need to be in supermarkets. Maybe so, but they're where the bulk of books get bought. Sell in the supermarkets and you hit the best seller lists, even if you're a complete unknown. Lots of people - and we're talking tens of thousands - read your book and (hopefully) spread the word. It's hard to build word of mouth if you start from a relatively low number of sales in the first place.

The other plus point for the publishers is they have a team of dedicated press officers and marketing staff who love their jobs. If I'd wanted to go into marketing, I'd have done that after university. I didn't. I might be able to sustain enthusiasm for one, maybe two books, but I don't think it's in me to carry on marketing beyond that. Which leads me to...

4. Career Sustainability
Once upon a time, publishers nurtured authors. They accepted that an author might take time to develop as a writer, and that not all of an author's books would be as good as each other. They were prepared to keep the faith and give authors advances that enabled them to write. The mid list was the staple of all publishers, selling consistently albeit not brilliantly. Well, that went some years ago - along with the Net Book Agreement. It's particularly bad in Mid List Land at the moment as publishers concentrate their resources on the big brand names and new debuts they can sell as the next big thing.

I think quite a few authors are looking at e publishing because they realise that publishers aren't interested in sustainability any more for the mid list. If your sales graph isn't going upwards then you're out. That's a tough policy, and I think it's going to backfire long term. But then, as a mid list author, I would say that.


So, does conventional publishing deserve to survive? That depends. They've been careless with some assets, such as editors and the good will of authors. They've devolved some chunks of what they're supposed to do onto agents and authors. But they still control a large part of the book market and will continue to do so for the next few years at least whether they deserve to or not.

Overall, if I were a new author, I'd be looking for the print deal before I considered e publishing. As a mid list author, I'm still primarily interested in print, but I'm keeping a close eye on e publishing developments. I don't think my position will change next week, or next month. But the month after that...? Who knows?

NEW!!! I've finally got round to organising some course dates....
How to WRITE a Novel: London 3rd May/Birmingham 7th May/
Oxford 8th May/Exeter 21st May/Bath 12th June
How to SELL a Novel: London 24th May/Exeter 4th June/


Fiona Faith Maddock said...

Your advice to new authors is interesting. My instinct is to agree with you, but gosh, looking out from the purgatory where ignored debut wannabes are languishing in their thousands, including me, e-Publishing looks more appealing by the day.

Sarah Duncan said...

I think e-publishing IS interesting, but it depends a) on you and what you want from writing and b) your genre. It's going to be different for everyone.

womagwriter said...

I'd want to be published in a real, proper, paper book. Happy to be e-published as well, but nothing beats the real thing. I don't own a kindle. Maybe if I did I'd think differently...