Thursday, July 1, 2010

12 Predictions about the New Publishing Business Model

Amazon Kindle e-book reader being held by my g...Image via Wikipedia

The publishing business is changing faster than almost anyone wants to admit. I feel like I am watching the Berlin Wall come down again. Change is scary, but it is exciting to contemplate the new structures that might emerge in the wake of all the carnage. Here are some predictions based on the opportunities that new technology and new spaces are creating:

1. Blended bookstore business strategies. I believe some bookstores will survive by marrying bookselling with other businesses. The chains already have cooped the coffeehouse marriage, but other combinations are available. The childcare bookstore. The women's fitness bookstore. The movie house bookstore. The speed dating bookstore (possibly franchised by eHarmony.) The over 55 bookstore (absolutely no children please). My favorite is the bar bookstore, where you are served the cocktail of the day (the Poetini, the Bronterita) by your favorite librista (or would it be booktender?) as you thumb through prospective purchases. Just remember, if you spill on it, you've bought it.

2. The Cadillac editorial business. I know freelance editors abound nationwide, but soon some smart New Yorker will aggregate a brain trust of editorial staff who have been laid off from the big houses. This first rate talent won't come cheap, but authors who want the best will be able to access top editors. This business will be web centered, and will offer personal consultation via webcam or conference call. There might be a sliding scale of charges. As an author becomes more successful, she might 'trade up' to a more experienced editor. The brand would offer related services including legal and translation support.

3. The Cadillac book review source. Reviewing is alive and well on the web, but quality is all over the ballpark and review content is not organized. I believe there is an audience willing to pay for quality review and critique content that is packaged and delivered attractively and efficiently. The New York Review of Books, the Midwest Book Review and other respected players already are online, but they are behind the curve in technical terms. Soon, a geekier bibliophile will create a snappy subscription service that delivers a high-end, independent daily ezine to your computer, mobile or Kindle.

4. Seamless software. I have purchased software or downloaded freeware purporting to be the perfect tool for authors creating manuscripts. I've been disappointed in every case. Now, we also need integrated solutions for delivering manuscripts in proper formats to the production departments of POD publishers and to Kindle and other reader devices. Soon a sophisticated software deliverer will create the single solution, with pull-down menus for appropriate publishing fonts, trim size, HTML and MOBI conversion, and tools that facilitate the sectioning and pagination of front matter, back matter, chapters and tables of contents. Perhaps we could convince Quickbooks to perform the same service for authors that they do for the accounting-challenged, where they provide a template for double entry bookkeeping that a non-CPA can use with confidence. Then, we authors could finally have quick books, pardon the pun.

5. The Amazon insider business report. Amazon is aggregating a community of authors and supplying them with useful products. I believe Amazon will expand its offerings to include market data. Imagine getting a report on the publishing industry that looks like the report you get from your broker each month. Amazon will charge a fee, but for working writers these data are a business expense.

6. Pre-publishing analytical services. Authors need feedback that is constructive, unbiased and actionable. Such support used to come from agents and editors, but many writers no longer have access to these resources. Does the sidekick need additional character development? Does the plot momentum grind to a halt in the middle of the book? Of course, there are critiquing groups, but often fellow writers have axes to grind, like to hear themselves talk or never read anything in your genre. I believe there is a significant unmet need within the writing community for professional reader services, essentially a service that provides pre-publication feedback from focus groups or beta test groups of objective, experienced reviewers who are using standardized evaluation templates. The service also could control for variables including geography, age, sex and other factors that affect an individual's assessment of a manuscript. This is a wonderful revenue opportunity for teaching faculty, retirees, home-bound moms and other writers.

7. Aftermarket agents. Many agents will specialize in identifying promising self-published authors and assisting them in optimizing the return from their already published work. I believe that such relationships will increasingly be the subject of negotiation over fees, particularly with regard to nonfiction projects. Many attorneys will provide these services as well.

8. Survival of the fittest houses. Many existing publishing houses will be successful in negotiating a path between the Sylla and Charybdis of technology and competition. In order to strike a balance and differentiate themselves from the new players, they will bring back many of the services they used to provide to authors, countering technical expertise with the personal touch. Such houses will downsize their family of brands much as the car companies have done. They also will extend their brands into new content markets.

9. Author brands. Major authors like Stephen King and Janet Evanovich will publish the work of other authors. They are mentor/magnets and they will aggregate promising newcomers in their genres.

10. Reader's consortiums. Readers who are passionate about particular types of books will band together and approach authors to negotiate for content that fits their reading desires. In the future, 'advances' will come from genre and sub-genre groups like this, who will act like angel investors for mid-market authors. This trend will probably begin in the romance segment. Serialized stories also will be supported this way, with authors building a subscriber base for continuing stories. Proactive authors will begin to 'advertise' for financial supporters of specific projects on Craig's List.

11. Unique books. We will see more experimental and genre-defying works reach the market. Many of these efforts will end up in the cyber-dustbin. However, some will blaze new trails, inventing genres and content categories. Imaginative cyber-scribes will create a new generation of beloved characters and exciting yarns that surprise, terrify, comfort and amaze.

12. Always the lawyers. Because so many writers are reaching the market now who are working without a net of experienced professionals protecting their project, mistakes will be made. Litigation over libels, trademark infringement and plagiarism will increase. Unscrupulous hucksters also will prey on unsupported writers, because they don't have to fear the watchful presence of a publisher or agent. Cyber-publishing will be a bit like the Old West for a while, and in any commercial arena, your lawyer is the gunslinger.

Next, I'll blog about attributes of a successful cyber author.

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