Good News: Reading Is Here To Stay

As long as there are readers, writers will have work to do

Good News: Reading Is Here To Stay“Reading is here to stay,” wrote Robert M. Sacks in the November/December 2012 issue of Publishing Executive magazine. His astute observation caught my attention, captivating my thoughts, both then and even more so today.

Discussions and speculation about the rapid evolution in the book publishing industry threaten to overwhelm us; considerations abound:

  • Options such as traditional publishing, self-publishing, and assisted publishing
  • More options in the form of indie presses, outsourcing, and support services
  • Help from consultants, coaches, and editors
  • Requirements for platform, promotion, and marketing
  • Social media to blog, tweet, and message
  • Communication through e-newsletters, RSS feeds, and subscriptions
  • Technologies of e-books, e-readers, and e-publishing
  • Changes via consolidation, closures, and layoffs
  • Audio books, foreign rights, translations, screenplays, and movie deals

My brain’s about to explode with all these developments, options, and choices.

Yet one thing remains: reading is here to stay. And with the future of reading secure, the future of authors and publishers is promising – for all of us willing to change, adapt, and dream.

Tomorrow will be interesting, exciting, and exhilarating, because reading is here to stay, and those readers will need authors to write content for them to read.

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Are You a Linear Thinker or 3D?

Effective communication should address both linear and 3D thinkers

Are You a Linear Thinker or 3D?Linear thinking people process thoughts and ideas in succession, logically moving from one point to the next.

3D thinking people jump from one thought or idea to another, which often seems to have little connection with each other.

Printed material, such as magazines and books, lend themselves to linear thinking. Digital content, such as websites and social media, lend themselves to 3D thinking.

We must learn to communicate with both linear thinkers and 3D thinkers.

To make books accessible to people who process in 3D, we should put content in short, self-contained sections, provide sidebars and ancillary information, offer links, and make content easy for readers to scan.

To make websites and social media accessible to people who process linearly, we should put content in a format allowing sequential access, offer structure to those who seek it, and provide indexes or directories.

Our world contains both linear and 3D thinkers. If we only address one group, we ignore half the market.

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How Can Publishers Become Developers?

Is it enough for authors to embrace a publishing mindset or must they go further?

How Can Publishers Become Developers?I once read, “publishers are becoming developers.” This sounds profound, but what does it mean?

A publisher is someone who prepares and issues information or material.

A developer is someone who creates, who builds, who advances.

How can publishers become developers?

  1. Turn a book or publication into a platform or business
  2. Repackage past and current products (books, articles, posts, and so forth) into innovative offerings for a new audience
  3. Build a social media presence to curate and share information
  4. Create mobile apps of content for the on-the-move, I-want-it-now demographic
  5. Establish new information dissemination channels
  6. Reinvent being a writer into something with a greater, grander vision

These are all general ideas, of course. I leave the details for each author-turned-publisher to determine, pursue, and achieve.

Then, just as authors become publishers, we can take the next step to all become developers, too.

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Generation Y Leads in Book Buying

Young people are more apt to read books than older folks

Generation Y Leads in Book BuyingTo listen to mainstream media about the state of book publishing leaves most people with an incorrect understanding of the industry. The press gives the impression that fewer people are reading and those who do are mostly older. The industry is dying, so why bother to write and publish books?

Yes, things are changing, but not how most people think – and that’s exciting. The truth is young people are buying more books, not less.

A 2012 news item from Bowker, based on extensive research by Bowker Market Research and Publisher’s Weekly, proclaimed that Gen-Y is now leading all demographics in book consumption. More recent reports confirm this reality. That’s great news! There is demand for books and a future for books.

The report also confirmed a shift to online purchases and an increase in e-book sales. Other reports suggest it is older readers who embrace digital reading, with younger readers preferring print. Go figure.

Times are changing, so writers and publishers must adapt, but the most important thing is people still want to read and young people are leading the way.

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What is the Future of Book Publishing?

Will book publishing follow the path of the music and movie industries?

What is the Future of Book Publishing?When people look at the future of book publishing they often draw parallels to music and video. In many ways this is instructive, but not in all cases.

Look at the history of music. With music there were 78-rpm records, cassettes, 8 tracks, vinyl records, CD, and iTunes/iPods.

Next consider the progression of video. With video there were Beta tapes, VHS tapes, video disks, DVD, and Blue Ray.

Both show a user progression of format and consumption to the digital realm. One might conclude, therefore, that printed word will give way to the digital word, that print books will cede to digital books, be it e-books or audio.

I don’t see that happening, at least not completely.

To say that e-readers will completely replace printed books is like saying iTunes will replace concerts or Blue Ray will replace theater. It’s not going to happen.

True, e-readers may one day dominate the reading public’s preference, but just as there will always be demand for concerts and theater, so too for the printed word. The key for authors and publishers is to embrace both options, not pick sides.

As a reader, do you prefer print or digital? As a writer should you care?

Do Readers Want Digital Instead of Print?

Do Readers Want Digital Instead of Print?There is a lot of hype and excitement about reading magazines and books electronically. All variety of statistics are being bandied about to support the deluge of digital. Studies are being conducted and consultants are consulting. There is euphoria over electronic reading.

But is it warranted? While digital reading is a tantalizing development and may someday change the way people interact with the written word, that day is not yet here. Consider some stats that I have stumbled upon from the magazine industry:

  • One magazine found that 75 percent of readers would not give up their print magazine. That means, the magazine can’t risk going fully digital.
  • A survey of magazine publishers over the performance of their digital editions found that 38% were “somewhat dissatisfied” and 22% were “extremely dissatisfied.” That means that among publishers, a full 60% are not happy with digital.
  • In another study, 61.5% of magazine publishers aren’t even sure how they can generate enough revenue to cover the costs of digital.

So, based on these stats, the majority of readers don’t want to read digitally, the majority of publishers are not happy with digital, and the majority of publishers don’t even know how they can financially support digital.

Going digital may be exciting, but the numbers are not behind it and the masses don’t support it — at this time.

Given this, shouldn’t the focus be on print?

What Will Book Publishing Look Like in 2015?

I’m bullish about publishing books. Yes, the industry is changing rapidly, but change means opportunity. Though I don’t feel qualified to predict what book publishing will look like in the future, or even next year, I do know one place to look.

The December 2014 issue of Book Business tapped industry experts to contemplate the future of book publishing. While some items discussed were broad, philosophical strategic visions, others were more practical.

The cover story, “The Big Ideas Shaping Book Publishing,” featured ten experts who weighed in on various topics. I most appreciated Caleb Mason’s submission, “Bringing Instincts Back to Acquisitions,” which should be welcome news to every frustrated writer.

Equally insightful is the interview with Rick Joyce, titled “Battling the Homogenization of Books.” Among other topics, he discussed digital media, data collection, pursuing niche audiences (a personal favorite), selecting the right social media platform, and book discovery.

If you want to get a glimpse of what the future may look like or want to help shape your own book publishing strategies, check out the December 2014 issue of Book Business.

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear about Book Publishing

Last week I received a telemarketing call from a well-known self-publishing operation, a division of a well-known traditional publisher. Although unwelcomed, the interruption didn’t surprise me because a few years ago I had contacted them. Their business model intrigued me, but I later dismissed them when I stumbled on a poorly produced book with their imprint inside.

I told the rep I’m pursuing a traditional publishing deal. Not deterred, she keyed in on my excuse, telling me why my strategy was wrong. She spewed forth a well-honed tutorial of why I needed to self-publish my books first. I won’t claim she lied to me, but mixed in with the truth were some half-truths and over-simplifications:

  • It’s harder than ever to land a traditional publishing contract. (True)
  • Traditional publishers won’t even look at your book, but will instead rely on a one-page query. (Over-simplification: If your query grabs their attention, they’ll ask for a proposal, which could lead to them looking at your book. But most likely they’ll only consider your query letter.)
  • Traditional publishers want you to self-publish first. (Half-truth: If your self-pub book is a breakaway hit, then you’re in a great position to sign a book deal. If you have a well-written, carefully edited, and appropriately laid out self-pub book, they’ll have less work to do should they decide to publish it – but they may also wonder if you’ve already made all the sales you’re going to make.)
  • She guaranteed their parent company would look at my book if I self-pub with them. (Over-simplification: What they will likely look at is sales numbers of my book, not the book itself. Once a certain threshold is reached then someone may actually look at my writing, but not until then. Of course, I’m speculating on this, but it’s not practical for them to give every self-pub book full consideration.)

The book publishing industry is rapidly changing. What was true last month may not hold true next month. We must be in a continual learning mode, but as we consider new information, we must exercise discernment, because we can’t believe everything we hear.

E-Books Gain Traction

Yesterday I listened to a nationwide radio program, where the host interviewed an author with a soon-to-be-released e-book. This wasn’t a print book and an e-book; it was just an e-book.

Usually the media only considers traditionally published, printed works, while dismissing e-books as irrelevant. Though I’m sure it’s happened before, this is the first time I’d witnessed a deviation from this old-school mindset. How encouraging to see an e-book and its author receive attention and respect from the national media.

This acknowledges just how far e-books have advanced. With their status among readers firmly established, now the mainstream media is following the public’s lead.

Except for a couple noteworthy exceptions, another facet of publishing long ignored by the media is self-published works. With e-books breaking through media barriers and biases, could self-published books be far behind?

This is such an exciting time for both authors and publishers, regardless of the form their books take.

Three Reasons Why Everyone Likes Anthologies

An anthology is a collection of selected writings by various authors. It seems anthologies are popular. Why is that?

Readers enjoy bite-sized passages: Anthologies focus on a theme, but within that subject, each author’s work is usually independent of the other contributors. Each chapter or section contains an autonomous thought. There’s no storyline to remember and no lesson builds throughout the book. Readers can read an anthology as their schedule allows without concern over continuity, can skip chapters without consequence, and can read sections in a random order. Reading an anthology fits the lifestyle and preference of many of today’s readers.

Writers share the workload: Each writer’s contribution to an anthology is minimal; it’s quick to write and easy to manage. While a book may take a single author months or even years to complete, anthologies come together quickly, with the content assembled in a few weeks. Writing for an anthology benefits writers, with less work required, a quicker result, and a published work to add to their resume.

Publishers minimize risk: Publishers like anthologies because each of the contributors will promote the book, sell the book, and buy the book. For example, assume an anthology has twenty contributors and each author facilitates the sale of 200 books through their personal network of contacts. That means 4,000 in total sales. With the majority of published books selling only a few hundred copies, several thousand is a good outcome. It doesn’t make the publisher rich, but they won’t lose money on the deal, either.

With anthologies offering benefits to readers, writers, and publishers, we can expect to see more of these compilations in the future.