Monday, January 19, 2009

Letter to the editor

I'm curious what your thoughts are regarding publishing these days. Must one merge with the consumer model? Or can one subvert/supplant/circumvent it?

One mustn't merge with the consumer model if they don't mind doing it just to do it, but if the idea is to make money, merging with the consumer model is a better idea, although even that's not a sure shot. There have probably been more than five thousand failed publishers for every successful one.

I don't necessarily know what the consumer model is, but in my head, these are the non-supplantable angles that need to be considered:

1. Lots of cash is needed to get more printed books for each dollar spent.

2. Creative marketing can only go so far. More cash is needed for advertising.

3. Print coverage (newspapers, magazines) goes further than web coverage, but each is important, and there needs to be many layers.

4. Your writer should be out on the road all the time. Readings sell the most books. The more different locations, the better.

5. A publisher also needs somebody who can do sales... getting your book into bookstores is important. This is very important, but a waste of time unless steps 1-4 are successful.

6. Ideally, this sequence will have to be repeated several times successfully. A strong and relevant backlist is also important. It's possible steps 1-5 would be happening simultaneously, but with several different books. Which is why I think a successful publisher will be a team of at least three people.

7. All of which will be for naught if you have a shitty project. No bookstore is going to carry something with an amateur terrible design. No reviewer will pay attention to something that hasn't been well edited.

The only angle I can think of right now to circumvent some of these steps would be to design eBooks directly for portable reading devices like the Amazon Kindle. Cutting printed books and shipping out of the equation would be very helpful. But somebody doing this needs to hope that those devices take off (and I honestly can't tell if that's going to work or not), and I'd imagine they'll also need to still spend an awful lot to market their books and get enough people to read them. Seems like just as shitty a bet as starting a traditional publishing venture.

6 comments:

Jeff Kane said...

I read an article about how reselling is killing publishers and bookstores. Classics like Jane Austen and bestsellers used to be the backbone of the brick and mortar bookstores and allowed publishers to have enough money to take chances on new authors. Now that you can buy any book for 1 cent on Amazon auctions (something I've done for years) who is gonna pay full price at Borders or buy the book the first week online when they can wait a week and pay nothing? This is just a part of progress though, just like Robocop would eventually make human police obsolete in Metro City. I think paper books can never go out, i've read my whole life and nothing replaces the experience of reading a book that way, kindle just doesn't do it for me. I guess tie in marketing is the way to survive. Every new novel needs a built in movie deal and merchandising. At the same time the crap you can pick up at the airport newstand like David Baldacci bestsellers thrive off impulse purchases which can't be replaced by online sales right now. free illegal downloading hasn't killed music, it's just killed the rip off artist chain stores charging 20 dollar a cd and bootlegs haven't killed the movie industry. I don't even know what i'm saying anymore.

poo said...

yeah. cormac mcCarthy's last few books were ideal for making into movies. the road and no country.

dm said...

Are you planning on publishing
more books, Matt?

Matt DiGangi said...

Poo -- You really thought The Road was cinematic? I know it's being made into a movie, but I don't know how they're going to pull it off without adding some gunfights. I thought it was pretty slow and process-driven, not that great for a movie.

DM -- I doubt it, at least not as TJ Press. I'm broke. Do it right or not at all.

Dan S. said...

Some guy's speculations on the future of book retailing:

http://personanondata.blogspot.com/2008/12/death-of-big-box.html

poo said...

poo says. maybe not cinematic. but it read like a screenplay almost. very sparse and what not. felt like not a word woould need to be changed for a movie adaptation.

the road was slow and methodical but it kept my rapt the entire time. perhaps because of the weight of what could happen. i thought it was a very powerful book. i liked it better than no country. which isn't to say i didn't like old... A+ and A sort of thing.