Bennett's Blog

Part 1 - Entry Into The Market

Bennett R. Coles | February 19, 2011

The business of writing has changed dramatically in the past few years. The internet, advanced printing technologies and the recent recession have certainly changed the traditional publishing model. It has generally been bad news for the big publishing houses, but is it bad news for writers?

Not necessarily. On the plus side, e-books via the internet allow first-time authors to overcome the single biggest hurdle that used to stop them from reaching their audience: distribution channels. Print-on-demand (POD) technology has given authors a less expensive method of producing hard copies of their books without having to store boxes and boxes of unsold copies in their garage. So in this way, several key barriers to entry have been removed, giving authors a greater chance than ever before of seeing their work published.

However, with these barriers to entry being lowered, by default another critical barrier has disappeared: quality. Since many e-books and POD-books undergo no quality control before publication, the buyer has no implicit assurance that their new purchase is going to meet an acceptable literary standard like most traditionally-published books. And the most obvious downside to POD or self-published books is financial: these methods require the author to pay thousands of dollars up front.

And even for traditional publishing there are negative aspects to the recent shifts in the industry. Fueling a significant and sustained decrease in the sales of hard-copy books, the internet and the recession have combined to put traditional publishing houses in a financial bind. Faced with plunging revenues they have been generally forced to focus on their proven money-makers (ie: their existing authors) and have fewer resources to devote to new authors. And even when they do take a chance on an unknown, the marketing resources available to promote this new book are virtually non-existent. So for the new author wanting to take the traditional route to publishing, the long shot of even being considered by a publisher has become an almost-insurmountable barrier.

So the business landscape of writing has definitely changed, and a new author is well-advised to think hard about the traditional model of finding an agent, pitching a publisher and getting an advance. This is still a viable route, but it has become a lot more difficult than it was even five years ago. E-publishing, self-publishing and POD-publishing have all become more realistic options, although the stigma attached to them (through the perception of poor quality) is still a challenge to overcome.

The aspiring author thus has several viable avenues to publication in today's market, each with significant pros and cons. I think this is a good thing as it gives some power back to the author and breaks the stranglehold of the publishing houses. But in order to make the right decision, the author needs to consider what his or her goal in publishing really is.

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