Innovation in the publishing industry

Old School TechnologyCan I reiterate again that, even if I don’t know whether an agent or publisher has read my work or not, I am truly grateful for a response of any kind to my proposals.

I am also impressed by agents and publishers who have caught up to this century and are using email to manage their submission process and resulting correspondence. Seriously people, if you ask me to send you a letter, with printed samples of my work, and then I have to wait by the letter box to receive a response, I’m really going to question your ability to market my work in the technological environment we find ourselves in today.

It’s like I’m a recording artist who has been asked to send a tape of my music to a record producer. While I’m diligently finding an appliance that records onto tapes, buying a tape from the most archaic retailer in the world and putting the tape in an envelope, then buying an appropriate stamp, walking it to a post box, only to find I wait weeks, months or never to hear back from you, I realise that in the meantime, there are bands on You Tube or singers with My Space sites, who have sold more albums on iTunes with the touch of finger, than your record label has sold in the last financial year.

You might not care that I think it’s ridiculously backwards of your business to still be asking writers to post you letters, with a a stamped, self addressed envelope inside for you to send the rejection letter back in. Hey, it’s not like you want to publish my work anyway! But let’s imagine for a moment that an author you did want to publish has got so fed up with your old school submission guidelines, and has worked out how little value you will add to the online publicity of their work (where all meaningful promotion starts these days), that they bypass you altogether and decide to self publish instead? What will happen to your business in this eventuality? And your industry?

Here’s something to ponder. Self published authors, Nancy C. Johnson and Victorine Lieske , have recently made it onto the New York Times bestseller list for e-book fiction. Self published used to be such a dirty word in the industry, but indi-authors have forged ahead anyway, and are now putting agents and publishers to shame. Congratulations ladies! You’re truly an inspiration!

eBooks can no longer be ignored as a ‘fad’ or a ‘poor cousin’ to a real book. Some major retailers, including Amazon, are now selling more eBooks than traditional books. If that doesn’t make the industry wake up, I don’t know what will!

I understand that agents and publishers have all the pressures that any company faces, especially in the economic times that we have experienced in recent years. Profit is your driving motive and this influences decisions in regards to the amount of time spent assessing work by previously unpublished authors. But, like any business, if you don’t adapt to change in your market, you won’t survive. What is your plan to promote fiction via ebooks, rather than traditionally printed books? Do you need to publish the novel as a book at all or will it be more cost effective to go down the ebook route first? Why are so many publishers and agents so unwilling to have these conversations?

Don’t get me started on agents and publishers who don’t even accept submissions. It seems to me that these are the first who will go out of business. They’ve already shut up shop, so why should we take any notice of them anyway? Too busy to find good products. Too busy doing what exactly? Nuturing talent? Or giving tried and tested authors all your attention, at the expense of innovation and openness to new opportunities?

I wonder what would have happened if Steve Jobs announced one day at Apple that they were going stop coming up with news ideas, and instead focus on the computing products they already have. No more ideas. No more submissions. No iPods. No iPhones. No iTunes (I can hear the record producers chearing). And no iPads (to the applause of every agent and publisher in the world?) Whether you’re happy about it or not, the publishing industry is headed towards an online distribution model, with an emphasis on ebooks and print on demand (POD) services for those consumers who want to own a three dimensional book. I’m excited about this new world, and definitely plan to take hold of all the opportunities it offers!

Who’s with me?