Welcome to the weekly The Smart Set, where I share three smart pieces worth reading about the publishing and media industry. I also point to issues and questions raised, and welcome you to respond or ask your own questions in the comments.
“To seek: to embrace the questions, be wary of answers.”
—Terry Tempest Williams
Publishers Need to Rethink Their Marketing Deployments by Mike Shatzkin
Industry analyst Mike Shatzkin discusses the phenomenon of accomplished, traditionally published authors who decide to self-publish due to lack of backlist and marketing support from their publishers (among other things). His commentary is one of the most lucid and reasoned arguments for why publishers need to change—dramatically and soon—how they market books. Of the two authors who recently switched to self-pub, he observes:
… [Marketing effort applied to backlist titles] can resuscitate a dormant book, and that fact, combined with the higher share of revenues self-publishing brings, can make the effort of [authors] managing their own publishing business well worth the effort to them. … Both authors want to work on making their books sell.
Of course, this constitutes a loss to the publishers whose initial efforts helped create both the product and the platform that the self-publisher and the self-publishing infrastructure (most prominently Amazon, but there are plenty of players there) then capitalizes on. …
Traits [that these self-published authors share] are marketing and publicity capability and constructive business sense. These are traits publishers should be looking for in their author partners and the fact that they can gain better expression and leverage outside a publishing house is a failing the industry really needs to fix.
Shatzkin goes onto discuss a strategic question that has not been resolved: authors need to control and manage their own online presence, but this is (of course) labor intensive. While authors could benefit from the publishers’ help, the author can’t and shouldn’t entrust that work to any single publisher. Read his full post, long but worthwhile.
Thoughts & questions:
- How can publishers best support authors who can contribute to their own marketing? How do you make the partnership, as Shatzkin says, “fair and synergistic”?
- You can find (my very extensive) thoughts here from a 2012 presentation: The Future of the Author-Publisher Relationship
Review of the eBook Subscription Services by Jane Litte
This is one of the first comprehensive, non-industry speak overviews I’ve seen of the ebook subscription landscape. If you’re trying to catch up on what’s out there and what sort of titles are available (or which service you might consider buying into), don’t miss this post.
Thoughts & questions:
- Are you subscribing to any of the services? What’s your take on the title selection and value? Has it decreased how much you spend on books overall? (I do not subscribe to any of the services; my reading is far too niche, highly targeted, and library driven.)
A Marketing Pitch From Author Solutions by Victoria Strauss
I mainly add this as a public service announcement for anyone still not familiar with the sales tactics of publishing services company Author Solutions (ASI) and its many subsidiaries. If you are searching for a service to help you self-publish, educate yourself about the many excellent options that aren’t Author Solutions. Mick Rooney’s site is a good place to start.
Thoughts & questions:
- How long will it take before ASI goes out of business?
Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has nearly 25 years of experience in the media & publishing industry. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.
In addition to being a professor with The Great Courses (How to Publish Your Book), she is the author of The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), which received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as Digital Book World and Frankfurt Book Fair, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.