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Threat from Self-Publishing presentation at DBW2014


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Should Traditional Publishers Feel Threatened by the Potential of Self-Publishing? Dana Beth Weinberg's Presentation at Digital Book World 2014

Should traditional publishers feel threatened by the potential of self-publishing? Of course they should.

As a hybrid author—an author who has both traditionally published and self-published—and a social scientist who studies the book industry, I am something of a two-for-one special at Digital Book World 2014. My remarks draw from both perspectives.

Last week I indie published the first installment in my thriller The Kings of Brighton Beach, a series about the Russian mob in New York. As a non-brand name author, I represent the greatest threat to publishers from self-publishing, or I would if my books were in the same genre. My traditional publications are non-fiction. As a sociologist, I study the relationships between workers and organizations in changing industries and cut my teeth studying healthcare. In healthcare, the issues I’m going to discuss can literally be matters of life and death. Many of you probably feel that way about them in your own organizations (and the thriller writer in me had to throw in a dead body.)

This conference has focused on the changing technologies in publishing, and I am going to focus today on the human equation, specifically the relationship between authors and publishers. While many things have changed in publishing, one thing has not. At base, what publishers do is related to content provided for them by a contract workforce, namely authors. When we think about authors as a contignent labor pool, we open the possibility to consider the similarity between publishing and other industries and learn from them.

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Threat from Self-Publishing presentation at DBW2014

  1. 1. Should Traditional Publishers Feel Threatened by the Potential of SelfPublishing? Dana Beth Weinberg, PhD January 15, 2014
  2. 2. Newly Self-Published
  3. 3. Traditionally Published
  4. 4. Matter of life and death?
  5. 5. Publishers’ Core Activity • Publishers produce, package, distribute, market, and sell content (the books?) provided by contract workers (the authors!)
  6. 6. Changing Focus and Power • From editorial logic to market logic • From “love of books” to consumerism • From editors to “bean counters” and “suits”
  7. 7. Oversupply of Authors
  8. 8. Changing Social Contracts High Expectations, Low Commitment • Careers across organizations • Temporary and contract employment • Expectations of productivity and being on-call
  9. 9. The Query Letter Dear Editor, Please, please, please consider my manuscript for publication. I have 1 million Facebook and Twitter followers clamoring to buy this book, and Hollywood has already offered me a movie deal. Sincerely, Shirley T’Sell
  10. 10. A Segmented Market Author Median Writing Income
  11. 11. Distribution of Authors (% of Total Sample) Submitted 15% Completed Manuscripts 58% Survey Authors Not submitted 9% Started But Not Completed 34% Published 33% Not Started 8% Traditionally Published 13% Hybrid 5% Self-Published 20% Hybrid 2%
  12. 12. Indie Math Self-Publishing • 4 novellas @ 25k words • $2.99 at 70% royalty rate – download fees  $2.04 • 3,000 fans ______________________ $24,480 $5,242 with only 642 fans! Traditional Publishing • 1 novel @ 100k words • $3,000 to $4,999 advance (maybe) • $6.99 @ 25% e-book royalty • 3,000 fans ______________________ $5,242 (advance earned out)
  13. 13. What Can Publishers Do for Authors? Advantages of traditional publishing: • Sales • Quality • Distribution • Marketing • But authors reported they weren’t consistently satisfied with their experiences.
  14. 14. Why They Write It’s not all about the $
  15. 15. Opportunities for Publishers Publishing Preferences
  16. 16. Relationships with Authors Developing, keeping, and leveraging talent Or Treating authors as disposable, replaceable, and needing to be highly supervised and managed
  17. 17. Revising the Contract • Commitment • Empowerment • Partnership  High Performance In other industries, high performance work systems yield better outcomes for workers, clients, and organizations. Why not in publishing?
  18. 18. Crucial Questions • What do authors want and need? • What can publishers offer? • What mutual benefits are possible?