09 January 2012

Publishing Econ 101: A Love Story

A little tidbit most people don’t know about me—I have a degree in Business Economics. Weird, huh?

How many Business Economics Paranormal Romantic Suspense Authors do you know? Because of my background, I look at the state of the Publishing Industry and get all excited because it combines my two worlds with a great glorious bang.

Ready for Publishing Econ 101?

Did you just roll your eyes? Stay with me here, Economics can be…dare I say it?...fun.

I am going to attempt to explain why the rise of digital books is a good thing for readers, authors, and the industry in general.

To do so, we need to travel back in time. Way, way back, say five years, or at the most ten, to the days when you and I didn't own an ebook.

In the pre-digital era, the majority of books you and I could buy in our local bookstores were published by New York's Big Six. The gold-standard for an author was to be published by one of these houses. Combined as one group, the Big Six operated like a monopoly.

And monopolies are not good for consumers.

Why? Because the monopoly, not the consumer, controls the quantity, content and cost of books.

· The amount of books released each month was established for the individual lines in each house. Once the set number was collected, editors were forced to either turn away books or push them further out into the future. This meant that readers had to wait for fav authors and new authors had a tough time breaking into the established line.

· Books were produced in accordance with the requirements for each line. If a book didn't fit those requirements, it was turned away. If a trend became hot (vampires, Regency...) new lines in the house had to be created, which obviously took time. If a trend slowed down, lines were cancelled and books that were written to fit a particular line suddenly became the equivalent of publishing pariah (Chick Lit).

· Cost of books were set by the Big Six. Prices were roughly the same depending on the type of book (paperback, trade, hardcover).

Fast-forward to the digital-age.

The advent of eReaders created something that was missing in the Publishing Industry--Competition. And competition is good for consumers. Suddenly, we have choices. Writers don't have to submit to New York to be published. Readers have a choices in all sorts of digital formats.

Now we are moving toward a free market where:

Quantity - More and more writers are increasing the supply of books and chipping away at New York's control of the product. Authors no longer want to wait two years to see their words in print if they can self-pub a story in days. And they don't have to fit their stories into a predetermined box (house line). I am thrilled to see Chick Lit on the market again. My friends are self-pubbing Chick Lit books and readers are snatching these books up like candy. What a great supply and demand lesson!

Content - New York had a system of vetting out the not-ready-for-publication authors. Today, pretty much anyone can write a book and throw it into the pool. Readers are complaining about purchasing books that have not been professionally edited. I think this will get sorted out by supply and demand as well. Readers will look to review sites, author testimonials, Goodreads (and similar places), and the publishing houses themselves to find good quality books. If an author doesn't produce a product that stands up to the consumer's demands, they will not sell many books. Free trade at its finest!

Cost - When supply increase, price goes down. Cha-ching Economics!

Are you worried about the Big Six? Don't be. They still own the majority of the market share and I am sure they are figuring out how to play the game with the new world-wide-web rules. They'll have to learn how to produce faster and cheaper books while keeping the quality high. We are experiencing a market flood and although it has been said that creme rises to the top, so too unfortunately, does crapola. Publishing houses might be the experts that the average reader turns to to find a good book in the sea of books. Maybe, maybe, they will go back to the old model of helping their authors with promotions to distinguish them above others.

It is an interesting time for change. But one thing will never change--readers will want to read good books and authors will want to write them. Somehow, we will come together, no matter what.

Now that's a great love story.

What are your thoughts about this amazing in the industry? And don't you love Economics?


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