The publishing business has undergone tremendous upheaval in recent years, and there’s more to come. This creates opportunities for authors and entrepreneurs who are ready to be more agile than the status quo. Here are five reasons why now is a great time to innovate and show creativity in the work of publishing.
1. The retail marketplace is available to anyone.
Publishers simply don’t have exclusive access to retail anymore, which was one of their primary unique selling propositions to authors. Don’t let them make you think they do. Don’t let them tell you that they have privileged access. It may be true to a degree, but it’s not necessarily meaningful, especially not when it comes to new voices and entry level authors. In religious publishing, for example, Christian bookstores have become such a small slice of sales that it’s like Barnes and Noble in the general market already went out of business. That’s what happened with the closures of the two major Christian retail chains (Family Christian and Lifeway) and thousands of indies.
What this means is the value of a traditional publisher is diminished, and any smaller publisher, from the self-published author, a hybrid publisher, or to small or medium sized indies, can get access to retail on an even playing field. There’s growth with these businesses, too, but not at the big houses.
2. The world of traditional publishing is top heavy.
Traditional publishers are consolidating and getting bigger, all fighting for the biggest author platforms in a world of scarcity, while entry level publishing is finding a world of abundance, variety, and dynamism.
What this means is you should be wary of big houses and all their imprints. They all report up to the same budget sheet, the same executive team and CEO. They may have deep pockets and publishing brand cache, but their size and structural uniformity has a way of flattening their cultural acuity, deadening their responsiveness, and making them lose their agility.
3. Major religious publishing in the US is culturally insular.
In the religious space, particularly the still large but declining world of evangelicalism, publishers are living inside their cultural bubble, some with their statement of faith you have to sign. But the bubble is bursting with the declining readership and celebrity defections. While some rank and file evangelical publishing staffers see it, the moneyed management team is slow to catch up. There are some important exceptions in publishers who are joining in some of the new and growing movements, but so many of those imprints are connected with denominational or large corporate structures and still have certain limitations and lag.
What this means is that now is a great time to venture into publishing that is free to do whatever it wants, whatever it can, whatever the reading public wants and needs to learn. A publishing enterprise that isn’t tied to anything. That’s exactly what is missing and is so needed.
4. The gatekeepers are gone.
Many of the gatekeepers are gone, like those who used to support those white male pastor books: the decision makers at bookstores, radio, church networks, even television. Our segmented digital world is moving on and has it’s own special powers.
What this means is that anyone with an engaging platform, even small to modest ones, can find reasonable amounts of success, possibly to grow in ways that are more satisfying. Skin color, creed, gender, or sexual orientation don’t have to stop you anymore, and they never should have anyway.
5. Publishers struggle to admit how much power authors now have.
People are connecting in new ways, finding new communities, even without any church involvement whatsoever. And yet publishers are slow to do a good job of getting into an author’s space and being more service oriented. The authors have far more power, even if it’s hard to use that power, and publishers aren’t acknowledging that with their royalty rates.
What this means is that a publisher that has in it’s very DNA the ability to coach an author on their platform is going to find better author partnership, and offer better author loyalty.