Kindle Forum banner
1 - 20 of 48 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
794 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
After giving this a good bit of thought, I narrowed it down to four possible groups in trad publishing:
1) Big publishing houses
2) Small publishing houses
3) Editors
4) lit agents

Which of these groups fears self-publishing the most? To put it another way, who has the most to lose?

My opinion? For starters, I certainly don't think it's the Big Houses...Their market control looks unassailable, and should stay that way as long as their advertising budgets remain intact.

As for agents, as long as they can feed (and feed off) the big houses, they'll survive.

That leaves Small Houses and Editors...What do you think?

WPG
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,749 Posts
At my local RWA chapter's retreat a couple of months ago, several agents flat out admitted that they don't know whether they'll have jobs 5 years from now. They acknowlege they'll have to adapt to a new world to survive.

One of the agents is also a literary attorney, and she admitted that the overwhelming majority of her work these days is from her attorney side of the business, not agenting. She's being hired by countless writers to review their old publishing contracts to find a way for them to revert their rights or get their digital rights so they can self-publish. She's spending the majority of her time reviewing contracts for clients who hire her solely for that reason...and much less time on her actual agenting clients.

So I'd say agents have the most to fear from self-publishing. That doesn't mean they "fear" it per se, just that they're needing to adapt and figure out what their role will be in this changing world.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,688 Posts
Fear may be the wrong word. Those with the most to lose are the employees of the publishers and their corporate owners. They know recent history.

We saw huge layoffs when music stores closed.

We saw huge layoffs when travel agencies closed.

We saw huge layoffs when trading pits lost volume.

We saw huge layoffs when telephone operators were replaced by computers.

We saw huge layoffs when elevator operators were replaced by electronics.

All these are cases of disruptive technology changing the composition of the labor force. Folks in the publishing industry aren't stupid. They see the potential that a significant number of them may become obsolete. That's a strong motivation.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,520 Posts
I think that a lot of people in the publishing business aren't even aware that there is a problem.  When businesses have existed for a long time, they live in a vacuum and don't look at the real world.  That is apparent from all the long established businesses that are failing.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
991 Posts
I think it's the epubs, esp. the smaller epubs. Why go through them when you can just publish it on Kindle and get more percentage of the royalties?  I think the big NY houses now have a better filter rather than reading the thousands of queries that come to their offices. Now, they can look at the Kindle Bestsellers and query them instead. PJ
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
868 Posts
I agree with Amanda on this one.  I think it is agents who have the most to fear.  Really, who needs them?  Ok, big name authors going the trad pub route will still need representation, but for those of us going the "Indie" route (and we all know the numbers are growing exponentially), agents are irrelevant.  Their piece of the pie is going to keep getting smaller and smaller.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,000 Posts
There is no shame in being afraid. Fear is not stupid or a bad thing. Sometimes fear is a healthy response to something that might be a danger to you. Fear can motivate you. It will force you to change and adapt to confront your fear. The trick is to not let that fear overwhelm you. That's when fear is a bad thing.

Should people in traditional publishing be afraid of losing their jobs and taking a hit to their wallets? Yes. Even without adding self-publishing to the mix, a lot of people have reason to fear that. Should they let that fear push them into making bad business decisions or standing still with that deer in the headlights look? No.

I think the ones who fear self-publishing the most are the ones who have let their fear overwhelm their judgement. They are the ones standing around waiting for that car to hit them or the ones making bad decisions. Those are probably the ones losing the most money.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,749 Posts
PJJones said:
I think it's the epubs, esp. the smaller epubs.
Yes, I definitely think we'll be seeing several of the smaller e-publishing houses go out of business. Like you said, why go through one of the small, less known ones, when you can self-publish it and get much bigger percentage of royalties? Some might argue that the advantage is the editing and cover art, but you can easily contract that out (many of the freelancers do cover art for the small e-pubs, or edit for them as well).

I do think the larger, more established e-publishing houses will flourish, however, such as Samhain and Carina.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
425 Posts
Considering it was an agent who advised me to become an e-publisher doesn't seem to gel with the idea they have the most to fear. I think the whole industry is in flux and there are fears around about the future of traditional publishing but I don't think that equates with a fear of self-publishing.
Chris L.  ;)
 
G

·
Nobody fears self-publishers.  

Self-publishing existed before the Kindle.  A small percentage of self-publishers did well.  Most failed miserably.  Even Mark Twain, who vanity presses love to site as a "successful" self-publisher, actually went into financial ruin on his self-publishing ventures.  The reason why it seems like this indie success explosion is going on is volume of people self-publishing.  

Suppose one percent of people who self-publish are successful.  If only 1,000 people self-publish, then only ten people will be successful.  If 10,000 people self publish, then you will have 100 people successful.  When you hit around a million people self publishing (a conservative estimate) then suddenly you have TEN THOUSAND successful self-publishers to name drop.  The problem is, you still have 9,990,000 who are failures.

When you hear industry people talk, they are not talking about self-publishers.  When trads complain about the Kindle, they aren't crying "Oh god, all these self-publishers are taking their genre content directly to consumers!"  They are complaining about pricing practices from RETAILERS that undermine their other revenue streams or threaten their copyright (like the whole Google books debacle).  People don't fear Amazon because of the self-publishers.  They fear Amazon because Amazon is becoming a monopoly and monopolies are bad for industry.

The primary issue is price preservation.  When Amazon and BN and mass retailers began to deep discount hardcovers, it was essentially the beginning of the end for bookstores.  Mom and pop shops can't compete when Amazon is selling $39 hardcovers for $16.  The whole arguement behind industry pricing was to prevent Amazon from artificially selling ebooks too low as a loss leader for the Kindle.  It never had ANYTHING to do with indies.

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
942 Posts
Bards and Sages (Julie) said:
Nobody fears self-publishers.
The industry is plenty uneasy (afraid) of what's happening with self-publishing. No, they don't feel intimidated by the rare indie writer who is making millions. But as a revolution to the process, absolutely they're worried. The ability to go direct to readers with backlist titles is more of a threat than the masses of unknowns, but it's a very real threat. It's not just a battle over pricing.

I agree with Amanda, that it's the agents who are probably the most worried. Look how many of them are trying to become their clients' publisher to stay afloat.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
943 Posts
Concern is a more applicable word than "fear" in my opinion.  

I think publishers (large and small) and maybe even some agents have a concern that many of their authors will defect and begin e-publishing themselves, and that more new authors will prefer to be indie authors right now...rather than submit anything via "ye ole method."

Authors are their bread and butter (or at least that's how they should see it).  

That's just my two cents worth. ;)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,688 Posts
"So, Terrence, you think the Big Houses are in the greatest jeopardy?"

In any situation like this it is the financially weakest that go first. Those are typically the smaller firms. The diversified financial resources of the parent companies of some of the large ones may allow them to hang on through the shakeout. Their fate will be a choice of the holding company. They also may drop certain categories. Perhaps one will drop Young Adult, another Travel, and another Business.

However, it wouldn't surprise me at all if the Harper Collins of 2016 has little resemblance to the HC of 2011. It would still be owned by News Corp, and it would still be a media company, but the roster may have few who are on it today, and the product and business model may be very different. So the firm can survive while the people go.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,679 Posts
I think a lot of agents will have trouble. Writers who self-pub don't really need them. A lot of established midlist writers don't need them. We may see the big 6 fishing for new writers in the self-pubbed waters. Instead of mailing off our manuscripts to sit in a slush pile, we're publishing them. The slush pile is making money now, and the stars of the slush pile will get attention.

As to the big 6, I think a lot will depend on ebook pricing, where it settles. If they can get us to buy ebooks for $15, they may be ok. If customers revolt and refuse to pay that, then the big 6 are looking at a pricing model where they make their profit at $10 and under instead of one where they make it with $28 hardbacks and $15 trade paperbacks.

The music industry underwent a sea change, but the music publishers didn't disappear. Customers still prefer their products over indie music. I suspect it will be the same with books for the most part.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,651 Posts
I don't think the big houses are afraid of self-publishing as such. I think they fear their current stars going it alone more than indie authors, which they can often sign.

I think they fear the rise of e-books more than self-publishing. Think about it. The USP of a big trade house is their ability to print lots and lots of books cheaply and get them into stores across America in huge numbers.

If print is doomed, and I think it is, the bookstores are too, which means big publishers lose their USP.

I don't think they will go down with the "print" ship though. Some will, others will adapt.

But, I think some smaller houses are in a great position not just to survive, but to thrive in this digital future. Self-publishers can be successful against large publishers because they are nimble. They can react to events quicker. Smaller houses can be almost as fast.

Editors have been in trouble ever since the consolidation of the industry. Lack of job security is nothing new for them. A lot of them moved into agenting, but I see some now moving back. Editors will always be needed in some sense, but I think that in the future they will be operating for smaller, leaner organisations. This could be a blessing for them.

Agents face a bleak future, there is no two ways about it. I don't think the move into publishing is going to work out for most of them. The ones that survive will be the ones that are moving now to snap up indies. I think that's the real future for agents, kind of like talent scouts in the digital slush pile.

It's almost like publishing is turning back to the cottage industry of its roots, and that's not such a bad thing.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,679 Posts
dgaughran said:
I don't think the big houses are afraid of self-publishing as such. I think they fear their current stars going it alone more than indie authors, which they can often sign.
They can throw a lot of money at the big names to retain them. What I expect to see are big names doing a mix of trade publishing and self-publishing once paper book sales are marginalized. Stephen King could self-publish a short story every week and sell it and make a killing. He could keep his novels with a trade publisher, getting whatever huge advance he gets.

It's the midlist authors who will be most tempted to self-publish. The big publishers will have to give a more equitable revenue split on ebooks to keep them.

But, I think some smaller houses are in a great position not just to survive, but to thrive in this digital future. Self-publishers can be successful against large publishers because they are nimble. They can react to events quicker. Smaller houses can be almost as fast.
The advantage of the big publishers will be money. They will buy prime placement for their books in the ebook stores. So far, visibility seems to be the most important aspect of selling ebooks. Amazon and others will sell some of that visibility. The businesses in the position to buy that visibility will be the big publishers.

Agents face a bleak future, there is no two ways about it. I don't think the move into publishing is going to work out for most of them. The ones that survive will be the ones that are moving now to snap up indies. I think that's the real future for agents, kind of like talent scouts in the digital slush pile.
Well, there are foreign rights, movie and TV rights, audio rights, and perhaps soon multimedia rights that can be sold. But yeah, agents seem to be the most endangered profession associated with publishing. Still, a lot of the writers on these boards seem to want to sign with agents.
 
1 - 20 of 48 Posts
Top