What is one thing you would you do to change book publishing for the better?

sprucing up the books

For the past several days, novelist Jason Pinter has been posting responses by publishing people to the question “What is one thing you would you do to change book publishing for the better?” There’s a wide range of recommendations, from people in many parts of the industry. Some snippets that I found worth noting (in most cases, these are excepts from longer comments):

I’d get the major publishers together on a standard e-book format, one that’s DRM-free and not tied to a device (like the kindle). Most important, we need to get e-book prices down. Charging the same price (or more!) than a hardcover for a digital file is absolutely ludicrous—we’re hamstringing this technology at a crucial phase in its development.
David Moldawer, editor, Portfolio/Penguin Books [part 2]


If you’re not passionate about books, get out of this business. If you’re not willing to fight for something better, get out of this business. If you’re not willing to dust yourself off the ground, get out of this business. If you’re not helping others and you’re being selfish about preserving your meager place on the ladder, get out of this business. If on the other hand you’re living in the present and paying attention to the future, and you have the chops and the fortitude to persuade the stubborn holdouts . . . , then you’re absolutely vital to the future of publishing. You’re needed. And you must go in and change things for the better.
Ed Champion, editor of Reluctant Habits and creator of ‘The Bat Segundo Show’ [part 2]


E. Offer higher royalties if the author is willing to forgo part of his/her advance to put it into marketing.
. . .
G. When you sell the hardcover offer the ebook and audio free.
H. For one week, before an authors next release comes out offer a title from that authors backlist as an unlimited free ebooks. Do this for every single author. Do it in audio too.
I. Understand sampling is not five pages-its a totally free book and nothing makes a reader buy a book than being in love with the author’s work.
J. Don’t remainder books. Give them to hotels to so every room has a library and people can discover more books.
—M.J. Rose, author of THE MEMORIST, editor of Buzz, Balls & Hype [part 3]


make all formats of a book available at once – hardcover, trade, mass market, e-book – whatever version people want to buy. . . . If I’m going to buy a book online, why can’t I click on whatever version I’m willing to pay for? Also, I’d like to see e-readers get a lot cheaper, or even be give-aways from e-book of the month clubs or from publishers if you’re willing to agree to buy two dozen books in the next year, like Columbia House used to do. I’d still like to be able to browse bookstores, though, so I wish bookstores would “stock” e-books. I could browse, talk to the staff (the best part of bookstores) and get my e-reader loaded up. I’ve been saying for a while that publishers and booksellers have to stop thinking of themselves as printers, trucking companies and warehouses and start thinking about what it is they really do – choose, design, edit and know their stock and their customers.
John McFetridge, author of The Toronto Series [part 3]


Publish less. Stop the “spaghetti against the wall” approach of rush-publishing too many barely-edited books that won’t be promoted, budgeted for or even bought into stores and focus on the carefully planned publication of a select number of strong titles in order to give them the marketing and promotional support that they deserve. Retail buyers will be less overwhelmed and won’t reject as many books for being too similar. Editors will be able to actually edit instead of just acquire. Marketing and publicity departments will be able to make solid plans with actual budgets. This requires boards of directors, stockholders, publishers, retail buyers and editors to reevaluate their priorities and profit models but they aren’t currently making a profit so, why not?
—Laura Keefe, Public Relations Manager, Associated Content [part 3]

There are lots more, plus comments, at Mr. Pinter’s site; and he’s still accepting submissions, should you feel moved to weigh in.

One thought on “What is one thing you would you do to change book publishing for the better?

  1. HOW TO SAVE THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY-SELLING SEASONS –Dan Poynter, http://ParaPublishing.com

    The large (NY) publishers have been around much longer than the smaller publishers. When we started in the business, the rules were already made. We saw the huge advances, were saddled with slow-paying stores and we suffered from returns.

    The worst quirk in the industry was the concept of selling seasons; three per year. They were adhered to so that the publishers’ sales res could make the rounds of the stores, show them the covers of next season’s books and take the orders back to the publisher.

    Times change. Now we have chain stores so one sales call might sell books into 900 stores. Now we have online stores that do not require a visit because, blessed with infinite shelf space, they accept all books. And the independents? Over the past 25 years, their sales have dropped to 8% of the total and are continuing to decrease.

    One distributor got the message. Midpoint Trade runs a very tight ship. They serve the chains and the online stores only. They avoid the independents.

    There are two major categories of books: Entertainment (called fiction) and information (called nonfiction). Most fiction is timeless but most information is only valuable when it is new.

    The larger publishers put most books through an 18-month production cycle. They can “crash” a book and get it out sooner but they rarely do.

    Distributors can crash a book too. They can get your book to the online stores and the chain in a couple of weeks–if you ask.

    Here are your Marching Orders: Post your book at Amazon (they have 20% of the market and are growing). Post your book at other online bookstores (Totaling 31% of the market.) Approach the chains (33% of the market). Avoid Borders–they seem to be in trouble. Convert your title to eBooks.

    Fortunately, the smaller publishers are more nimble than the Gang of Six. We can change directions quickly.

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