Will Publishers Survive The eBook Revolution?

My youngest son, who’s only 10, wants to publish his Young Authors story as an eBook and sell it for 99 cents. I told him sure, I’ll do it. With the process I’ve built, it’s pretty easy to do and should be a fun project. And who knows, it might even be profitable!

Scenarios like this can only cause great fear and trepidation in the large publishing houses, who like the music industry before them, are faced with a serious threat to their existence as they have known it. Any artist with the technical know-how and inclination can create and sell directly to the public. Authors no longer need publishers to sell their books. Arguments about editing and quality of work aside, those are the brutal facts.

So how can publishers survive? Well first of all, they can last a long time on their enormous back catalogs books that can be converted to eBook formats. It means renegotiating a lot of contracts, but, if they aren’t too greedy, it can be done. Readers don’t just want cheap eBooks, we want quality ones as well. The big publishers have many of the world’s best writers to draw on. If they market and price their products well, people will continue to buy.

The tricky thing for them will be attracting and retaining new talent. The authors of today know that they don’t need publishers to sell their books if they’re willing to publish in purely digital format. Publishers have to offer something more. Money certainly helps, but today’s author is going to be very reluctant to cede much control/ownership of their works to publishers. I think editing and marketing are the places where the big publishing houses offer the most attractive services. They have the resources to promote authors across all major media.

To survive, the major publishers need to identify and sign the next generation of authors. These writers are not waiting around to be discovered. They are writing and publishing eBooks right now and some of them are already having a lot of success doing so. If publishers miss this boat, they really will be sunk.

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