Sniffs a Snarkling:
Are publishers becoming nothing more than glorified printers?
Well, Miss Snark doesn't have to remind her well read and knowledegable Snarklings that publishing in fact started with printers. Printers who lent poverty stricken writers money for the print run, and helped them sell the books when it was done.
The question is have we moved the business model so far from that original concept that we've begun, like the puppy, to chase our own tail.
Consider returns for example: publishers now allow huge volumes of books to go out the factory door to bookstores knowing full well that 1/3 or MORE will come back. Who makes money there? UPS.
Publishers mark the price on a book so that if a book is in high demand (think Harry Potter demand) and there's not enough supply, bookstores still sell at the "low demand" price. Miss Snark didn't pass economics 201 to miss the idiocy of THAT model. Amazon made NO net on 1.5 million copies of Harry Potter out the door. Jeff Bezos is a smart guy but that's a recipe for disaster.
Consider that time and again customers tell us that the reason they buy books is that a friend or someone they know told them about it. YET we focus on huge national pr campaigns for a select few to the detriment of pretty good writers down the list who could use just a little bit of help getting their books in the hands of regional newspaper reviewers.
Consider we use webfeed press to print 2000 copies and then have a hard time deciding whehter it's cost effective to print another 2000 when the stock gets low when if we used POD technology we could print books on demand and fulfill author's book signging need, or sudden upsurge in demand with less than a week's turnaround time.
Has most publishing gotten too big? Has the business model outlived its purpose?
There are a lot of smart people in publishing but when I hear them say "you can't touch returns, the stores won't let you", I KNOW in my heart that we are due for a huge change.
We're publishing 175,000 books a year. The one thing about books is that they don't have an expiration date. Those 175,000 books are still around next year, and the year after that. Some of them are thrown away, sure. But a lot of them find their way to used book stores, and sidewalk vendors here in NYC. Half the readers I know don't give a fig if a book is "new" this season or published ten years ago.
We've got to start thinking smarter or we're gonna find ourselves on the wrong end of the puppy here.