Women’s Fiction, etc.

An ongoing discussion for readers/writers of Women’s Fiction

The Future of Publishing

I came across an interesting article on the Writer’s Digest website yesterday about the future of publishing.   Here’s the link:


I found it interesting on several levels.  It made me think about the lesson we got in sixth grade about the railroads ignoring the upstart automobile as a threat.  We shook our heads, and wondered how they could have been so shortsighted.  The answer seemed so obvious from my classroom seat.

This article made me see that publishing is in exactly this position right now.  Facinating to recognize this paradigm shift in the middle, instead of armchair quarterbacking it at the end.   You can hardly blame the poor publishers for being caught flat-footed. They’ve been used to being the gatekeepers for what they thought the audience wanted (the equivalent in politics of trying to lead by poll) that they can’t envision anything else.

On to what the shift means, in real terms.  I absolutely agree with the “control of the eyeballs: part.  The information/data available on the internet has exploded so fast in the past years.  As anyone who’s tried to get attention to a blog or website knows, the problem is getting to be garnering attention in a vastly overcrowded marketplace. I feel and see information burnout in consumers who are bombarded at every turn.

Maybe the way forward for Publishers would be to become (like Harlequin has, in my opinion) the “Oprah Bookclub” for niche markets.   Consumers would go to their trusted source for what they were looking for. Like a franchise; you can walk into anywhere in the world, and know what you’re getting by the logo.   I think this would be a value-added service that the consumer would be willing to pay for.

But to a publisher, this must be absolutely paralyzing.  Give up their infrastructure, hard assets and distribution chain for a guess at what is next?  Sure, they’re seeing thier returns diminish rapidly, but to give that up for a guess?  You can hardly blame them for clinging to their rapidly sinking ship…the ocean is huge, dark and cold.  Besides, corporate infrastructure is not geared for change; it’s geared for doing the same thing, over and over, and making money by improving efficiencies.

But will the publishers make the shift?  I don’t think so.  I think they’ll ignore the upstarts, just as the railroads did, and be left behind.  And I think I understand more why now.


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