Publish and Flourish
The trouble with the publishing business is that too many people who have half a mind to write a book do so.
–Editor William Targ
Publishing faces its share of challenges, but I hope these wonderful truths about the business will reassure you:
1. You have more options for getting your books published than ever.
2. The phrase unpublished author is becoming obsolete. It’s faster, easier, and cheaper than ever to self-publish your book: ebooks, print-on-demand, podcasting, blogs, serialization, and websites cost little or nothing. If a book costs nothing to write and publish, and only sells one copy, it’s making money.
3. There are thousands of editors and publishers in America and abroad whose existence depends on them finding books to publish, and they love to discover new writers.
4. Publishers accept more new ideas, writers, and books than the gatekeepers in other fields.
5. Technology is making the industry more effective than ever. Publishers
- Edit and sell books and subsidiary rights more efficiently.
- Promote to the public and the trade—booksellers of all kinds, subsidiary-rights buyers, and publishing media, online and offline. Big houses have techies who specialize in online promotion.
- Are converting their lists into ebooks.
- Receive daily sales figures from Nielsen BookScan that account for 75 percent of their sales. This enables them to
* print, reprint, and distribute books faster.
* Know how their books and competing books are selling.
* Schedule reprints based on sales, which lessens returns and ensures stores have a steady supply of books.
* Acquire the kinds of title that consumers are buying.
6. If publishers believe in a book passionately because they love it, they think it will sell, or because of its literary or social value, it must be published, they’ll publish it.
7. A book that serves its readers’ needs for information, inspiration, beauty, and entertainment well enough is unstoppable. Publishers spend millions of dollars every year buying and marketing books that fail, while self-published books and books from small and university presses become bestsellers.
8. Television and word of mouth and mouse enable books to succeed faster than ever. One of our authors, Chérie Carter-Scott, appeared on Oprah, and that afternoon her book, If Life is a Game, These are the Rules, rocketed to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list. Its momentum carried it to the top of The New York Times best-seller list.
9. Books have more subsidiary-rights potential than ever. People in more countries are buying books in English, and more countries are acquiring translation rights than ever..
10. Anything is possible.
- Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care by Benjamin Spock has sold 50,000,000 copies.
- The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown has sold more than 80,000,000 books.
- The more than one hundred Chicken Soup books have sold more than 115,000,000 copies.
- The Harry Potter series has sold more than 300,000,000 copies.
- Barbara Cartland’s romances have sold one billion copies.
- The Agatha Christie mysteries have sold two billion copies.
- The Bible has sold more than six billion copies.
11. Thousands of new authors succeed every year. First-time fiction bestsellers include
- The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
- The Christmas Box, originally self-published by Richard Paul Evans
- Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
- The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
- Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
- The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
- The Shack by William P. Young
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Recent first-time nonfiction bestsellers include
- Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
- Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
- Julie & Julia by Julie Powell
12. Books are more accessible than ever:
- They’re available in more forms, media, and countries.
- It’s faster and easier to buy books and find discounts for them.
13. The more people know, the more they want to know. If book buyers like one book on a subject or in a series enough, they will want to read others, so books continue to sell as more new readers discover them, and publishers continue to market all the books in a series.
A Paperless Future?
Futurist Ross Dawson has predicted that by 2022:
- Newspapers will be gone. We’ll access crowdsourced news on smartphones and news readers that will be “foldable, or rollable, gesture-controlled and fully interactive.”
- iPads will be free.
- We’ll have a “media economy, dominated by content and social connection.”
But books are an essential part of our culture. No matter how they are written, published, promoted, purchased, and read, books that people need and want to read will continue to provide what only books can. And the authors who write them will continue to flourish.