Shatzkin: Do Publishers Add Value Commensurate With Their Take?

As a small but growing number of self-published authors find success without the help of a traditional publishing company, the value of traditional publishers is being called into question.

Sometimes it comes in the form of saber-rattling from the likes of J.A. Konrath, a very outspoken self-published author and self-publishing advocate, and sometimes it comes in the form of well-articulated, thoughtful and reasonable questions.

The publishers themselves have started advocating their own value. Two prominent examples: Random House has put out a series of videos discussing how it adds value to the publishing process and Hachette has put out a manifesto of sorts that describes how it adds value.

Sensing that some authors might be in play, self-publishing sites, too, have been jockeying to offer authors the lowest prices and most comprehensive services.

From industry consultant (and DBW partner) Mike Shatzkin’s blog, The Shatzkin Files:

The debate around whether author efforts with social media provide an adequate substitute for the marketing done over the years by publishers (a big component of which, of course, is exposure of the printed book in brick bookstores and we all know that’s declining even though it is still more than half the sale for most books) is really a proxy for a larger question: does the publisher add value commensurate with their share of revenues? Some bloggers frame the question artfully but one is too-often left with the feeling that they feel think the author and reader really don’t need much help from anybody else.

I’m pretty sure that’s rarely true.

Read much more at The Shatzkin Files.

One thought on “Shatzkin: Do Publishers Add Value Commensurate With Their Take?

  1. Bob Mayer

    I agree that legacy publishing has a lot to offer. If it offers it. The reality is 95% of their efforts go to 5% of their moneymakers. That was true before eBooks and is true now and I believe will continue to be true for a long time to come.

    As far as managing metadata, that requires a case by case basis for every title. I know, because it’s what my business partner at Cool Gus does. Will a legacy publisher do that for all its titles on every platform? No. Let’s be realistic. My rule of thumb used to be if you didn’t get a six figure advance from a legacy, their marketing budget for you is zilch. Their effort is minimal with some intern or assistant throwing some review copies to the usual suspects, if they even bother doing review copies. I don’t think that’s changed much.

    Talking to some indies who have taken the bait and gone legacy, the taste is bitter in their mouth. The publisher spout the things you list above, but the actual results are the same old.

    On the other hand, I think an author has even less of a chance of success going it totally alone. The term self-publishing is an oxymoron. There is so much to do, especially since eBooks are organic and not static, that one person would be overwhelmed trying to keep track of it. Jen just found a way to re-invigorate the Select Free program which has been submerged under the multitudes and I currently have the #3 overall Free book on Kindle. That does lead to a big bump in sales, contrary to what some say. But that’s her full time job. Churning metadata, finding on-line reviewers, changing the end matter in every single title every time a new title comes out, keeping up with formatting changes, making new covers when we feel an old one isn’t working– her list is never-ending.

    The future is small, agile companies that can treat every author as a special commodity. Not 5% of their authors, and play the lottery with the rest.



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