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Traditional publishing isn’t broken, just antiquated and inefficient

27 February 2014

From GigaOm:

The founders of Inkshares don’t think the traditional publishing industry is broken, just antiquated and inefficient — and they think marrying crowdfunding and the kinds of services publishers used to offer makes for a pretty compelling service for writers and ultimately for readers as well.

. . . .

As with so many other media and publishing-related businesses, the book industry has been massively disrupted by the internet, to the point where an increasing number of authors have found success by avoiding the traditional publishing system altogether. But is the old-fashioned publisher model totally without value? The founders of Inkshares don’t think so — which is why they are trying to create a kind of hybrid platform that combines the benefits of crowdfunding with some of the services that traditional publishers have offered in the past.

. . . .

Gomolin’s co-founder Larry Levitsky, who worked in the traditional publishing industry for many years at McGraw-Hill and then at Microsoft’s publishing unit, says many authors don’t have the type of personality or motivation that allows them to do all the things that are involved in producing and selling a book, such as editing or marketing or distribution. That’s where Inkshares comes in, says Gomolin — it wants to bring the kind of support relationship that authors have with a good editor or publisher to the digital publishing model.

“All the things that go into making a great book — too many people don’t get a chance to be part of that process. We want to be disruptive, but there’s also this love for certain core components of traditional publishing process, like the relationship between an editor and an author.”

Link to the rest at GigaOm and thanks to Jay for the tip.

Books in General

20 Comments to “Traditional publishing isn’t broken, just antiquated and inefficient”

  1. It’s the same meme over and over: editing, marketing, distribution.

    Dude, you can hire an editor, distribution is no longer a problem, and marketing with traditional houses is pretty much nonexistent for most of their authors.

    So can we get past this b******* already?

  2. First: what John said above +100.

    Ten years ago, I went to a local writer-in-residence lecture. The author was mid-list, award-winning, and had about six books out at the time. In response to a question, she explained that without gigs like the WIR and teaching courses, her income would be $20,000 a year.

    She also explained that even though she had international distribution with a major publisher, her work wasn’t marketed because the publishers were sinking all their money into a runaway bestseller they had. Her (recent, current, and excellent) book was getting next to no attention from the sales and marketing divisions — she was doing all that herself.

    That was ten years ago. I haven’t heard any stories about things improving since then.

  3. Wait, so how is this any different from doing a Kickstarter to hire an editor and a designer and whatnot?

    • Kickstarter can’t give supporters any cut of the revenue the book makes.

      No, really, it seems like that’s the biggest difference; the possibility that backers who buy “shares” of a book will ultimately be earning a share of the revenue.

      • Riiiight.

        So why should I use these guys? I guess I shouldn’t. 😉

        • It’s possible that you could attract more money from investors that believe they could see a payback, than you could from Kickstarter.

          • While I grant you that, I’d wonder how worthy it is to offer someone who invests $100 (say) in your book 1% of revenue for its lifetime.

            Because it’s crowd funded, which means readers get to invest. It’s almost analogous to paying $100 for a movie ticket and then getting a 1% cut of the door or something.

            If I hadn’t marred my editor and taken some tutorials in design, I might have crowd funded digital publishing, but the max I’d consider investing in producing an ebook, fully edited and with a killer cover, is $2500. Maximum budget. I would have asked readers if they were interested in pre-ordering the book so that I’d have budget to cover those costs.

            I would not have shared the revenue with them.

  4. This is an interesting idea, particularly the equity funding part. I’m a little concerned that they don’t quite understand the new realities of publishing. They seem to be building a high-cost production model.

  5. From their blog:

    The point of this post is to emphasize the importance of nurturing writers and devoting the expertise and resources to maximize their success… Nothing happens in publishing without talented writers. But, all successful writers need help with their craft and assistance in the marketplace.


  6. Every DIY thing about becoming a writer has been scary – and every single item has become easier once I tried it, bolstered by amazing information on sites all over the web where, for example, someone who figures out how to do a decent cover with basic tools writes about it.

    I’m hoping that will continue to be the case: everything sounds scary and difficult and impossible for a mere mortal – and should be left to the professionals – until it isn’t.

    I’m sure I have gobs to learn – but I’ve managed to teach myself how to write, and I think I will just keep plugging away at the other bits as they happen.

    Writers are usually quite smart – but the previous model of publishing (which may have worked well for some people) intimidates, not enables. Intelligent people are a dream to learn from, and the fact is, huge numbers of them write blogs and share what they know.

    So much so that if someone says ‘it’s easy,’ I store the link and try it when I can (it usually IS easy); if someone says ‘it’s hard,’ I automatically discount their opinion. Some smart person will find a way to make that ‘hard’ into an ‘easy’ – and will put the information out there for me.

    • …everything sounds scary and difficult and impossible for a mere mortal – and should be left to the professionals – until it isn’t.
      * * *
      Intelligent people…huge numbers of them write blogs and share what they know.

      Say it, sister! Yes. I’ve learned so much of what I now do routinely in this indie pub gig from generous writers who blog.

  7. This is going to attract the same people who think that they have to have an agent, editor, and traditional publishing contract in order to sell their books.

    Meantime, the rest of us indies will keep doing what we’re doing and put our books out there without selling shares of our profit.

  8. I agree with Meryl. The scheme looks like gambling with part of your earnings for a doubtful chance for assistance.

  9. “Gomolin’s co-founder Larry Levitsky, who worked in the traditional publishing industry for many years at McGraw-Hill and then at Microsoft’s publishing unit, says many authors don’t have the type of personality or motivation that allows them to do all the things that are involved in producing and selling a book, such as editing or marketing or distribution.”

    That’s fast changing and more and more authors are realizing they CAN do this. I suspect deliberately patronizing authors and making them feel like idiots who can’t tie their own shoe-laces is just par of the game of getting them to buy into this kind of thinking. If you are a responsible adult who can manage your own household bills and accounts, you CAN manage your writing career. As far Hocking being compared to a unicorn, yes, successes like Hocking are rare but most of us are aiming to sell enough to make a living and I think there are many more (and a steadily increasing number) of those.

    I also wonder about what kind of percentages are being talked about re:those shares.

  10. Not to mention the fact that nowadays a lot of writers come from tech or business and are fully capable of understanding social media and spreadsheets. Quite different from the mindset of the English Lit major.

  11. An analogy to Heinlein’s magnum opus, Stranger in a Strange Land, comes to mind.

    Toward the end of the book, Mike (the titular character, aka the “Man from Mars,” who has what Terrestrial humans would consider super powers) is worried that the organization he has founded to help people is going to cause irreparable harm to humanity. His concern is that as humans learn his philosophies and techniques they will stagnate and become as tradition-bound and rigid as the actual Martians from whom he learned them. Martians at least have a biological imperative to evolve/cull their species (it has to do with the way they reproduce) but humans do not have a similar mechanism, and the absolute mastery of the physical universe he offers could lead to their ultimate failure to evolve.

    Another character then points out that not all humans are willing and able to accept his teachings, and that he himself is an agent of evolution. For quite some time, the new test of superior evolutionary capability will be whether or not a person can and will learn Martian and thus gain the evolutionary benefits of doing so. (Learning the Martian language is essentially how one obtains said super powers.) When the Martian-learners ultimately triumph, if they do, some other mechanism will develop, because that is how life works. But he has made the course of evolution neither smoother nor rougher, only given it a new tool to work with. Dead ends in evolution at every level from the individual to the societal have occurred before and will again, and fearing to become one is no reason to repress actions.

    There will always be some way of maintaining evolutionary pressure on authors, because absent major changes in the human condition there will always be more people who want to/think they can write than there will be demand for their writing. In times past, that evolutionary pressure was maintained by the traditional publishing system. Later, it may be maintained by the independent publishing system and its lower but more numerous gates. But, in this as in the larger world, evolution is neither good nor evil. It simply is.

    Will the world lose some worthwhile art because the creator couldn’t fit into the independent publishing ecosystem and the diminished traditional publishing system had no room for them? Yes. No question. Full stop. It’ll happen. But the real question is whether the world will gain more worthwhile art than it lost, and I don’t see any serious arguments that that is not the case. Net, this can only benefit people who want to read books. Traditional publishing ALREADY costs the world art that it turns out the world wanted now that independent publishing makes it available. This is incontrovertible fact. Readers may have to dredge a little harder, but there are more and better catches for them already. This will only continue to happen more and more.

    Hopefully Hugh and Joe don’t literally end up in the soup, but the analogy is interesting. 🙂

  12. Bwahahaha… Well, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! 🙂

  13. I wish I’d never introduced the term “hybrid” three years. I said hybrid author. Now we have hybrid everything.

    Also, partnering with authors is what we introduced at Cool Gus 4 years ago and have continued to do ever since. Sadly, few author really understand the concept. More and more are starting to.

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