Home » Big Publishing, Mike Shatzkin » A lot has changed in book publishing in the last ten years

A lot has changed in book publishing in the last ten years

23 July 2019

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

I am returning this September to speak at Digital Book World.

. . . .

The new DBW is well aware of “corporate” publishing, a term they use to describe the increasingly frequent occurrence of non-publishing companies and entities issuing their own books (and not necessarily with the primary objective being to make money doing so).

This inspired me to make a list of Big Changes since 2009. It did not take long to come up with quite a few.

The arrival of the IPad and ubiquitous smartphones and tablets
Pretty universal broadband
Apple iBookstore
Nook: big arrival on the market, large uptake, fairly rapid sunset
Successful, as in producing dollars and reaching readers, self-publishing
Disappearance of Borders
“Resurgence” of independents (and its limits)
Diminishing of B&N
Growth of Amazon from less than a fifth of sales for most publishers to over half
Through Ingram, a full POD and distribution infrastructure available to anybody
Audio has become ubiquitous (fastest-growing segment; smartphones; Audible)

. . . .

Ten years ago: Pub date was the key organizing point for the assignment of a publisher’s budgeted and conscious efforts on a book. Generally, publishers marketed six months around pub date.
Today: Any book can pop at any time. This has had a very visible impact on budgeting and marketing resource allocation, but it also adds a new challenge: monitoring the world to make the best decisions about what books to put effort into right now.

TYA: “Direct marketing” to consumers was the work of specialists.
TOD: Every publisher builds and maintains email lists, with widely varying degrees of expertise applied to using them.

. . . .

TYA: Popular reference books were enduring backlist for book publishers. I know, because in the 1980s I created a compendium of baseball biographies called “The Ballplayers”, trying to appeal to the same audience of the perennial bestseller, Macmillan’s “Baseball Encyclopedia”.
TOD: You wouldn’t think of going to a book for either of these things. “The Ballplayers” had a life online as BaseballLibrary.com before Wikipedia mooted it. And the encyclopedia was effectively replaced long ago by baseballreference.com.

. . . .

TYA: In order for a book to sell, it really needed to be distributed by a “legitimate” publisher, because it was a requirement to be on sale in bookstores to move the needle and only a publisher could get books stocked across a wide range of outlets.
TOD: There are big categories of books (mostly genre fiction) that have a vast number of crowd-curated self-published titles that are available at prices no commercial enterprise can consistently match. And anybody with a worthy title can buy their way into full distribution without having to persuade a publisher to give them a contract.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

Big Publishing, Mike Shatzkin

23 Comments to “A lot has changed in book publishing in the last ten years”

  1. You left out the money shot…

    And, as a result of all of this, what we know as the publishing “industry” is shrinking. Relatively flat sales mask a scarier fact, which is that the new titles issued by established publishers, in the aggregate, are selling fewer and fewer print books every year, and almost certainly represent a steadily diminishing percentage of book sales at Amazon and perhaps even at Ingram.

    There’s even more along these lines in the OP, including the news about Dean Koontz.

    and this link from the OP is well worth paging through…

    https://www.digitalbookworld.com/single-post/2019/03/24/Publishing-Everybodys-Doing-It-25-Examples-of-Corporate-Publishing

    • I am remarkably un-scared by the fact that established publishers are selling fewer and fewer print books every year. 🙂

    • Desmond X. Torres

      Whoops!
      THAT thing about Koontz is IMHO The. Biggest.Aspect of the rest of Shatz’s piece. He signed a deal w/ the Zon? Hmmm… frankly, I see that being the start of major authors sidling over here to the dark side. LOL
      TYA: Many bookstores refused to carry Amazon’s imprints
      TOD: Many of those stores are history.

      • Amazon Publishing started out signing high visibility authors to no great results.

        Things have changed a lot since then.
        It’ll be interesting to see if the boycott cracks. Or, even matters…

      • It’s a shame Amazon seems to go after those who are already famous.

        • Why?

          • Because it is exactly what the big publishers are doing, and I expected Amazon to find a better way – to find good new authors rather than go running after the herd.

            I haven’t been impressed with the Kindle first options, for example.

            • I certainly understand what you are saying. However, I think Amazon does help new authors enormously. This should not preclude them from taking on more established or even best selling authors where the opportunity arises, nor must it necessarily mean that new writers suffer in any way. It may ultimately prove helpful to them.

              We won’t know, of course, what Dean Koontz was paid. In going exclusive with Amazon, he is giving up significant advantage. He can really move the paper books from retail stores, but runs the risk that these books will never reach these stores, costing significant sales. Also, his books will be unlikely to be available in libraries, as so far as I’m aware Amazon is not particularly library friendly. On the other hand, I expect his books will sell very well on Amazon, both in paper and e-book form, not forgetting Audible. They may well sell a lot of KU subscriptions as well. It also establishes a precedent which Tradpub should be concerned about. They rely far more extensively on best sellers than Amazon. If the Koontz experiment is a success for both Amazon and Koontz, the Big 5 may well find themselves either losing many of their best-selling authors or paying much more to retain them. I’ll watch with interest.

            • This isn’t KDP or Amazon, LLC; it’s Amazon publishing (APub). It’s an entirely different operation. More, it’s a *traditional* publishing operation (based in Michigan for the most part).

              They behave as a tradpub because they *are* a tradpub. Somewhat more author friendly than the other BPHs but they are pretty big by now and really would rate as as BPH if only size mattered. They’re just not part of the Manhattan Mafia.

              Different part of tbe elephant: as different from KDP as Zappos, AWS, or Audible.

              The same is true of Kindle First which is a joint APub/Prime program. APub buys the Kindle First rights from their authors and then charges Prime. They might even make money off the rights, besides the promotion and sales boost income.

              And, they deal with both agented and indie authors.
              In tbeir time they’ve dealt with Stephen King as well as Koontz and they’ll deal with other nsme suthors as long as they can make money that way.

              Amazon’s mission is making money *every way* they can. They’re not tribal.

              • “they deal with both agented and indie authors” but exclusively on their own terms as far as the indies are concerned.

                Their right, their business, their sandbox.

                But the traditional publishers at least allow you to submit to them, directly or through an agent. A well-written book has some chance of making it through the gauntlet. Small, but not zero.

                I keep looking for that option for indies directly to the Amazon imprints, and don’t find it.

                • How many BPHs accept unsolicited manuscripts?
                  How many help Indies at all?

                  Amazon has KDP for Indies and APub for the agented BPH market. They’re separate outfits.
                  Different markets, different needs, different operations. It’s no different than auto makers using different factories and different dealers for different products.

                  Or do you think Koontz and co are solely the product of marketing, that Amazon could promote any generic author to his sales level?

                  Getting Koontz means getting his *existing* customer base so odds are selling his books will require *less* support than other, less established authors. That’s why BPHs give the name authors much better terms than mere mortals. All they need is to get the word out and their true fans show up. A successful author might have a few thousand true fans but the big name folks have them by the million. It makes a difference.

                  What makes APub different from other BPHs isn’t necessarily how they treat the name authors but their refusal to play by Manhattan Mafia rules.

                • Terrence OBrien

                  I keep looking for that option for indies directly to the Amazon imprints, and don’t find it.

                  It looks like they have a different method for finding supply. It seems to be working just as well as the old ways.

    • Terrence OBrien

      And, as a result of all of this, what we know as the publishing “industry” is shrinking.

      The set of players that comprised the publishing industry fifteen years ago is indeed shrinking. But we can observe many other players joining the industry.

      What “we know as the publishing industry” is strong and growing. All we have to do is look at it. In many industries we see some players leave, and others enter. Publishing is no different.

      • The key word in that quote is ‘we’. It means something different to him than it does to you.

  2. It’s a bit of an understatement that “A lot has changed…”

    • Agreed! I brought a stack of books back from Europe again this year, because they cover material I can’t find easily on-line or in the ‘States. Some things are not available in English, some are academic press imprints that do not exist on-line (yet).

      Plus the vast majority of archival material even in the US has not been digitized. (I shudder to think how much just indexing Spain’s Archive of the Indies is costing, let alone scanning, checking, and uploading it!)

      • I edited out my comment about how much research material is not available online because I think to be fair he was talking about ‘popular’ research material like encyclopedias.

        You’re absolutely right that a huge amount is not available in online archives — in fact more is NOT available than is. I just spent nearly $1000 on books that are not available in online archives and am going to spend that much again next month.

        • Amen.

          There is a lot of material in theses and dissertations that is very useful but will never be digitized.

          • As an author of historical fiction, I am always dismayed at the huge number of authors who depend on online sources and honestly think they are doing real research.

            • Whew. That’s no joke. There’s so much stuff out there that’s not online, and probably never will be. I do love Amazon and ABEbooks for trying to find copies of stuff that’s been out of print for a long time.

  3. Blech. Accidental post

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