Everyone who buys, sells, reads, borrows, downloads, and LOVES books has a stake in moving the publishing industry into the 21st century. It won’t happen easily. Best-selling indie novelist Hugh Howey (Wool) launched a well-aimed missile of advice at the industry in his notorious 1/8 blog post, “Don’t Anyone Put Me in Charge,” in which he explains what he would do if he ran one of the big publishing houses. He followed it up with a new barrage on 1/12, “My Second Month on the Hypothetical Job.” Even if thoughts about publication are not your daily preoccupation, his ideas are lively and thought-provoking.
For Publishing: A Radical Makeover
They would radically change the culture and the economics of the book business, making it better for readers and writers in the process. Among his memorable suggestions: get out of New York to cut overhead and get some work done. From home, mostly. (He suggests Houston. Not in August.) He wants them to invest in Print on Demand, which would keep authors’ backlists alive. And he’d devote greater attention to the midlist bulge of authors. As publishers whittle down their emphasis to manuscripts that are “sure-fire” best-sellers, reader choice withers. And these are not people you’d want standing at the rail next to you at Santa Anita or Churchill Downs.
These next three were picked up by Business Insider writer Dylan Love:
- “Every format, as soon as the book is available.” The day a book is released, you could buy it in hardback or paper, or Kindle, Nook, or other e-reader formats. No more stringing people along with a hardcover release, and letting them lose interest while they wait for the Kindle edition.
- “Hardbacks come with free ebooks.” This “would change my perception of e-books overnight,” Love says. At present, e-book Digital Rights Management systems restrict readers’ flexibility. Bundling a hardback with a digital file would increase it.
- “No more advertising.” In Howey’s publishing house, the firm’s money would “go into editors [remember when books weren’t full of mistakes?] and into acquiring new authors,” not into bookstore promotions and pricy advertisements that he says “don’t sell books.”
How Publishers Shouldn’t React
Howey admirer Baldur Bjarnason has drafted a list of tips for publishing insiders to use in their inevitable responses to Howey’s assault. The last of these is to make the argument that traditional publishers are “somehow responsible for keeping the general quality of books high.” I’ll let you explore for yourself Bjarnason’s links that stick the needle in that bit of puffery. LOL.
(Thanks to Beth Wasson at Sisters in Crime’s SinC Links for pointing out Howey’s and Bjarnason’s great posts!)