Author & Audience Trends (4)

PART FOUR (and last of the series):

Today it is extremely difficult for new authors to enter into the book-selling system. This is because of an industry-wide, entrenched mindset that is: publishing professionals serve as “guardians of quality”. At every level of the publishing and bookselling industry, we are poised to filter out the unworthy on behalf of the book-buying audience.

Book buyers, too, have been trained to trust ‘the pros’ to weed out poorly conceived, badly edited, ratty-looking offerings. Supposedly, this reduced list will prove to be more profitable for all concerned … except for new, upcoming authors, of course, who are pounding on the gate to the castle.

There is some validity to the guardians-of-quality claim. I will state for the record, editing is one of the most important value-added activities we middle-people apply to the process. Authors with access to great editors usually produce improved stories, which is why authors have allowed themselves to be hobbled for so long.

Now don’t get me wrong. Improved quality is not reason enough to justify the constraints we put on new authors and it is not enough of a reason to deny audiences that which they wish to receive.

Although a well-edited story is a wonder to behold, we use this fact to justify all manner of abuse upon our authors and customers. It’s time to rethink our position. For example, rather than limiting the number of stories provided for consumption because it is too hard to improve their quality, we might find a better, faster, cheaper way to edit.

Maybe there are ‘distribution’ venues in which authors can participate that allow for real-time feedback so writers learn their craft. A good analogy is the stand-up comedian who first goes to open microphone, sees for herself which jokes fly, what delivery style suits her, etc. There are audiences available for every level of beginning comedian. Just so, there would be audiences for every level of new writer … if the system was interested in developing writers’ craft.

We have fashioned our industry processes to be streamlined and profitable to us rather than remembering our first priority: servicing our two most important resources.

What if there were millions of authors each with one story? What if there was a small but significant audience for each of these stories? What if there were hundreds of delivery systems rather than a few? What would our industry look like? Who would be the new winners? How would we succeed; what would our strategies be?

These are questions I’m asking myself because this is a type of publishing industry I’d like to grow.

Share
Posted in Authors, Booksellers, Bookstores, Buyers, Dayna Says, Storytellers, Writers | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Author & Audience Trends (3)

PART THREE:

The first part of this author & audience series said, every person has at least one good story inside them and that story demands to be beheld. It hurts us and our society when important stories remain ‘unspoken’.

The second part of this author & audience series said, business systems and processes tend to support (and pressure) consistent authors to create best-selling products. Industry workers at all levels of the publishing system value the status quo and the main role of today’s publishing industry is to attract, collect and funnel a few consistent, acceptable authors into the system and to filter out others.

Because the industry is in flux, this old pattern of success is not as dependable as it once was. Therefore, we in publishing need to re-examine our mindset momentum and remember the important underlying principles of our industry:  

The author has a need to connect to their audience + audiences have a need to engage with important stories

The problem is, we have gotten too far from this fact and have begun to believe we are more necessary than we actually are. For decades publishers convinced both authors and audiences that we middle-people are both the path to getting their needs met and the gatekeepers of what is worthy. But now the great medicine wheel has turned and authors have begun to revolt at being kept off the path of having their stories beheld. Also, audiences have begun to hunger for their generation’s stories and to have those stories offered in ways they love to receive them. Additionally, new technologies are enabling both authors and audiences to overthrow the established norms, beliefs, companies, deliveries, and processes.

The wheel keeps turning. If there are indeed “too many submissions” then we (innovative small publishers) encourage our big brethren companies & distributors to continue to vet submissions. In the meantime, those-with-stories-that-need-telling and those-that-desire-different-stories will devise methods to meet their needs without you. And we innovative small publishers will help enable that meeting.

If it is still true that today’s publishers and booksellers need to “focus on quantity sales”, then hungry niche markets will find ways to meet their needs directly from the source (authors) at good prices through mass customization.

Almost every industry magazine, website, and analyst opinion claim booksellers “can only survive if they purchase titles from the big distributors”.  However, customers are beginning to realize that this means stores deem their book-buying processes to be more important than customer’s needs. And this is why customers are looking elsewhere – they are buying elsewhere – and they are becoming more and more comfortable with a new buying process. Our complacency (plus a dependency on volume sales and bean-counter-type decisions) has made us vulnerable to changing conditions.

The bottom-line is this (and has, actually, always been this): Because authors & audiences are the basis of our industry, it is easy for authors & audiences to take back their power. They can easily cut out the middle people, which are us in the publishing and bookselling industry. We bookstores and publishers need to wake up and innovate a new paradigm (a better way of doing business in this environment) if we are to survive.

Share
Posted in Authors, Booksellers, Bookstores, Buyers, Dayna Says, Psychological Inertia, Storytellers, Writers | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Author & Audience Trends (2)

PART TWO:

 One of the issues artists have always faced is: once an artist/craftsperson produces a work which is deemed acceptable, then there is great pressure to ‘keep doing that, more of that, and only that!’

Business tends to favor predictability and consistency. Therefore, business systems and processes tend to support (and pressure) consistent authors to create best-selling products in a self-reinforcing cycle. The good news is some authors become superstars and rich and celebraties and all they create earns money throughout the system.

The bad news is, people thoughtout the system learn to value the status quo and compete for this limited set of authors and their work. Other authors and work are ignored, dismissed, filtered out of the system as unacceptable (unless it can be packaged to compete directly with the status quo products).

And this is the main role of today’s publishing industry – to attract, collect and funnel  a few consistent, acceptable authors into the system and to filter out others. “There are too many submissions” “We need to focus on what will sell” “We are the guardians of quality”: these are common industry-related quotes I read every day at all levels of the publishing industry.

The industry has forgotten our bottom line: The author has a need to connect to their audience + audiences have a need to engage with important stories = This is the basis, the foundation, the genesis of our industry. It’s vital that we do not forget that.

Share
Posted in Authors, Dayna Says, Storytellers, Writers | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Author & Audience Trends

PART ONE:

Many people have one good book inside them. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that every person has at least one good story inside them. And that story demands to be beheld. It hurts us when our story remains ‘unspoken’.

When we lived in tribes, we all knew each others stories and somehow that … validated us. If we are not heard, touched, seen and understood we feel impoverished; we fail to thrive. In fact, after survival is assured, to be valued may be our most driving human need.

Ancient publishing systems worked great. Stories were collected and distributed for generations orally around campfires, chanted to the throb of drumbeats, danced to and reenacted – stories were treasured. Hunting stories were drawn on walls with charcoal and minerals. Migration stories and birth stories were carved in rock; we call them petroglyphs and pictograms. The author connected to their audience and the audience was engaged. This is the basis, the foundation of our industry. It’s important that we do not forget that.

Share
Posted in Authors, Dayna Says, Storytellers, Writers | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Come Read Our Publisher’s Blogs

We have opinions, oh yes we do. (“We” are Scott Burr and Dayna Hubenthal.) And we want to talk/write about these helpful ideas because we believe they are important or funny or insightful. Occassionally we invite guest bloggers and semi-regular guest bloggers. These guests will be the voice of a particular audience.

Semi-regular blogger, Jaki Harvell, springs to mind. Jaki is a writer and will “speak out” on writer issues and about writer/publisher interactions.  

So, sit back, fire up the ol’ computer or mobile device and engage in our community. We would love to hear what you have to say.

Share
Posted in Introducing Our Bloggers | Leave a comment

It’s a Good Time to Start a Publishing Business

Greetings, I’m Dayna. Our new publishing company, Koho Pono LLC, opens its doors this month despite tough economic conditions, bookstores closures, cut-throat competition from mega-publishing houses, and dramatic industry upheavals. It is a notoriously tough sector but we are excited because innovation can help small publishing companies and booksellers (hey, authors and their audiences, too). Continue reading

Share
Posted in Dayna Says | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment