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Author and publisher relationships

Schilling's report sheds light on hotspots and opportunities

I had the pleasure of meeting with representatives from Schilling earlier this year as they prepared a white paper called “Author and publisher relations — how publishers stay competitive in digital publishing.” You can download the free report here.

As self-publishing becomes a more viable alternative for authors it’s important for publishers to adapt and prove they still add value. While preparing this report Schilling spoke with a number of publishers and authors in both Europe and North America. That’s important to note as this report isn’t just a U.S.-only view of the author/publisher relationship.

You’ll find some interesting points in this survey and it’s a very short read so I highly recommend you download it now. Here are a few of the items that caught my attention:

  • One author wisely pointed out that, “I do not think that publishers know their readers. Their customers have always been bookshops and not the readers.” How true. And isn’t this one of the biggest hurdles for publishers who now want to create a direct sales relationship with their readers?
  • A publisher echoed that author’s point by saying, “we have a lot to learn about the business-to-consumer market.” As I’ve said before, it’s no wonder the biggest players are looking to consolidate with the hope of creating more leverage with retailers who do know a lot about B2C.
  • Most “authors do want a publisher to look after all the practical stuff.” That’s consistent with what I’ve heard from a few authors I’ve spoken with who have been both traditionally-published as well as self-published. Sometimes it only takes one challenging self-publishing project for an author to realize the value their publisher brought to the table. But the price has to be right for both parties. Authors realize their platform is often a better marketing tool than anything the publisher can offer, for example.
  • We’re heading towards more of a “share the risk, share the reward” model: Lower (if any) advances but higher royalty rates on more projects.
  • I found it interesting that one author talked not about their 15% royalty rate but flipped it around and said he or she is paying 85% to be published today. It’s clear authors are looking for publishers to justify that 85% share.
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  • http://profiles.google.com/edward.w.bear Edward Bear

    *snort* “retailers who DO know a lot about B2C” ROFLMAO!

    Let’s see: Amazon and B&N don’t have “shopping carts” for multiple eBook purchases. Fictionwise did, and BooksOnBoard does.

    NOBODY has any way to ask “C” what they want to know about upcoming books. (i.e. Fictionwise had a system where you could tell them which authors you were interested in so they could notify you when a new book by author (x) was coming out.)

    EVERYBODY has DRM.

    So where’s this “lot” that retailers “know”?

    • jwikert

      Every platform has room for improvement but you seem to be suggesting Amazon knows nothing about selling to consumers. Let’s put it another way: Are you saying that Amazon is no better about selling to consumers than every one of the Big Six? That’s ultimately the comparison I’m making here…retailers vs. publishers. Who knows more about selling to consumers? I think it’s pretty clear retailers are lightyears ahead of most publishers.

      • http://profiles.google.com/edward.w.bear Edward Bear

        Amazon is in many respects no better than the Big Six. Yes. Neither Amazon, nor Barnes and Noble, nor any of the Big Six do the ONE thing that can make selling work: FIND OUT WHAT THE *CUSTOMER* WANTS TO BUY. I regularly get emails from a major publisher. Every single email is “what WE want to sell this month.” They have no mechanism for finding out which books and authors interest ME.

        Amazon can sell darn near anything, if you limit the phrase sell to “take money in exchange for merchandise.” But books, or any other entertainment, are as personal as clothing, and yet their marketing is still “one size fits all” and I keep getting pointed to arctic weather jackets when what I want is short-sleeved shirts. Same for the Big Six.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anna.merrill.79 Anna Merrill

    I think the Big-6 in many ways has become like the Republican party.  Instead of looking at the message (authors/books) and figuring out how to help connect it to their constituents (readers), they surrounded themselves with yes-men (or in this case yes-authors).  First they ignored it.  Then they said ‘if you self-publish, you’ll be blacklisted and ruined for life.’  When that didn’t work, they started chanting ‘all self-published books are poorly written garbage by losers who can’t make it.’  And now, some of them are starting to ask ‘why are we all being forced to consolidate?’

    The yes-men are still chanting the same dogma, but the voters (authors/readers) are voting more and more with their feet.  If you want to know why your ship is sinking, how about asking the people rowing the boat how to bail water, not surround yourself with people sipping champagne while the Titanic sinks!

    We’ve gone through denial, anger, bargaining, and the beginnings of grief.  Whichever publishing houses finally get the email that their value is in helping the author polish and get their story to the reader for a fair cut of the profits will be the ones that survive, I think.  The rest…

    [*insert audio clip of gloomy funeral music here*]

    And is it just me (speaking off of Edward Bear’s comments), or have both Amazon and Barnes & Noble both become PAINS to deal with lately?  I’ve just jumped ship with one of my fiction titles to Kobo and I must say, despite their still rudimentary search parameters, they are MUCH more pleasant as an author to deal with than the two biggies!  I’m teaching a self-pub class at an upcoming convention and I’ll be steering the newbies away from the Amazon vs. B&N e-reader DRM war (VHS v. Betamax, anyone?)