Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Dominoes and Houses of Cards Want To Fall

The supply chain from publisher to consumer is broken. Major distributors absorbed supply chain entities (Ingram/PGW, Bookmasters/Baker & Taylor) to survive large-capacity book printing's exodus to China (and eventually their South American subsidiaries,) following fashion apparel's lead. Publishing doesn't lead trends in manufacturing and distribution but reacts to them with financial solutions involving expensive mergers and acquisitions and downline channel partners who can't allow a dollar to escape their eco-system. Then the POD books arrive printed upside-down and reversed, but no one can do anything about it, because no supply chain can yield quality greater than its industry leader, similar to how the entire global auto industry takes a hit when Ford and Chrysler do.

The supply chain from author to consumer is a solid, unbroken mechanism involving writers who want to write, readers who want to read, and a business concern that offers fair exchange between producers of goods and consumers that is indifferent to race, gender, social or political economics, or much bias beyond genre preference.

Something is broken. I'm working to figure out what it is. If you care about your writing, you have to care about books. Not the book business. Publishers and agents and salesforce managers and booksellers have to do that. Authors have to care about books, same as I'm pretty sure our favorite musicians cared about vinyl and the listening experience.

Agents don't care about your book as much as they should because they're no longer involved in the compensation end of the supply chain. Essentially, they only enjoy a cut of the advance, and if no one is paying advances, no one really cares. They can't care. No one whose bottom line is disconnected from the supply chain that brings your goods to the marketplace is going to be able to care. That's a chase position, and in an industry that is falling like lined-up dominoes, that chase is killing us.

Demand to know the financial health and commitment your publishers are making to your books. Factor into your contract term the financial reporting on the publisher. Ask to see an annual report. Look at a Dun & Bradstreet report. Don't even ruin your reputation by asking. Just go to the public library and ask for all that. Major municipalities have librarians who work to make financial texts and resources available to citizens. Use them. Measure thrice, cut once, or your family's intellectual property—and in the age of augmented intelligence and AI/robotics, intellectual property will eventually be the new real estate bubble—you have to keep your copyrights stable, which means active. Not back listed. Not out of print from time to time.

Was I a Wall Street-type, I'd be shorting publishing stocks and betting paper and printing commodities that supply to self-publishing entities, but I love the publishing industry. I just don't love that, while we're all losing money and opportunity, and losing ground globally, the folks who stand in judgment of our work don't think about this stuff. A lack of diversity in crime-mystery-thriller certainly hasn't helped, but if anyone is going to make any money off crime books, the revolution must be economic, and that first starts with thinking for self and then doing for self. Perhaps harshly, and to the confusion of folks who don't always share the same business concerns as you, the author.


For those interested in the works to which I frequently refer, check out these titles at your local bookseller, your local library, or online where you enjoy purchasing your print and e-books. As always, thanks for your support and encouragement.


1 comment:

Holly West said...

I'm feeling so down about publishing right now. But all of this is true. xx