Dr. Gary S. Goodman, best-selling author of 12 books, warns prospective writers to be aware of the current state of the book publishing industry.
(1) Distribution through bookstores has never been tougher. Most publishers sell to stores on consignment. If books don’t fly off shelves into the hands of buyers, they’re returned to publishers, very quickly. Your title doesn’t get very long exposure or time to establish itself.
(2) Books used to be kept “in print” and available for longer periods of time, in many cases, for years. Now, they’re put to death quickly, if initial sales are anything other than brisk.
(3) We live in an era of the celebrity book. If Oprah wants to write a diet book, it will be a monster hit; you know that. But the most exciting, up and coming, highly credentialed nutritionist may not have a chance of breaking into print.
(4) Publishers expect authors to make them profitable through personal promotional efforts. “What are you going to do to sell this book?” is the major question they ask, and agents will tell you, without a personal commitment to sell your own copies, stated in your book proposal, you won’t get a publisher to bite.
(5) Publishers are clueless, themselves, about what to put out there. Reluctant to lead, and reluctant to follow the success of others, they are like the proverbial deer in the headlights.
Just the rantings of a disgruntled author? Some may believe that’s what motivates Goodman. I’m not so sure. It’s possible that his experience echo’s that of other authors who are thinking twice before handing over the copyright to their next work to a book publisher. As I’ve said before, the book publishing industry is in danger of losing the very asset they need the most – the writer. Counting on the laziness of the author and their lack of enthusiasm for self-promotion isn’t the best business model. Just look around. Many of today’s self-published books are hard to distiguish from their counterpart coming out of a major NYC publishing house. As self-publishing matures and begins to mirror professional publishing, the lines between the two blur and the need for a traditional book publisher becomes less necessary.