Do Authors Need Publishers?

Will self-motivated authors take over the publishing industry? Can traditional publishers survive? Are traditional publishers fighting to stay traditional? Are digital books taking over printed books? Is self-publishing now an acceptable phrase? 

Do authors even need publishers anymore? 

The purpose of this blog is to feed you information, so you can formulate a plan and develop your author career. Forget about what you think is the best way to publish. Open your mind to every option available. 

Are digital books taking over printed books? 

82% of digital consumers still read print. Authors (and publishers) want readers to believe digital is taking over, because it costs very little to produce. In fact, that is why we have eBooks in the first place, because printing became costly. The days of publishers shipping out 60,000 books and having 30,000 of them returned are coming to an end, along with authors storing a thousand books in their garage. 

But that does not change how people want to read books. Consumers will purchase a Playstation3, Wii, Xbox, and video games. Nevertheless, board games are still a billion dollar industry. The same logic can be applied to digital and print. Readers want both, despite how much it costs to print. 

Who controls the publishing industry: Traditional Publishers, Self-Publishers, or Untraditional Authors? 

I’m sure traditional publishers are sick of hearing that they are dinosaurs and will soon be extinct. On the other hand, traditional publishers know that they can still pluck successful authors from the self-publishing world. The reason is simple: An author can only take his/her career so far. Eventually, the author will need help. 

Why are authors succeeding without traditional publishing? I remember just three years ago, self-publishing was still unacceptable for bookstores and the publishing world. Now, self-publishing is the “testing grounds” for authors. If you can write entertaining books, market and sell, then prove that by succeeding, traditional publishers want you. 

At that point, the author should consider expanding his/her network by signing with a traditional publisher. 

You may have heard, “Authors have to do more than write books. Authors need to market their books as well.” But that’s not a new concept. In the 1800’s, Charles Dickens wrote plays and went on reading tours with hundreds of stops to market and sell his books. Dickens wanted to build relationships with his readers and connect with business people that could help him become even more successful. Every year, he came up with new ideas to bring readers closer to him. 

Charles Dickens used publishing to expand, but still, he worked hard on his own. Today, we have social media to build relationships and network with those in the publishing industry. Also, we have several options to package books and sell them. 

Problems for Traditional Publishing (and Self-Publishing Businesses)  

Authors have become more successful at building relationships with readers. Check out the Facebook Fan Pages for midsize traditional publishers and self-publishers, then compare that to author fan pages. In most cases, the author has more fans. Why? Because the author can be more personable with fans. It’s almost like a new generation of author compared to the old school nature of publishers. 

But in all fairness to the publishers, it’s easier to build a relationship “Person-to-Person,” (Author-to-Reader) than it is “Business-to-Person.” (Publisher-to-Reader.) 

Just remember that literary agents and traditional publishers want to thrive and are willing to change with the times. No matter what, agents and publishers need authors to succeed. Everyone in the publishing industry, including authors, is going through an adjustment period. One traditional publisher said, “Disruption makes us stronger.” A better quote would have been, “Disruption makes us think differently.” 

New ways of thinking produces creative ideas.  

Authors love being creative and will use their powerful imagination for both writing and marketing, which is why an author can succeed in this new publishing world. 

How many times have I said, “Think of your readers first in everything you do. That includes your books, blogs, Facebook posts, Tweets, and eNewsletters.” Authors can easily make that adjustment, looking outward, rather than expecting the readers to come flocking. However, traditional publishers had always expected the readers to purchase books, which means, publishers had been looking inward. But can you blame them? They are a business and need to earn profits. Honestly, I do not have a problem with that. 

The value of traditional publishing is their network of contacts and resources, which every author can use. Also, traditional publishers take over some areas for authors, like editing and formatting the books. That gives the author more time for reading, writing, and relationship building. The process may take longer, but authors are rushing books into the market these days. I think everyone needs to take a deep breath and slow down. 

Nevertheless, you can be successful using traditional publishers, self-publishers, eBooks, and Untraditional Publishing. All these opportunities benefit the career author. 

By the way, do we still need literary agents?  

Traditional publishers are doing everything they can to make sure they do not fail with an author, so contracts are always changing to benefit the publisher, more than the author. A traditional publisher cannot sink fifty grand into your career without having a few safeguards in place. A literary agent will help find the best traditional publisher for you, but also make sure the contract is fair and reasonable. Also, literary agents have their own network, which will benefit the author. 

You do not have to use traditional publishers, but I guarantee if you build your audience and a traditional publisher comes calling, you will consider expanding your career. You will have to continue doing what made you successful in the first place, but a traditional publisher will reach stores and readers that you could not do on your own. 

One last thing. AMAZON IS STILL NOT A MARKETING PLAN. (Sorry for the caps, but I felt it was necessary.) 

Use every kind of publishing, every social media tool, every library and bookstore, every gift you have hidden deep inside of you, and use all content to benefit your readers. Traditional publishing, self-publishing, eBooks, and Untraditional Publishing can all bring value to your career. 

When all else fails, keep it simple… 

Read. Write. Build Relationships. Publish. 

Ron Knight

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Ron Knight

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