10 Things the Publishing Industry Should Do Away With

When I say “Publishing Industry,” I do not mean just publishers. I’m talking about authors, literary agents, editors, publicists, publishing lawyers, bookstores, distribution companies, and even the readers. Anyone that is connected to books.

Publishers and agents should do away with asking an author to describe their book in one small paragraph.

It is insane to tell authors that the agency or publisher is looking for something fresh, entertaining, and marketable, then tell the author they have to explain their book in a paragraph.

Here is an example of a one-paragraph description. “A novel that follows five interrelated families as they move through world shaking dramas of WWI, the Russian Revolution, and the struggles of women’s suffering.”

Is that paragraph worth an editor or literary agent taking a risk on the author? I’m guessing a rejection letter would be sent. Unfortunately, the author is Ken Follett, and he has sold over a hundred million books. And Ken Follett never submitted a marketing plan when he was first published, which would certainly lead to a rejection these days.

Which leads me to another thought…

Authors should do away with marketing plans.

95% of fiction authors have a powerful imagination, creative skills, and a passion for storytelling. Of those 95%, how many fiction authors do you think have a degree in marketing? It is incredibly insane to ask an author their marketing plan. What is even more insane is an author attempting to write a marketing plan as well as they write stories.

If the author invested $1,000 into publishing and $100 into marketing, then author would have a great book that no one will know about.

Like most businesses, an author should invest in hiring a marketing agency, even if the author can only pay a couple hundred dollars a month. A professional marketing agency would want the author to succeed, so that the author could afford more services. That agency would certainly give the author some additional free advice and guidance.

Authors can work hard on a plan created by a professional marketing firm, rather than working hard on a plan that the author created by themselves. In the query letter, the author should list the name of the agency, rather than explaining to the agent or publisher the details of the marketing plan.

Which leads me to another thought…

Literary Agents and publishers should do away with query letters.

On a cover letter, the author should have their name, book title, genre, word count, and name of the marketing agency.

Sent with the cover letter should be the first three chapters, the middle three chapters, and the last three chapters. (This can also be copy/pasted into the body of an email.)

If the agent or publisher received nine chapters of a manuscript, along with the name of the marketing agency, that is more than enough to make a decision. And if the book is horrible, the agent/publisher will know that on the first page and will not have to read the rest of the submission.

Which leads me to another thought…

Agents and publishers need to do away with the word, “Unsolicited.”

Are the agents and publishers looking for a great book, or are they looking for someone they had a thirty-second discussion with at a writers conference?

The most common problem is the high volume of submissions. If I’m a publisher, I want 10,000 submissions. The odds will be in my favor to discover a great writing talent. I would find a way to go through all of them, even if I have to rearrange my business model.

Which leads me to another thought…

Public Relations and advertising need to do away with old ways of thinking.

A decent marketing agency will handle the worldwide promotions. The author will be instructed to handle the “Relationship Marketing.” Which means, the author will build their audience by providing content that benefits their target market. The best places to provide content are social media and the author’s website.

While the marketing agency is handling the website, Search Engine Optimization, and paper marketing, the author will be handling daily posts on Facebook to benefit their readers, along with Tweets and blogs.

Which leads me to another thought…

Authors should do away with posting any personal content.

The author should be in “Author Mode” one hundred percent of the time. Every post on Facebook, every Tweet, every blog, should benefit the author’s target audience.

No opinions should be posted, unless it directly helps the readers.

Content is the key to marketing success. Your marketing agency can put up a great website, but if your blogs are describing what you did on vacation, then rip that website down and start over.

Everyone connected to the publishing industry should base every decision on whether or not it will benefit the readers. Which leads me to another thought…

Readers need to do away with taking a chance on .99-cent books.

Bookstores are failing for three reasons:

  1. eBooks cost less than printed books.
  2. Weak list of entertaining books.
  3. Watered down bestsellers list.

I understand that digital costs less than printed, which saves money on creating the book, distributing the book, and purchasing the book. Even if we were not in a tough economy, this business model is a win for everyone.

However, we still have two major problems. “Weak list of entertaining books and watered down bestsellers.” Readers decided that printed hardbacks, which cost $24.99, were not worth the risk of their money. On the other hand, readers feel that paying .99 cents for that same book in digital form is worth the risk.

With high sales of eBooks, it appears on the surface that authors, literary agents, editors, and publishers are doing their job. But the reality is that high quality books from both traditional and self-published authors are hard to find. Readers are taking risks on the book, which means, the word “gatekeeper” should not be taken seriously anymore.

Which leads me to another thought…

We should do away with the terms, “Traditional Publishing” and “Self-Publishing.”

Over the last ten years, traditional and self-published authors began to mix. In the last five years, the digital world completed that mixer. To be honest, can anyone tell by looking at a cover, which book was done by a traditional publisher and which was done by a self-publisher? By reading the book, can you tell which author is a bestseller and which is a new, up and coming talent? Not anymore.

Which leads me to another thought…

Everyone connected to the publishing industry should do away with the mudslinging.

I cannot name one positive result of an author bashing a publisher, or authors bashing each other, or bookstores bashing publishers, or publishers bashing agents, and so on…

The problem is that if you put a thousand different kinds of authors, agents, and editors in one room and ask for their opinion, the result is mudslinging. With Facebook and Twitter, that is exactly what has happened. Everyone has been connected into one big room of social media and the deconstructive opinions are mentioned in posts and Tweets.

We need to understand that in the big room of authors, agents, and editors, are cameras so that the readers can see what we are doing. There is a huge difference between giving constructive opinions and meaningless criticism. Readers know the difference.

Which leads me to my final thought…

Authors, literary agents, and editors need to get back to the basics.

With the eBook revolution, it is obvious that the reader does not see the difference between traditional and self-published books. As authors, agents, editors, and publishers, we have a responsibility to produce entertaining books. We cannot forget the four basic areas in the publishing industry which we need to excel:

~ Reading

~ Writing

~ Marketing

~ Publishing

Like every industry, publishing changed in a hurry and adjustments need to be made. Nevertheless, we should not forget what got us here in the first place.

Ron Knight 


Ron Knight

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