What Should The Publishing Industry Really Say?

Let me invite you to the Fictitious Writing Conference, live on Ron Knight’s blog. Our panel today includes: Mr. Big Six, who represents most of the power in publishing. We also have Miss Traditional Publisher, Mr. Self-Publisher, Mrs. Literary Agent, Mr. Chain Bookstore, and Mrs. Author. Thank you all for coming. Let’s open it up for some say-whatever-is-really-on-your-mind-Q&A. 

Knight: “Mr. Big Six, why don’t you consider authors that have talent, marketing, and a true gift for writing, but have yet to break through?” 

Mr. Big Six: “It is upsetting that we no longer instruct our staff to look for the next Stephen King, John Grisham, or Nora Roberts. In fact, we are losing authors to Miss Traditional Publisher, because our lack of personal touch. Be that as it may, our business model is to sign authors that have an audience of 500,000 or more.” 

Knight: “I suppose that makes sense.” (I look at Miss Traditional Publisher.) “Do you follow the same business model as Mr. Big Six?” 

Miss Traditional Publisher: “Not really. The only thing I agree with him is that finding the next great author is just about impossible. We spend $50,000 per year on marketing and publicity for each author. If that author fails, it could set us back several years. Our business model focuses on plucking authors from Mr. Big Six. That way, we are getting authors that are established and have a solid fan base.” 

Knight: “So how does an un-established author break through?” 


Knight: “Moving on. It seems that Mr. Self-Publisher has a large market of 700,000 authors that are looking for help.” 

Mr. Self-Publisher: “Honestly, most of the books we publish are not good. In our business, the author takes responsibility for everything, including writing a marketable novel. If they do not sell, it is there own fault. On the other hand, where else can authors go? Mr. Big Six will not consider these authors and Miss Traditional Publisher limits their risk of new authors. We provide a service and at least give the author a chance.”

Knight: “Let me ask the panel a simple question. If you signed an author, would you actually read their book?” 

Mr. Big Six: “Yes.” 

Miss Traditional Publisher: “Yes.” 

Mr. Self-Publisher: “No.” 

Mrs. Literary Agent: “Yes.” 

Mr. Chain Bookstore: “Only if I personally bought the book. Otherwise, no.” 

Mrs. Author: “Yes, I read other authors.” 

Knight: “Mrs. Literary Agent. If breaking into the traditional publishing world is close to impossible, what is your advice to authors that need an agent?” 

Mrs. Literary Agent: “First of all, I have to love the book. The author and his/her work needs to be marketable; the author needs at least some sort of following. Their storytelling and writing mechanics should be polished and the author should hire both a marketing agency and a publicist. If that kind of author sends me a query, I’ll find a way to assist them to greatness. And if all fails, we will create an e-book for the author and I’ll take a small piece of each book sold. After a year of consistent sales, I’ll pitch the author again to publishers.” 

Knight: “That sounds great, Mrs. Literary Agent. But what are the chances an author can sign with you?” 

Mrs. Literary Agent: “2%.” 

Knight: “How about the rest of you? What are the chances of you signing a new author?” 

Miss Traditional Publisher: “.001%.” 

Mr. Big Six: “0%.” 

Mr. Self-Publisher: “100%. That is, if they have the money.” 

(Mr. Chain Bookstore stands up, his cheeks flushed with anger. At first we did not know what was going on, until Ms. E-Book walked in the door and marched toward the panel.) 

Mr. Chain Bookstore: “What is she doing here?” (He sits back down. Even his neck and arms glowed with resentment.) 

Ms. E-Book: “Hey, I have been heading your way for a long time. Are you really shocked that I have showed up like this?” (She takes a seat and joins us.) 

Knight: “Ms. E-Book, you are gaining popularity by the day. In your opinion, why does everyone think you will make a huge impact on the publishing industry?” 

Ms. E-Book: “I’m cheap.” 

Knight: “Excuse me?” 

Ms. E-Book: “Let me explain. I cost less than printing, authors can use me, and I am attracting new readers.” 

Mrs. Author: “I still do not understand something. If Mr. Big Six will not sign new authors and Miss Traditional Publisher only takes authors from Mr. Big Six, eventually, you both will run out of books.” 

Miss Traditional Publisher: “You are talking about two different issues. First, you want us to sign new authors because it is the right thing to do. I agree. In fact, I miss going through thousands of submissions to find that one great gem. Nevertheless, authors do not understand the basics of our business. It’s not safe for us to sign an unproven author, no matter how good they look.” 

Mrs. Author: “What happens in two years when you cannot pluck anymore established authors from Mr. Big Six?”

Miss Traditional Publisher: “We will adjust the way we sign authors.” 

Mrs. Author: “But I will have found different ways to publish. Authors like me won’t be there for you.”

Miss Traditional Publisher: “There will always be authors.” 

Ms. E-Book: “Mr. Big Six and Miss Traditional Publisher are changing their business model to make room for me, but that is taking time. Meanwhile, Mr. Self-Publisher and Mrs. Author are growing strong because they are taking advantage of my ability to sell books.” 

Mr. Chain Bookstore: “Let’s not forget that Ms. E-Book is driving us out of business!” 

Ms. E-Book: “Oh, please. Everyone saw me coming ten years ago. I wasn’t the reason you were late to the party.” 

Miss Traditional Publisher: “I have to say something that is bugging me. Mr. Self-Publisher and Ms. E-Book may provide a service to authors, but you should follow the same rules as we do. Not everyone deserves to be published.” 

Mr. Chain Bookstore: “I agree. You cannot trust Mr. Self-Publisher or Ms. E-Book. In fact, I wouldn’t even let Mrs. Author in my store!”

Mrs. Author: “Listen you moron. There are authors that belong in your stores and some that don’t. But until Mr. Big Six and Miss Traditional Publisher start looking in my direction and stop avoiding eye contact, I have no choice but to hang out with Mr. Self-Publisher and Ms. E-Book.” 

Ms. E-Book: “Let him have it Mrs. Author!” 

Knight: “Okay, let’s calm down. Mr. Big Six. What is your opinion of Ms. E-Book and Mrs. Author?” 


Knight: “Well, we need to wrap this up. I just want to ask one simple question for all of you to answer. Here it is. Can you survive without authors? Yes or no?” 

Mr. Big Six: “No.” 

Miss Traditional Publisher: “No.” 

Mr. Self-Publisher: “No.” 

Mr. Chain Bookstore: “No.” 

Ms. E-Book: “No.” 

Mrs. Literary Agent: “No.” 

Mrs. Author: “No.” 

Knight: “I suggest all of you remember that…” 

Ron Knight 

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  1. brilliant! 🙂

  2. This was great! :p

  3. Very, very clever.

  4. Thank you, Ron. This was a very creative interview! Thank goodness you didn’t have to call security…:)

  5. Wonderfully written article, thank you for posting.

  6. Ron Knight says:


    That was funny. It’s good to get a laugh. ~ Ron Knight

  7. Raven Dane says:

    Excellent blog with many hard truths. But there was another person missing at the table. The small independent publisher. These are the indie presses who offer their authors a tradional publishing contract, usually with no advances but a generous royalty percentage. These companies work very hard to promote their authors…it is their own momey that they risk and are less likely to drop them as quickly as a big publishing house will. They have been a source of hope for many new authors with talent and drive.
    They also usually embrace ebooks, publishing their books in both formats.
    They are successful and would no doubt be lynched at that table!

  8. Now that is a fun way to sum up the current situation in publishing! Brilliant!

  9. Awesome write. The answers to the last question hit it on the head…

  10. Excellent overview!

  11. Absolutely the best thing I’ve read in a while! Would but that I possessed more thumbs could i give higher praise. Shared it with my followers.

  12. Oh how I loved your last, most important question, “Can you survive without Authors”. So True. Prosper On Ron.

  13. Savvy, easy to read, and the cricket parts are fun. Tweeted and fb’d you.

  14. Funny and sad at the same time. well done.

  15. This just about says it all—don’t it

  16. Brilliant post!!!!!!! 😀

  17. This post was very creative and interesting. I loved the last question just like everyone else.

  18. Somewhat entertaining, but based on a false premise. Sure, it’s hard to get in with the big 6, but not impossible. My first novel came out in hardcover from a big 6 publisher last year, and I had no platform, no history of sales, no following, and no marketing background. I didn’t even have a website, much less a Facebook or Twitter presence. What I did have was a good book that they thought they could sell, and that is 100% all you need.

  19. Ron Knight says:

    Hey Devon:

    I’m not sure I ever heard any publisher, including the Big Six, come out and say, “An author just needs a good book. No marketing, no sales history, and no platform needed.” Let me know the title of your book and the publisher. I’ll give you some free promotion here on my blog. Take Care~ Ron Knight