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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Is That Ringing in Your Ear a Death Knell?

Seth Grodin, author and—can I call him this?—marketing guru, announced on his blog that he was through with traditional publishing. The blog post is here. This should surprise no one who reads his blog, he has been clear about the possibility. Does this signal the end of traditional book publishing? Well, how should I know?

I do know that many options exist now. You can deliver your work by website, pdf, e-reader, or print on demand, and give the publishers a bye. This is one more example of when traditional businesses should get on their toes rather than back on their heels.

Grodin has established himself, so this step is not so precarious as for a lesser known writer. A lesser known writer can still succeed with the new alternatives, but must put the effort in.

I do not hear the death knell of publishing in Grodin’s decision. We will still need publishers, of some sort. They did not just select what to publish, they got work designed, printed, and marketed. those services were valuable. If you do not want to do all that, or cannot, then publishers provide the service.

Publishers unwilling to change may hear a death knell to the way they did business, but if they are savvy they might see a need for gatekeepers. I hate saying that, because publishing has been a guarded playground for so long. We have so much ‘content’ now, however, that filtering seems necessary. The market will settle the matter of course, but the market is pretty weird right now.

Grodin points out that with traditional publishing, you sell to an editor. Nowadays, you can sell to the reader. That’s who I always wanted to read my writing. Possibly we can move away from the model of publishers creating crap excitement with celebrity tell alls and copycat memes, though I suppose there will always be a market (and a marketing) for that.

So publishing will have to change, just as the music and movie industries had to change. Death knells are heard by pundits but that has more to do with their own clamor than actual events. It is certain that those who cannot change will find themselves forced from the playing field.

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