Monday, August 23, 2010

The future of publishing

A few weeks ago Dorchester Publishing announced that it will be going all digital with its releases. Trade issues will follow in the coming months but for all practical purposes, mass market paperback books are dead. They also have let two wonderful editors go in an attempt to cut expenses.
Pretty much everyone in the romance publishing world knows that Dorchester has had financial problems for the past couple of years. Several things have led to this. Some writers got large advances that didn't earn out, Anderson News went under, retail outlets such as Walmart cut the shelf space for books which pretty much eliminated the midlisters, and publishers have a return for life policy for the retailers. Its cheaper to throw away perfectly good books, once the cover has been removed and print new ones than to ship books back and out again.

Thus lies the problem. Mass Market as a money maker is no longer viable. All publishers are losing money on them, it just showed up in Dorchester sooner because they are a small house with private investors, not a large corporation, such as Harlequin or Putnam Penquin. With the economy the way it is, they can no longer afford to operate at a loss. These are the facts of life, we as writers have to learn to deal with them. Digital is the wave of the future. I predict that within 20 years, the majority of books put out will be digital and the basic book, whether hard copy, trade, or mass market will be collectors items. E-readers are suppposed to be down under $100 by Christmas and with the advances in technology, they will be even lighter and more portable in just a few years. (Maybe an e-reader that opens like an actual book?)

So here's my rub, or what this post is all about. Most of all the things that have happened with Dorchester lately has come to its writers via Twitter. Alicia Condon leaving, announced on Twitter. Dorchester going all digital, announced on Twitter, Leah and Don let go, announced on Twitter. We are the last ones to find out what is going on with our publisher. Especially frustrating is the part where we don't get paid. They don't inform us, the check just never shows up, month after month after month and we have to beg by ourselves, or through our agents to get money that we have earned. If you owe us money its because we made you money and we've waited long enough for our share. We have been kept in the dark about everything.

So I am issuing a challenge to Dorchester and all other publishers out there. We are partners in this business. Without the writers, you have no product. Without the publisher we have no way to get out product out. Consider us an equal partner, not a side note. Let us know up front what is going on. We are creative and intelligent people with varied backgrounds. We are attorneys and accountants and teachers and artists. We live all over the world. Our careers and our livelihoods are at stake. Give us the consideration that you would give your investors and the employees that work in your offices.
We love books. We love the smell of them and the feel of them. We love getting lost in the pages. We love telling the stories and reading the stories that other tell. We write because we can't stop writing. Some of us make a pretty good living at it and some of us don't. But all of us will never stop telling the stories we love. So please, big publisher, remember who writes the stories when you are making your decisions and let us be part of the process, instead of victims of it.


EmilyBryan August 23, 2010 at 2:49 PM  

Just found out that Leah Hultenschmidt's very informative blog RomanticReads is back up. In a case of lousy timing, the domain name expired and someone else snapped it up. I'm glad for this way to keep up with how she's doing during this difficult time.

Joy Nash August 25, 2010 at 6:07 PM  

A lot of industries are wasteful, but traditional publishing has to be one of the worst. In what other industry does half (or more) of the product end up in the dumpster without being sold, with the retailer then able to be reimbursed in full from the manufacturer for all the product that it initially ordered?

That's a model that just can't survive in a tight money world.

Fred Godsmark August 28, 2010 at 12:01 PM  

I usually don't post in the romantic blogs, but I do follow what is going on. We are a small audiobook publisher that has been around for over 6 years now and survived the economy drop of the past couple of years. I do agree with most of what you say here and understand the frustration the writers must be feeling with all that goes on.
As what I feel is part of the future of publishing, audiobook publishing is becoming a huge part of the industry generating to the tune of pushing a billion dollars.
Last year we started the Dark Desires Audio imprint to publish romance products. We not only take the romance segment seriously, we take the extra time to produce an above average product ... our heart and soul.
As a small publisher we do not have the advertising budget that the bigger companies do and rely a great deal on our reputation and our writers to let people know the product is out there. We have even created a product line that can be down close to the price of a paperback book. We call it Mass Market Audio.
What I am finding frustrating right now is that I am getting little to no response when I contact the romance writers and let them know that we are releasing their books in audio. Out of the titles that we have listed on our website, only two writers have even bothered to respond to us. Audiobooks are expensive to produce which makes them expensive to buy. We are trying to make romance audiobooks a viable industry that can stand up with ebooks, but we need the support of the writers.
I, as a small publisher trying to do the right thing by the writers, and trying to make a decent living without the model of the publishers of the past, would like to issue a similar challenge. Work a little more with us, treat us with the same respect that we hold you, the writers with.
I got into this business because of my love for books, and reading and for the love of hearing a story well told.
Let's work together, it's good for all of us.
... that's my two cents.

Cindy Holby September 8, 2010 at 9:17 AM  


I looked at your list of titles and know that I've seen Leanna Heiber publicize her title for audio. It might be that some of your authors are in deep deadline mode and just can't respond.

Personally, I do all that is in my power to promote my books but my efforts are only limited to my audience. Most of the time we find we are preaching to the choir.

Cindy Holby

Gerri Russell

Joy Nash

Bonnie Vanak

Emily Bryan

C.L. Wilson

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