July 13, 2010

Author Article: Jerry D. Simmons

The New Lay of the Land - Surviving and Thriving the Changes in Book Publishing

On April 3rd, 2010 book publishing changed forever. Apple launched the iPad, a digital reading device that officially heralds the dismantling of the big publisher model that has been dominant for more than sixty years. A new bench mark has been created and a universal platform is now established that allows every writer, publisher and business to profit without having to rely on a major publisher.

Jerry D. Simmons, a 32 year veteran of publishing, offers some very telling insights into the changes that are in store for the publishing industry.

Welcome to the new world of electronic publishing! There are three important trends in publishing today.

The first is that you no longer need a major publisher to be successful. You can be small and independent. You, the author, can retain all rights, ownership and control over your content and make a conscious choice to publish on your own.

The second is digital publishing is coming of age. eBooks are here to stay and their numbers and proliferation growing exponentially. Writers, publishers and businesses finally have an open and level marketplace for their content.

Finally, the days of traditional publishing are numbered. Another giant industry that dominated the 20th century is about to bite the dust.

From the day the first mass-market paperback rolled off the presses in the early 1950’s book publishing has followed a very simple path, print and ship. The business evolved from paperback in supermarkets, to hardcover in mega bookstores. Nothing really changed in the way the publishers conducted business for almost 50 years. Terms of sale, discounts and distribution remained fairly static and print on paper for mass consumption and entertainment was the cornerstone of traditional book publishing.

The first inkling of change came with the introduction of computers in the workplace in the early 1970’s. This was when people first started reading electronic files on computer screens and the first electronic books were produced. By the 1990, people were sending email and file attachments with tens and even hundreds of pages in length. And along came the Internet and graphical interfaces. By the year 2000, millions of people became adept and ever more reliant on computers and the Internet and document transmittal got easier and faster.

Electronic books (eBooks) broke on the scene in 2006 when Sony introduced their eBook Reader. Amazon launched the Kindle in 2007 and as the market for eBooks began to take shape as more and more independent publishers made significant inroads and achieved sales and financial success. In 2008 and 2009, the major publishers started paying attention and getting concerned in earnest as electronic publishing and eBooks began to occupy a significantly greater role in the publishing picture, so significant that they even began to pose a perceived threat to the traditional publishing business model.

The tectonic shift in the marketplace occurred when Apple released the iPad, remarkable and elegant book sized machine allows people to see books in color with ease and crystal clarity.

Suddenly the publishing world is turned upside down. Publishing software is readily available and easy to use. With the Internet, marketing can be readily done by anyone. Big publishers and bookstores are no longer the only way for authors to reach the masses. In fact, they may no longer even be needed at all.

What will publishing look like in the next ten to twenty years?

Will bookstores disappear? Are the days of traditional publishing with paper books being sold in bookstores are numbered.

Digital book publishing is going to change the dynamics of the industry forever in five major ways. The big publishing companies may not survive because the new technologies allow little people, the writers, the small publishers and the individual creative businesses to create value packed products, communicate and market directly to their target audiences, and profit handsomely from the change.

The marketplace for distributing and selling eBooks is wide open and not restricted by the largest players in the world. Distribution to large numbers of eBook buyers and sellers online is accessible to everyone and not currently limited nor restrained by a dominant group of traditional big publishers.

The cost of entry into the digital marketplace is a fraction of the cost of print and is affordable by just about anyone who owns a computer. Converting content to an eBook format compatible with all the leading eBook Readers is a tiny investment considering the possible return. While global distribution may require translation into foreign languages, there is no cost associated with printing, warehousing, shipping and handling of paper books.

Author royalties and publisher products are substantially higher than is possible if a writer were under contract to a large publisher and significantly more than what is possible as an independent author with a distributed print book. The Return-On-Investment for any eBook is a fraction of what it costs compared to print. The potential profit margin for digital content makes this an exceptional investment for the creator and provider of content.

eBooks can be created with rich interactive multimedia content. This expands the entertainment potential and possible enjoyment people can experience and opens up the realm of publishing in ways that have yet to be defined or imagined. The same technology will support a sixty or seventy thousand word text as readily as a 100 word children’s book filled with pictures and illustrations. Animations, video, or dynamic entertainment of any type that can be designed to be published, marketed and delivered on wireless communications systems anywhere in the world.

Pricing for digital content is more dependent on volume than margin. Print books must maintain viability as a single unit for sale and be priced to cover all fixed and future expenses. The pricing for eBooks and digital content is simple and basically just focuses on the upfront creativity and production costs. There are no future reprint, shipping or handling costs associated with the production of eBooks and digital content.

To date, the major publishers have argued that the economics have not been right for a major shift to the digital world. In fact, the fear of lost print sales have stymied the widespread introduction of older titles for release as eBooks. This fear is important and real. The big publishers are worried. As well they should be.

eBooks and digital publishing threaten traditional publishing and the survival of the
the six largest world-wide publishing concerns, like nothing they have ever seen before. How will they survive? Time will tell.

Going Digital

The digital market offers tremendous opportunities for independent writers, publishers and businesses large and small to profit from a digital publishing model that in effect becomes an extension of their own marketing.

However to succeed in the new world is not simply a matter of throwing content together and converting it to an eBook. Quality matters. Content matters. Value and the customers experience matters. There is a right way and a wrong way to proceed.

Until April few businesses had any opportunity to utilize publishing as a mechanism for marketing. But now, the digital world has provided a new and exciting way to market the product or service of any company, publisher and writer. The shift in the marketplace and technology makes quality eBooks and quality digital content by quality people and organizations the most sought out commodity that the industry will make available.

A quality reading and entertainment or knowledge experience is what will attract customers and solidify the brand of the publishing companies of the next decade and beyond.

Those that short change the quality element of publishing are the ones who will fail.

Those that focus on creating and delivering superb quality are the ones who will distinguish themselves, attract the public interest and the sales that go with it.

For any individual or company to survive and thrive in the new digital marketplace they will need to utilize the skills of book publishers and work to create eBook and digital content that delivers notable satisfaction and personal enjoyment. Nothing less will survive the scrutiny and instant communication that exists in the world of today.

The changing landscape poses big problems for the print-on-demand publishing companies that are proliferating across the landscape today.

Paper is getting to expensive to offer and deliver. The writing is on the wall. The book printing costs are reaching levels that people will not accept. Environmental impacts and waste disposal costs will eventually be deemed unacceptable. The days of unrestricted book printing are numbered.

The Apple iPad offers a suite of standardized formats for eBooks and rich multimedia content. The barriers to creation are diminishing with the relative ease with which eBooks and digital content can be created. The marketplace allows for such a quick and easy dissemination of ideas among people that quality creative works can be shared and delivered to the masses virtually overnight.

With the ever increasing sales of iPads and devices like it, the flow of electronic content will increase. The possibilities are endless and while the eReading devices continue to improve and drop in price the more widespread the market and potential for success. A critical tipping point is coming soon. The market potential is enormous.

The opportunity that exists for widespread market penetration via eBooks and digital publishing has never been greater. Some writers recognize this fact, few publishers and virtually no businesses understand the market in a way that easily indentifies the possibilities. For a small investment a company has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands even millions of customers.

There is phenomenal opportunity for individuals as well as business and companies to take advantage of digital publishing as long as they start soon and make it a part of an overall marketing strategy. Those that seize the moment will be able to take part in the future.

For more information visit www.WritersReaders.com


Background Facts to Validate the Ideas in this Article:

(1) Published author J.A. Konrath is under contract to a large New York publishing company when he decided to publish his own eBooks. His Jack Daniel series are mass market paperbacks that are fast-paced, suspense novels. His first book “Whiskey Sour” has sold approx. 2500 copies total since 2004. He has earned about $2500 in royalties. Currently his five self-published eBooks that are selling on average 180 copies a day priced at $2.99. He earns $2.04 on each sale which means he earned more in 45 days of selling eBooks than he did in five years under contract with his paperback series.

(2) Karen McQuestion was an unknown writer who spent almost ten years searching for an agent and publisher for her novel “A Scattered Life.” After years without luck she self-published an eBook and sold more than 36,000 since April. This mother of three now has a film option with a Hollywood producer. She has since published two more eBooks.

(3) In the first quarter of this year eBook sales have increased 252% according to the American Association of Publishers.

(4) Apple has sold over 3 million iPads since April and expects to sell more than 10 million around the world this year.

(5) Retail prices of Readers for eBooks have dropped below the $200 dollar level making them more affordable to the mass market. Barnes & Nobel is selling their Nook for $199 while Amazon is now selling their Kindle for $189. It debuted in 2007 at $399.

(6) The latest bestselling author to convert to eBooks is John Grisham who gave his publisher permission to convert his older backlist titles to eBooks.

(7) Bestselling children’s author Mary Pope Osborne who series “Magic Tree House” has sold over 70 million copies world-wide has just announced her entire series will be available in eBook.


Sidebar-- Action Plan for Publishers

(1) EXAMINE – compare the cost of creating an eBook to a print edition and the opportunities of digital publishing in your return-on-investment.

(2) DECIDE – plan the publication of your writing and make certain all of your personal and business goals are being met in the formats you feel are important.

(3) CONVERT – going from manuscript to eBook is a simple process and provides writers with potential for greater sales.

(4) MARKET – let readers know you exist and your writing is available for sale, market yourself and your writing.

(5) WRITE – successful publishing equates to prolific writers who can produce quality content on a consistent basis for their readers.



Jerry D. Simmons is a 32-year veteran of publishing, 25 in New York with Random House and the former Time Warner Book Group as Vice President, Director Field Sales.

His book, What Writers Need To Know About Publishing is described by the #1 New York Times Bestselling author Sandra Brown as “The good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of book publishing, told in a straight-from-the hip manner. New writers take note.” New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan said “The information was absolutely incredible! I would recommend your book to all aspiring and new authors.”

Disclosure: I did not receive any form of compensation for this post.

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