Readers Matter

So yesterday my pal Kristen Lamb made a fantastic post about the new publishing paradigm offering suggestions to the Big 6 to keep them from sharing the fate of the Titanic.  It’s brilliant and spot on.

Something that stood out for me was a quote she pulled from The Author’s Guild post, Publishing’s Ecosystem on the Brink: The Backstory:

For book publishers, the relevant market isn’t readers (direct sales are few), but booksellers.

Say what?

I’d wager you never thought about the fact that as a reader, as a buyer of books, your opinions don’t actually matter to big publishers.  They don’t really care what people are really reading.  They’re busy making projections about what will sell in two years and that’s what they are buying.  Which comes back to that futures analogy I used a while back. Because at the end of the day, while they are making educated guesses about what will sell, they’re just that.  Guesses.  They’re passing left and right on indie stuff with proven sales potential (and I don’t mean mine).  Hey, their loss.  The readers still get their shot courtesy of self publishing.

The whole idea of the reader’s irrelevancy simply because they are a step removed from the publisher (at least in traditional publishing) via the bookseller seems totally…well, whacked.  If all the bookstores go belly up, what does NY plan to do then?  Not considering that issue is just like all the newspapers that are playing ostrich and pretending that this online, web-delivered FREE NEWS is not going to change their business (they’re going out of business, in case you didn’t know).

Readers matter.  In the long run, readers are the only thing that matter because whether you are traditionally published and have the intermediary of the bookseller or if you’re self published and sell directly to the reader online, if you have no readers, you have no sales, period. Nobody wakes up and says “I want to write so that I can sell to BOOKSTORES!” (apart from that whole yearning to see our physical book IN a bookstore which is a whole other thing).

Readers are the whole reason we do what we do.  Sure, we hope we’ll get paid for it, that we’ll eventually make enough money to quit whatever asinine evil day job is trying to destroy our creativity like a cancer (or maybe that’s just me).  But the reason we write is that we want to share our stories with other people.  We want to entertain them, make them laugh, make them cry, touch something deep so that they’re thinking about our characters and whatever message they shared long after the last page is read.

Never forget that.  Never lose your respect for the reader or forget the end game.  It might behoove traditional publishers to think about changing their business model to reflect that rather than the business of selling paper.

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8 comments

  1. I’m still shaking my head at the logic that bookstores are more important than readers. I’m certainly no business expert, but that seems to be a “duh” factor. Who the hell keeps the bookstores in business? I don’t know if it’s bullheadedness or stupidity on NY’s part, but it’s discouraging.

    Kristen’s post – and yours – just helped solidify my choice for Into The Dark. I’d rather go with a small press that understands digital publishing and has strong editing than languish waiting for an agent to maybe pick me up and maybe sell me to NY so my book can be utterly mismanaged.

    I don’t want to see traditional publishing go the way of the dinosaur, however. I’m hoping they’ll eventually get things figured out.

  2. All writers are readers (or certainly should be) and should be offended by that statement. It must be scary to have that power taken away (publishers deciding what gets read). I love finding new indie authors and feeling like I personally discovered them!

  3. Thanks for blogging about this. It was really interesting and informative. And thanks for leading me to Ms. Lamb’s blog. She’s got some really great stuff to say about publishing, e-publishing, self publishing… the works. And I couldn’t resist ordering her books on blogging and social networking– subjects I’m just starting to learn about.

    Laura

  4. So true. I mean, nobody cares about newspapers anymore. The only reason why I buy newspapers is for coupons but those, too, are online. My parents still buy newspapers–they say it would keep them in business. Otherwise, why?

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