Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

If You Were King/Queen of the Publishing Industry, What Would Be Your First Order of Business?

You know. Besides giving yourself a billion dollar advance for your work in progress and more marketing hype than a new Apple gadget.

Would you rule with an iron fist or a tender hand? What would you want to see accomplished first?






138 comments:

Doug Pardee said...

Move it out of Manhattan to someplace affordable.

Shiloh Walker said...

Deal with the digital /print pricing mess-I know the industry is going through a much-needed growing period there, but if I could figure out a way to hurry things along?

That would be my choice.

Bane of Anubis said...

Were I the publishing poobah, I would be hauling ass trying to tie-in books to multimedia. Not from an ad perspective, more from an enhanced media perspective. And not extras, but fundamental elements intertwined. Embrace technology! Death to the Paperback! (under the cloak of Save the Trees!)

Kathryn said...

Oh man, I wouldn't even know where to begin.

Linda Godfrey said...

I would ban all projects that have no merit other than being written or ghost-written by a celebrity -- especially children's picture books.

Crystal said...

Donuts for everyone.

Miriellia said...

I would get rid of bookseller returns, and instead of pulping books, I'd send them to Africa, or India, or North Korea - somewhere poor or where ideas would be useful.

Christine Macdonald said...

Develop a system to weed out scam artists in all areas of publishing from agents to editors.

BuffySquirrel said...

I'd bring back editing.

Anonymous said...

1) Cap on advances. No offer--even for multiple books--can go higher than 50K.

2) De-centralize (get some houses out of New York).

3) Eliminate bookseller returns.

4) More equitable royalty splits that allow publishers to recoup their costs and make money while simultaneously giving their author their due.

Dara Young said...

Pick one ebook format and make it the industry standard.

Dick Margulis said...

First let's kill all the MBAs and go back to an industry run by people who are more interested in the books they publish than in the books they cook.

All the other problems will then take care of themselves.

Anonymous said...

no more returns...no other industry has them!

Shane B said...

I would embrace the digital age even more. I would expand my stable of writers from the traditional small group of power writers to a much larger group that would include unknown writers. Playing the odds that I could stumble upon someone in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere would entice me, especially if I stuck to digital publishing for the lesser known writers until they prove themselves to be worth of a large run in traditional print.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

Every HS and college student would receive an eReader as part of their tuition and textbooks would only be available electronically. I understand my son's middle school has all their text books online and kids never bring those stupid, heavy books home.

(Loving my kindle app on my new iPad)

Giles Hash said...

I would ensure better covers for sci-fi and fantasy books. No more 80's hairstyles for books released in the 2000's!

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

Actually, Anon 12:39, the interior decorating industry has retail to distributor returns with a restocking fee.

Remus Shepherd said...

Industry-wide caps on advances. No one gets more than the mid six figures. The money saved by not paying rich celebrities millions of dollars should be shunted into publishing more new authors.

Every one million dollars *not* paid to a celebrity could be 200 new authors signed up at $5k each. The current state of advances is shortsighted. If you want your industry to have a future, you need to invest in people who may become your future golden geese.

Nicole said...

I'd start a blog or some other effort to educate people about the ins and outs of the industry.

Maybe I'm missing out - but it seems like most of the current info out there from publishers is focused solely on new releases and promotion (all good things, mind you) instead of sharing insights about how it actually works. It'd be great to demystify the publishing side like bloggers have started to do with the agent side.

What a great chance to connect with authors and readers, and build loyalty during the ever-changing publishing landscape!

Then again, I'm a writer, so I might be showing a slight bias :)

Ariana Richards said...

My gut response to this is very different from my practical response. My initial reaction was "only publish quality work". When I put more thought into that concept, I come up with "start giving readers more credit". Find the line between markatable and intelligent and walk it carefully, weeding out more fluff and letting the readers know the publishing industry recognizes their intelligence.

Which means, in short, doing away with most stories that are pitched by "it's like *movie/bookname* but set in the *different location than original*"

Jack F. Erikson said...

Have every author wanna-be work through a slush pile. It ease the editors' time and give them some healthy insight into mistakes to avoid.

Anonymous said...

People (especially young people) in publishing are jumping on the ebook bandwagon without really considering the consequences. I remember working for a major publisher and leaving before there were massive layoffs. People were just blthely going about their business and not seeing the big picture, and yet I sensed it was coming.

I feel the same about the rush to change everything to ebooks. Once you write off mass market paperbacks, close most of the bookstores, change books into weird book-enhanced video objects etc etc., the industry will collapse. And no, that won't benefit authors, except for a few whose self-published ebooks go viral.

I feel this in my gut after working in publishing for 30 years. So if I were Queen of Publishing, I'd make sure that keeping bookstores around was a high priority.

Anonymous said...

Speed up the querying/publishing proccess.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon@12:52-

I don't know, I feel like readers are jumping on the e-book bandwagon faster than the industry is.

ajkulig said...

I'm torn between wiping out vannity publishers and making agents all have the same submission guidelines. ;) But I would totally settle for a fancy hat, and someone to type my longhand manuscripts.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I'd put Bane in charge and eat bonbons. :)

John Burford said...

Hey Nathan,

Would you mind telling me what you used to make this site (html, dreamweaver, wordpress, etc.)? I'm making a website for my business next summer and I really like the clean, yet professional look of your blog. I'm wondering if I could make one similar.

Thanks,
John

p.s. Keep up the great work! I've been reading your blog for the past 6 months and I really love your stuff.

Nathan Bransford said...

John-

Thanks! I'm actually on Blogger, with a custom-designed template by my talented friend Sean Slinsky.

Krista V. said...

Honest question (I'm not trying to be sarcastic): What does everyone have against bookseller returns? Wouldn't booksellers buy a lot less books if they knew they'd be stuck with all the inventory they couldn't move? Seems like breakout bestsellers would come along a lot less often...

Nathan Bransford said...

Krista asks a good question. Bookstore returns can be onerous on publishers collectively, but take them away and you might find a lot less risk-taking on unproven authors on the bookshelves.

Joe Schmo said...

why does everybody think that eliminating bookseller returns would be a good idea? returns allow booksellers to take a risk on new and/or currently unpopular authors and give them a chance. if there were no returns, i can guarantee you that there wouldn't be any authors in there who weren't guaranteed bestsellers (patterson, grisham, butcher, etc.)

same deal with royalties. an author's royalty is pretty standard (check out royalties from the music industry, for instance). the publishing industry's margins are already famously slim, and raising the royalty rates would just make them only carry the bestsellers. they're businesses, not charities.

and for decentralizing, of course that could work in theory, but nobody wants to be the first one to leave and isolate themselves from the scene. it'd be like the country music industry boycotting nashville.

corkers said...

Make celebrities who want to write a book go through the same submission process as everyone else.

Francine said...

Hi,

For starters the celebrity bandwagon would get tipped and contents rendered to toilet tissue.

Jaded best-selling authors given lower advances = quality control!

More new voices brought into the frame. After all, a fruit stall relies on fresh produce topping the stale to attract customers.

All submission electronic to save on carbon footprint = postmen/delivery companies, planes, trains etc., in humping hardcopy mss across states, countries, oceans.

More minions reading subs and faster turnaround on replies. One boss rather than levels of top-brass sitting on butts swigging coffee and deciding on commissions by committee.

More media alliance via the www, every novel available on electronic devices whatever the format beside hardcopy.

Move HQ's to rural based locations = save money on city property taxes re per building per country location.

Be more amenable to public and treat all authors with respect regardless of whether choco reading or crap came your way.

That's pretty much it, and BTW: verification word "hesse", and no I'm not wearing jackboots!
best
F

Ian Tuttle said...

-Universal eBook formatting.

-Encourage small presses rather than huge houses.

-Sponsor "one city one book" campaigns all across the country!

abc said...

I'd rather be Queen of the world: I have so many more ideas for fixing the world. I feel like I don't know enough to offer any useful or innovative ideas, but I would like to see less big stuff be in either NY or CA. So I'll side with Doug P. How about Cleveland? Or Minneapolis? Des Moines? Doesn't Des Moines need more love? I think so.

K.L. Brady said...

Stop fighting e-books and lower the price.

Sponsor group author tours featuring both bestsellers and midlist authors to give a boost to my midlisters.

Change author contracts so that the more self-promotion they do, the bigger cut of the royalties they get.

Sign myself to a 7-figure deal. (okay, not really)

Put a shirtless Mark Sanchez (Jets) on every book cover. (okay, not really but it's a nice thought for me)

Anonymous said...

I would quickly renounce my position for someone better qualified.
That failing I would start learning a whole lot because so far I only know one side of the business.
However, I think I would up the quality. It amazes me some of the stuff out there. But that's me.

John Milner said...

I would be the Simon Cowell of the art world, staging auditions every evening in every B&N bookstore in every city. A renaissance of cultural followers would tune in to watch and see who was to become a finalist on the hit reality show American Novelist

Kim Batchelor said...

I'd look closely at my system for getting reader feedback. Is my publishing company providing what readers want? Do I have a way to get that feedback in a timely manner? I'm a part research-geek so I'm always wondering if the research methodology is sound.

Anonymous said...

Oh that's easy...cut the industry's unbelievably wasteful overhead. (That is, wasteful from my perspective...not necessarily wasteful in an absolute sense).
Which is precisely why I plan to open a publishing company: Given a thriving e-book market and the marketing leverage of the internet, two people can effectively run a publishing company...or so I'm betting.

Mark Terry said...

--form a Big 6 subsidiary e-retailing corporation that would go head-to-head with Amazon (call it, perhaps, DeNile.com) that provided their own e-books with a 2-4 week lead-time over Amazon, iBookstore and others

--consider verticals by convincing my brethren to acquire Barnes & Nobles

--Take a hard look at our catalogues and decide NOW rather than later which authors will be published solely as mass market paperbacks, hardcovers, trade paperbacks, or e-books (because I think that's coming anyway, so why wait to be forced into the issue)

--offer competitive e-book royalty rates lest you lose most authors to self-publishing at the 70% royalty rate on Amazon's Kindle

--start a marketing campaign explaining to authors what possible advantages you offer to them over self-publishing e-books at a 70% royalty rate and be specific, like:

--will have transparent accounting in terms of marketing expenses and advertising campaigns
--will provide amount of money to be spent on marketing and stick to it
--indicate to whom and when ARCs are provided

Remus Shepherd said...

I think you *could* get rid of the bookseller return policy with some wise marketing strategy.

For example, let's say you offer a bookseller all your titles a la carte -- they can pick and choose the titles they want, at a higher price -- or offer a package deal. The package costs less per book, but they have to take all the books in the package, which contains both bestsellers and new authors, and no returns. With a little fiddling with multi-title packaging, I think that you could wean the booksellers off of the current system.

The problem is that the publishers are not the ones with the power in the publisher/bookseller arrangement. It would take an industry cartel to make the booksellers change their ways. Or one merciless dictator.

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Loaded question, Mr. Bransford.

Kristina Holmes said...

Loving this question!

Given that it's the theme of my day, er, year:

In my world as reigning queen, we would quickly move away from antiquated systems of pitching to the media as our primary method of promotion. We'd re-create publishing companies to reflect the technological developments allowing authors to promote their books in a whole bunch of creative ways by establishing new departments and systems for book promotion. These departments would be a tough sell to the head execs that don't want to spend money on them or are struggling to adjust to changing times, but as queen, I would lay down the law. :)

Publishers would create social media departments, or use social media companies like FSB Associates regularly that can help us create impact online. Publishers would be required to staff publicity departments with enough people to do the job, encourage proactive ways of pitching, and set up systems where publicists have more license for creativity. I would immediately make sure that every editor has the support they need to do their job well, and not edit every night and weekend as so many dedicated editors do.

In a nutshell, as publishing queen I would make publisher-backed book promotion a big focus, so that authors have greater promotional support in exchange for the profits and rights they give to their publishers.

And if I was overthrown, I would pray from my jail cell that if publishers continue going in the direction of doing less promotion rather than more, that in return, authors receive more profit and control of their intellectual properties.

karenranney said...

I'd squarely face the fact that piracy is a real, financially draining problem for both authors and publishers.

This inability to see the forest for the pirates in the trees just boggles the mind.

Just because you want it to go away doesn't mean it will.

John Jack said...

Abdicate in favor of a subsidiarity confederation model separately but equally administrated by a tripartite generaly assembly founded on parlimentary practices. Writers, publishers, and readers individual assemblies. There'd have to be lawyers involved and lobbyists and accountants and printers and truckdrivers and booksellers and agents and editors of all kinds.

The industry already is a transnational corporate monarchy with greater resources and properties larger than many emerging economy nation states, might as well catch up to the republican democracy model.

I ess you not, word verificate: blithest. An actual dictionary word. Huh.

Ishta Mercurio said...

I'd institute a system of lower advances for authors, in exchange for more comprehensive marketing initiatives from the publishers on a broader spectrum, instead of for just a handful of titles each year.

swampfox said...

I'd name my new publishing house after my Word Verification: readia. Honest! Now I forgot what I was really going to say.

Jenny said...

To sound off on the 'no returns' issue. Ordering items that are non-returnable to the bookstore damages the profit margin for everyone. Would you rather have publishers hold back pary of the author's advance money for possible returns, or would you rather the bookstores just not pay as much outright for the copies. Because whatever they don't sell takes up the limited space on their shelves (yes they keep detailed measurements of linear feet)--and they're not gonna pay that much for books that will wind up in the remainder/clearance bins. If they pay for them at all.

(So you can say good-bye to new, untried authors--which has been brought up a couple times now.)

So, publishers won't make as much per book, meaning they can't pay the authors as big an advance, and the bookstores will be stuck with a limited inventory that, after everyone has bought out Dan Brown, will not be able to serve the buying public and will therefore make no money, meaning that they can purchase even fewer books from the publisher...and it cycles from there.

But as Queen of Publishing I'm a fan of the universal ebook format, and a non-fan of exclusivity rights to individual selling intermediaries/stores.

Michelle Kollar said...

I'd give editors more control over publishing the books they're passionate about, but that would take the business side out of the industry. No business would equal no money and no money would equal a failing industry.

Authors, agents, and editors etc. with pitchforks would be at my door setting the castle on fire.

I'll stick to being a peasant, thank you very much.

Stacey O'Neale said...

As Queen, I'd do the following...

1. Force celebrities to write their own books. If you can't write then you shouldn't get published or have the right to refer to yourself as a writer/author.
2. Do away with 'trends'. Instead of publishing 9 million books a year about vampires, I'd force writers to get more creative instead of riding the trends.
3. I'd make every agent have a blog like this because the advice is great and you are awesome! Well done Nathan!

Mira said...

Oh goody.

Is it Christmas? My birthday? I think I've been waiting for this question since I joined this blog a year and a half ago.

I must marshall my thoughts.

As an aside, I LOVE my profile picture this week. But it may not convey the gravity with which I ponder this important question.

I am off to ponder.

ZAKARIYA MIKAL SHERMAN said...

I'd give you, Nathan, a billion dollar advance for having such great information on your blog!

Nina said...

I would make it possible to publish English books in their original written form in Norway. Specifically I am thinking about Norwegian writers who prefer the English language, rather than the Norwegian one!

Sheila Cull said...

I'd hire two dozen qualified people to go through the slush piles. Then they would collect the best literary fiction and the best non fiction. And I'd spend half my day reading the best books that I just published.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Also: agents and editors would be required to use a variety of canned form rejection responses, rather than the one most commonly used today ("Thanks, but it's not for me.")

Soooz said...

I read and re-read all of the comments. And agree with a good deal of them. I must be one of the few that craves the feel of a paperback in my hand. The scent of the paper, the joy of physically turning a page.

"If I ruled the publishing world?"
Big question,Nathan. I can only respond as an Author/reader/bookbuyer/human being.

As an author, I feel that a paperback edition of a writer's work be mandatory first release option. Followed by e-book. Not jointly released to the market.

As a reader, I feel that much of the connected feel of a book is lost in an e-book format. I need to feel the emotion. A screen doesn't do it for me.

As a bookbuyer...buy a package deal
The paperback and the e-book one hit one price deal.

As a human being..I'd publish works that had an impact on informing the populace of situations they need be aware of.
Non-fiction works are an essential learning tool. That being said force feeding information doesn't work. So release the non-fiction work in a package approved by both authors...the non-fiction slam dunk and a fictional work that either supports or debunks the work.
Thanks for the opportunity to have a discussion.
soooz

Beth said...

I'd require proof of graduation from an English class before submitting a query. I hate hate hate hate hate the misuse, of, commas, apostrophe's, and bad speling. Also your and you're. They two different words, people.

subtlegifts said...

I would remove Stephenie Meyer from the bookshelves and cut down on the amount of Paranormal YA. I would also expand the YA genre to have more of a variety.

Dan Holloway said...

Nathan, I started a small press, eight cuts gallery press, today

http://agnieszkasshoes.blogspot.com/2010/08/i-just-started-publishing-house.html

so I have just been able to play this for real.
1. I don't make a single penny from my authors' works - they keep it all. If I make anything it's from live shows and exhibitions
2. I give a platform for brilliant but unpublishable work. My first two books are Cody James' The Dead Beat and Oli Johns' Charcoal. Both are 25k words. The former iw a warm-hearted memoir of San Francisco meth addicts spending 1997 waiting for comet Hale-Bopp; the latter is a series of humorous meditations on the suicide in 2009 of model Daul Kim. They are the best books I've read in the past year bar none, but wouldn'tr get through the door of a mainstream

3. I've ditched the ISBN - it makes ZERO business sense. Really.

4. I am drawing absolutely no boundaries in terms of format - be it ebook, vook, zine, chapbook, one-off installation - I'll put the books out in the way that suits them.

Dan Holloway said...

oh, and yes ,I am taking submissions :)

http://eightcuts.wordpress.com/collaborate/submissions/

Daisy Harris said...

I'm with the folks who would embrace e-books, especially Bane of Anubis. People today expect entertainment to be interactive. I'd figure out ways to make authors' worlds something in which readers can participate.

I'd also make e-readers more affordable and spearhead ways to get e-readers to folks with less money and access to books. Plenty of places in the US are book-poor (and just plain poor). Those folks should be able to access all the free books available for download.

My husband is a photographer and he watched the digital v film debate get settled years ago. You know what? Photographers can't make $$ the same ways they used to. They had to evolve. Publishers and authors are going to have to do the same thing.

The universe does not exist to make things fair or to make sure I get paid to write or to keep publishing houses in business.

Evolve or die. I don't see that there's any other way.

If I were queen, I'd chose evolve.

Hey, wait- I'm already choosing to evolve. I guess that makes me queen! Yippee!

Amber J. Gardner said...

I don't get it. Why is it such a bad thing that most of the publishing industry is in New York?

How does that affect a writer? They don't need to be there to sell a book.

And lets see...to attribute...If I were Queen of the PI .....

I would focus on helping writers stay in print and not give out on them just because they're not mega bestsellers.

Amber J. Gardner said...

Also, I'd like to add that reading all of this makes me feel as if I'm part of a revolution lol.

I have a feeling that if some of these actually come to pass, there would be a lot of collateral damage.

I see a lot of radicals here and I'm almost a little glad that there is no real King or Queen of the PI world.

Mira said...

Amber, the reason some people are suggesting publishing move out of Manhattan is the rents and expenses there are astronomically high. Publishers could channel that money into something else that would strengthen the industry.

Mia said...

I think the MAIN issue here is whether or not there's a crown involved? *tilts head* Hmmm?

If YEA then I'd make a decision engine. It would decide for me.

What do you mean? OF COURSE THIS WOULD NOT BE A SLIGHTLY MORE COMPLEX MAGIC EIGHT BALL SORT OF THING.*GUFFAWS* But if it was *shifty eyes* I would also call it Steve.

Anonymous said...

The reason people get a little hot about the pub indusrty being in Manhattan is because of the overhead involved.

Many authors view the royalty/advance system as pretty lean on their side and publishers like to cry poor when anyone suggests they loosen their rates a bit or - God forbid - pay for some marketing for anyone not named 'King'.

Manhattan, you see, is about as expensive as it gets for office space. In the digital age with everything arriving by email and books slowly moving from paper to e-format (at least in part) a lot of people question why all these businesses need to pay NYC rent and taxes and have that massive overhead draining on them.

For an industry that cries about small profit % and the need to lay people off when times are tough, it makes you scratch your head to think of the rent they pay when my email can get to Anytown, USA just as quickly as it gets to Manhattan.

word verif - 'asuckg'

I think that was an insult in a corrupted form of Klingon...

Amber J. Gardner said...

Oh I see now. Thanks Mira.

Another thought came to mind (this thread is becoming addicting lol). I'm young, so when I started writing, I was already reading stories from a screen. Not solely and it did give me this unconscious notion that when you read on the screen, you're reading for free (so it would be weird to pay for something like that), but...I think it can work.

It's true it'll probably end up like the music industry with everyone just downloading the books illegally. But I would like to see...a website much like Apple's App store.

The writers put up their own content. They become the editor and artist, unless they wish to hire someone else. Then they upload their book and/or short story/etc and they charge THEIR OWN PRICE. Including selling it for nothing.

The readers will go on the site, look through the selection and purchase what they want to read. They can either read it there on an electronic reader created by the website if it's short, or download it to their e-book device.

The website only makes money by advertisements or some other mysterious ways lol. All the money goes to the author who has all the control.

Is there such a site now? Cause that would be interesting.

Of course, I wouldn't want this to be the ONLY thing out there. God knows I still want to see books on bookshelves in bookstores.

This would be perfect for the broke, internet geeky reader like me lol.

Mira said...

Welcome, Amber. :)

So, I definitely agree with Bane, and I liked what Mark Terry had to say, as well as others.

Okay, here is what I would do, which may repeat some other suggestions here.

First, let's be real here, I'd hire Nathan and go take a nap. But I'd want Nathan to do the following:

I am assuming that the key to surviving the upcoming e-book threat is:

a. to nurture writer loyalty so that they choose to publish with me rather than to piecemeal out my functions and go it alone.

b. to develop brand loyalty with readers.

a. and b. go well together. I want authors to want my brand on their books.
----------------------------
Industry management:

* Speed up production immensely. Once a book was signed, I'd want it in the bookstores within six months.

* Develop an interactive website for READERS. Develop relationships with them and foster reader loyalty to my brand.

* Anyone caught being snarky or rude to an author, published or unpublished, in person or on-line, would be given ONE written warning. Do it again, you're fired. Authors are the bread and butter.

* Within individual publishing houses I would develop a culture of creativity and supportive teams. It is very hard to make good decisions with an axe hanging over your head. Reward good decisions, and learn from the bad ones. Experience is valuable.

* On the other hand, I would put into place real ethical oversight (not the current one, where there are no actual sanctions) in order to build a sense of trust.

* Move out of Manahattan. Although, my goal is to make enough money to eventually move back.

--------------------------

Manuscript Solicitation:

* Drop the query. Confuses the issue, wastes everyone's time. Just review the pages.

* Drop the antiquated referral system. Knowing the right people has NOTHING To do with being able to write.

* Good god, get the interns out of the slushpile. The absolutely best eyes go to the slushpile.

* Locate the people who are able to locate the best sellers. Reward them, nuture them.

--------------------

Research:

* Develop research that studies this entire industry, especially related to effective sales and marketing techniques.

* Develop research that finds market segments and then market my books specifically to those segments.

---------------
Focus groups:

* Once a manuscript is being considered, I would fly it by focus groups, in person, on-line, doesn't matter. I would look not only at feedback but at HOW LONG THE PERSON SAT AND READ THE BOOK.

* I would track sales related to the focus groups to see if their feedback was on target over time and tweak accordingly.

Oh, I wrote too much. I'll have to break this into two.

Mira said...

Okay here's the rest. :)

------------------------------
Author Relationships and loyalty:

* I would reward my authors frequently. Send them tickets to the game, bottles of wine, etc, on birthdays, Christmas, and anytime their sales hit a certain point.

* I would drop the royalty structure altogether and offer a 30/30/30 split between the publisher, author and
bookseller for print books. Let's reward authors for selling. Let's also allow those authors that do sell to make a living wage so they can write more books.

* For e-books, I would match royalty rates with Amazon, or offer a competitive package with a lower royalty rate but additional perks that would lure writers. I would NOT ALLOW AMAZON TO STEAL ANY WRITER FROM ME. I'm going to say that again. I WOULD NOT ALLOW AMAZON TO STEAL ANY WRITER FROM ME. I get first pick.

* As a base, I would offer a certain amount of marketing/editing to every book. I would also allow authors/agents to negotiate for additional editing/marketing in their contracts as a part of the package.

* I would experiment with hiring authors. Pay them a wage, give them benefits and a percentage of profits. Let's see what they can do if they don't have to have day jobs.

* I would do everything I could to integrate my authors with my team. Let's all be be a part of a creative, exciting, vital and fulfilling family.

* The ultimate point is, I would want authors to YEARN to be published by me because being published by me and being part of my publishing family is WONDERFUL. Much better than going publishing directly to the Kindle, etc.

At the same time, I'd make oodles of money through consumer loyalty to my brands and solid business decisions founded in research and testing.

Okay. I think I'm done. Thanks for the question, Nathan. :)

Daisy Harris said...

Amber-
I tend to think that revolution spawns revolutionaries, not the other way around.

I come off as a revolutionary, but really I just enjoy change. And The revolution, as i see it, will occur whether or not I get on board.

I think a lot of e-book enthusiasts fit that bill.

J. T. Shea said...

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS! I haven't decided who 'they' are yet, but there'll be lots of them. So I'll need baskets for the heads, and axes and axe-persons.

Mel Brooks was right. It's good to be the king. Or queen.

Mira said...

Oh, I forgot one thing:

Marketing. I'd market. Not social marketing, that has NOT been proven to be effective, despite the current belief that it is necessary, and I'm not sure it actually has any real impact. I'd need to study it to see if it's worth all the time.

You know what's been proven effective to sell things?

a. A good product.
b. Advertising. Please don't tell me it doesn't work with books. How does anyone know? It's never really been tried. Although, I do see it paying off for James Patterson.

Anyway, I'd use my research to market effectively.

Okay, I think five posts in one thread may be enough.

Mira said...

Oh, I forgot the most important thing. I'm sorry Nathan.

I'd listen. I'd listen to author complaints. I would not argue with them. I would listen, listen, listen, listen.

Then I'd solve their concerns. Not tell them they shouldn't have them in the first place, or god forbid, blacklist them for voicing them.

Okay, promise, I'm done now. I know no one will even read my posts, probably, but this industry really is going to die, probably within about 5-10 years, and I want to at least try to help.

But if no one will listen, then it's really on them.

Shelby said...

If I were the queen of the publishing industry, my first order of business would be to summon Pat Conroy to the throne for a literary event, and then knight him Sir Patrick of all things wordsmith.. then everthing else would fall into place.

No, really.

Shelby said...

..and what subtlegifts said earlier today. that makes perfect sense to me.

Shelby said...

.. ok, and I like too what John Milner said. that'd be cool.

J. T. Shea said...

Cap advances? Ban Stephanie Meyer? Do I detect jealousy in the room tonight, people? Not to mention limited ambition, sour grapes, and a blind belief in the Zero Sum Gain view of publishing. So I won't mention them.

ryan field said...

As Judge Judy often says, I'd put on my "listening ears" and pay attention to what's happening.

Drew said...

1. Stop sitting around in conferences whining about how little money there is.

2. Take some leaves out of the marketing books of consumer tech and movies (ie make books exciting again).

3. Stop worrying about rights and copyright. No matter how many people rip off your content, ebooks will be profitable. Embrace the 90/10 rule (90% of people will pirate your book, 10% of them will pay for it - it's a finger and dyke thing). If it's that popular, count yourself lucky - you have an instant marketing audience for everything else you do.

D.G. Hudson said...

1st thing I'd do: appoint a committee of professionals to advise me and hire a bodyguard. 1st mandates: Resolve current disputes over e-rights, de-stigmatizing self-publishing and
establish an author's charter of rights. I'd also found a subsidized mentoring program to encourage new writers, funded by the industry.

(I'd probably ditch 50% of the celeb novels, too - the same stuff is already in fan mags anyway)

Michelle K. - you gave me a good laugh with your comment. Thanks.

Maryann Miller said...

I would attempt to take the business back to what it was 30 years ago when there was a healthy mid-list and a lot more writers were making a comfortable living. That was before advances and publicity packages got out of proportion for the writers on the veryn top of the pyramid.

Holly said...

Put Powerball and scratch tickets inside paperbacks.

Only so many books about serial killers per year.

A universal fee for each query to reduce the slush pile. The money would go into a grant fund for starving writers.

Kate said...

Wouldn't it be nice if all action were in the middle of the country - Omaha might be the next total hub of all things business!If I were the Big Whiz in publishing, I'd start a campaign for an imprint for new authors only. Is that wistful thinking or what?

Terry Stonecrop said...

How did you know about the billion dollar advance?

OK, accomplish first: Get rid of celebrity crapitty-crap. But then that may bust the industry.

I see the, "move out of Manhattan idea." Yes, practical. But so-o-o uncool. Uncool is bad.

Yosser said...

Appoint a panel (I know, I know) tasked with finding ways to get the writer back front and central in the industry. Writers who write, I mean, not writers who can also juggle six candelabra at a time and do somersaults on the head of a pin.

Agency Gatekeeper said...

I'm always in favor of moving to Brooklyn. Just keep us out of the scary bits: people in publishing tend to be pretty small.

I like that so many people are on the "ditch celebrity books" bandwagon. I concur.

A selection of canned responses for slush? Done and done. But how many would you require, and what would they be? There are so many situations, and on days when there are 300+ queries, one does need a good system. That said, my interns aren't allowed to touch the queries.

Interesting about the advance ceiling. I'm not sure it should be 50k, though I understand the goal of having more money available to take on more books. Keep in mind, too, that the advance is only a small part of how much a book costs. The publisher also has to have enough people onboard to take care of them.

And, Subtlegifts, I'm interested in hearing more about the YA variety you'd like.

Mira said...

Oh sorry. I meant "drop the advance" and set up a 30/30/30 split. Let authors share in the risk and the profit. Important detail.

Becca said...

I'd purge the world of sparkly vampire wannabees. (I'll allow the originals to stay, just because they were the originals.)

And I'd find a way to make digital readers more like books, with page turning and everything, because I'm a freak who prefers paper books, and has a kindle sitting under my tissue box because I can't be bothered to use it.

Alicia said...

"...and all shall be published throughout the land. No longer will there be rejections. No longer will the inexperienced be cast aside. And no longer will you cry over your never-to-be printed manuscript." *cheers and praises*

Did I mention I write fantasy?

Nathan Bransford said...

mira-

Lots to respond to, but just on the 30/30/30--bookstores are barely surviving and right now they get 50%. They'd all be gone with 30%.

Marti said...

Give Nathan a raise!

Jim said...

Instituting a business model that didn't allow for returns and an accounting practice that paid authors and illustrators in a fair amount of time. (Ummm... we do have barcodes folks, there is no reason for me to get my cut nine months after the sale)

Heidi said...

1. I'm not entirely sure how the book returns work, but as a merchandiser for a publishing distributor, I can tell you that there are some authors whose books get over- bought for distribution--I think just to impress the industry with the number printed--that DON'T sell, i.e. The last Dean Koontz, as well as the Oprah bio, and Janet Evanovich, I was inundated with the number of copies to put out on the shelves, sales were minimal, and I ended up sending most of them back.

2. Authors who put out a new book every month, like Nora Roberts, should give credit to the co-writers they must have, the way Patterson does.

3. Offer some type of apprenticeship to new authors, who may not necessarily be college students who can work (intern) for free.

4. Keep printing! I am not an e-book-er, and when I go into a book store, I like a selection.

Marilyn Peake said...

Oh my God, this is such an awesome question! I cannot believe the awesomeness of this question.

If I were Queen of the entire publishing industry, I would take a look at where the money goes: how much do the top owners of the five or six major publishing houses in the world make and how much does everyone else make, all the way down to the interns. I would make sure that salaries were reasonable and fair and took into account the high cost of living in places like New York City. Then I would take a look at how much money can be made from literary and experimental genres, and if there was enough money to be made there ... a reasonable amount of money, not necessarily billions of dollars ... I would ramp up the search for more books in those genres and publish them. My goal would be to raise the cultural and educational expectations of readers, and to make it lots of fun, in the same way that the movie INCEPTION was experimental, brilliantly cerebral and awesomely fun all at the same time.

Ted Cross said...

If I were really wealthy I would try to develop a means of mentoring new writers who show great promise. People improve much faster and go further when they are encouraged and challenged.

Katherine Hyde said...

I would have authors paid a living wage. Everyone else involved in publishing gets to make a living from it except the writers, without whom none of it would happen. Not fair.

Mira said...

Hi Nathan,

Okay, that's a good point. All right, I'd do a 50/25/25 split. That's just 5% less.

I don't want to go much lower for the authors, because I'm competing with an 80% e-book royalty rate and trying to build an extremely loyal author employee base.

Hopefully, my strategies of market research; focus testing; targeted advertising for books; building brand loyalty in consumers; as well as motivating and nurturing both writers and staff, would increase sales significantly. Which means more money for everyone.

At that point, I might want to meet with my fellow bookstore monarchs and re-negotiate terms.

Hope that works better. I need bookstores to sell my printed books, so I definitely don't want to bankrupt them.

Anonymous said...

Where to begin? For starters, let's bring back slush readers--those editors or interns at big publishing houses who read unsolicited mss. and pass them on to acquisitions editors. If we can't even get an agent to read our REQUESTED mss., then how will new writers ever break in?

Also let's give debut authors a DECENT advance, please, so they can afford to live and eat. Writing is not slave labor! 5K is a joke--that barely covers a month's rent in Manhattan. Magazines pay that for an article...Let's give new authors better advances, and cap the royalties and advances for celeb authors who don't need the money. It's like the free Hollywood goodie bags--why give them to rich celebs who can afford them anyway?

Also we need a rating system for editors and agents, so writers can weed out the good from the bad and avoid the rest. Writers could remain anonymous so they won't be afraid to name names (as in "agentfail"). Absolute Write is great but not enough. All agents should adhere to AAR guidelines before they hang out their shingles--or get banned from the business.

Anonymous said...

After reading Mira's comments, I'll amend my idea: Open submissions to unagented authors at the major pub houses and spread the slush to several top staff editors so they can be reviewed in a timely manner.
They say agents or editors only need to read a page or two to tell if a book interests them, so what's the delay? Let's speed up the process, people. Find and hire organized, efficient editors and let's get this show on the road. Despite what you think, writers have busy lives too!

Jen P said...

(re: bookseller returns - chewing gum also works on sale or return.)

If I were Queen...

2. I would globally ensure funding for literacy campaigns, school libraries and librarians - we need to ensure future readers CAN and want to read, no matter what format.

-

So many of our suggestions seem to be about working better together - but how to do it? Identify and agree what doesn't work and look at where we can work better. Potentially annual event at an existing and renowned global Book Fair, plus an ongoing industry guru panel.

1. Set up an elected (within an invited selected group) ongoing cross-industry wide guru panel, a single top tier of decision makers - something like the UN of the book world - to work as one book-to-market industry - examining the whole process and gather best practices, iron out inefficiencies, agree standards and embrace the digital age. (yes, it would require buy-in from selected cross-section of agents, publishers, printers, booksellers in all formats, academics, librarians, e-format providers, and e-distributors as well as authors' and readers' organisations, others I have forgotten no doubt.)

Tackle simple ideas such as:
a. Review need for variance in fiction formats: Hardback format outdated, overpriced. More book club genre fiction would be published straight to standard size (not Trade, not oversized, just 5" by 8") paperback. And agree with Dara - one standard for e-books while we're at it.

b. Review Rights Ownership: IMO physically geographical boundaries are outdated for a digital age.

3. Set up the televised Global "Oscars" equivalent for books. Films are hugely diverse and subjective, why couldn't we make it work for books too? Get out the red carpet and blow our own trumpet a little. Recognise, reward and get some global marketing to make books more dare I say, sexy?

Kait Nolan said...

Hands down, I would recognize that ebooks are the wave of the future and that readers expect a cheaper product (none of this $9.99+ crap) and start redesigning business structures to accommodate higher author royalties on ebooks that are competitive with the self publishing options and come up with reasons for authors to actually stick with big house publishers rather than going it on their own (because right now, really, there are none). I'd stop living in the past and trying to stunt ebook growth or use it to prop up failing paper sales. It's a new world order, dude, catch up!

April Brown said...

Actually, I'd attempt to survey readers, and non-readers, to determine what they really want in a story. What their favorite genres are (with some kind of definition people could recognize).

There are reasons non-readers don't read. Publishers need to know these reasons so they can reach them as well.

Find out what their true preferred book lengths are. How many long books are bought, partially read, then the person becomes to busy to pick back up, so doesn't bother to start over again.

Find out general age ranges that actually read which genres.

Publish enjoyable adult reading level books for people with memory loss.

Claire Dawn said...

This is a lesson in how you can't please all the people all the time...

Hart Johnson said...

Work PoD in as a back-up system so that huge runs would not have to be printed, shipped, stored, then destroyed (lose 6 digit advances too, except with a long, proven track record). Eliminating the giant waste bubble frees a lot of capital for what the publishing industry SHOULD be spending their money on. Quality books that are varied, instead of only 'sure things' that aren't actually sure.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Hire someone smarter and wiser and savvier than I am whilst I sit back with my million dollars and marketing whoop dee do!

Em-Musing said...

Hmm? I would find enough qualified staff to go into every office, help with whatever needed to get do so the whole process would move faster.

Anonymous said...

So much delusion, so little time. Gad.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm too old but I believe that published books should have very few errors in grammar and spelling unless put there by the author for artistic purposes.

I believe that many publishers no longer have line editors to edit and markup manuscripts to prevent errors.

How many of you that read this actually know that "lose" and "loose" are two different words. We are 'loosing' our language skills. I've noted this mistake in a Houston Chonicle editorial. But that's not book publishing and I digess.

If I had the power I would re-hire or find new line editors for publishing companies so these glaring errors wouldn't occur.

Kate said...

I would focus on the titling and cover design of books. I'm more conscious of how this affects my reading. So many titles sound the same and they have no meaning. Janet Reid says things like this a lot on her blog and it cracks me up "This is hyperbolic and meaningless at the same time." That's how I feel about some book titles. And, I understand that teams of highly creative people put tons of man hours into the title and design of each book. So, yanno, not really sure how I'd go about fixing this one.

I know they say not to judge a book by its cover. But I think it's human nature.

Steppe said...

I would go to my high window and say: "Loyal minions, fellow elite, let us celebrate our own magnificence." Then I would ply my boot licking servants with caviar, champagnes and exotic foods from around the world. I would close the gates, clear the tables, produce three thousand typewriters and color matched sets of leg irons followed by three truckloads of paper. Then I would look at the manacled throng of posers I had gathered and pronounce my final edict; "Produce or die."
I would hunt down every writer minion in the kingdom and assemble them in the same manner as I had assembled my publishing minions, I would form them into a star chamber to read the works of their counterparts in the courtyard on the other side of the castle.. When each publishing minion finished their book it would be read by the star chamber of writers and majority rule would decide the issue of life or death based on the work produced. When I was done judging my publishing minions I would have each writer select a book to defend. If the work defended was composed of blank pages or a beautifully executed story would not be considered, only the passion of the defense. I would place an equal number of red and green marbles in my royal chamber pot. At the end of each defense of a tome i would arbitrarily select a marble; red for death and green for life and execute the writer on the spot or grant them a small duchy in the country. The writing and publishing minions who survived my reign of terror, henceforth declared unto the reader minions as "The fools purge of fools." would have to team up and produce one worthy piece of work every two years or lose their duchy and their lifes. I would go forth through the countryside as a great clarion on parade screaming like a madman; "Rejoice Rejoice the kingdom is free of schlockish prattlers I your King have done this."
After the great purge I would retire to my library and begin reading the books produced by my amazing handiwork while exercising absolute rule inscribing on the last page my royal imprimatur.
KING AUTHOR
I hath undertaken the breaking of the spell on the land and the people.
May God have mercy on my soul.

Steppe said...

Regal Addendum to: The Purge of Fools.

My Court Jester position would be abolished and I would search kingdom wide for a worthy lad to take upon his shoulders the new title: Royal Rabble Rouser to King Author The First.
I would know this lad when I found him in the forest using bow and arrow to slay dirt clumps, displaying the wisdom of advanced political correctness even while believing he is alone and unobserved.

A Rose by any other name... said...

I would be a long-view manager, concerned about expanding the customer base. The first thing I would do is issue an edict that every company must support literacy programs for all ages.

rose

reader said...

Publish less books so that the books that are published have a fighting chance to get on bookshelves of bookstores.

Nothing is worse than doing all that hard work of gaining a publishing contract from a large house, being published in hardback, and then having the big chain stores NOT carry your book because the pub didn't hype it enough.

There are so many people out there being published, but not published WELL, that it's staggering. If a house doesn't believe in your book enough to bring along your ARCs to hand out at ALA or the Book Expo, why the heck do they bother publishing it?

J. T. Shea said...

Nora Roberts has co-writers!? She doesn't write hundreds of books all by herself!? I'm shocked!

And, yes, move publishing out of Manhattan. To Cork, in Ireland. Just south of the city, to be exact, on a nice site with north views. Not that I'm biased or anything. Do you think the Big Six will all fit on 2/5ths of an acre? We could dismantle and re-erect the Flatiron Building.

Steppe, many other commenters seem to think publishing is already much as you describe!

Mira, Nathan, I'd introduce a 40/40/40 split. Oh, wait...

iamfrightenedtoo said...

well for starters Agents and Pub houses would make less. lets face it, Agents, and Pubs do not do anything. the writer and editor do all the work.
without the author... the system has nothing.

it is cheap to print books. just because the publishers feel they deserve something more than the table scraps from the author does not mean they should get it.

actually i bet the industry as a whole could make more money if all agents were just absolved from the process... call them screeners, they would work for the pub houses and read the slush piles, then pass it off to the editors. no more middlemen, every other industry in the world is trying to get rid of middlemen, why is the pub industry holding onto them for no reason.

nostalgia.

nostalgia only creates clutter.

if i were the king, i would just slim it all down, and simplify it. no more egos, no more writers thinking about suicide because every agent wants the query to be different.

it would all be simpler.

Anonymous said...

Nora Roberts does not have co-writers. She does, in fact, write every one of those books herself.

reader said...

I disagree with the post at 11:34 -- agents can do a lot for you. Tons. A bad agent can do lots of damage too, but a good agent protects you and your interests in a way the average writer just isn't equipt to.

Mira said...

iamfrightenedtoo - that's a risky thing to post on an agent's blog. :)

I have wondered if there is a better way to locate debut authors than having agents spend hours and hours going through queries.

But overall, I would strengthen the agent's role as advocate and career maker for the writer. I think that's an absolutely necessary function.

J.T. - I'm ignoring you. I don't do math.

Carolyn said...

1. Everyone gets a tiara or sparkly hat.

2. Get rid of DRM until such time as there is clear and convincing evidence that piracy actually erodes sales (see also #3)

3. Do meaningful market research and focus studies on readers.

4. Revamp publisher websites so that they attract readers and provide a usable point of sale. Put content there that purchasers care about.

5. Talk with best and brightest from all levels, including booksellers, about how to revamp the returns system. Until books can be printed at the point of sale, I don't see how, other than offering discounts for books sold on a non-returnable basis, the returns system can be eliminated. More regional printers/warehouses?

Anonymous said...

I would work out a deal with all of the cell phone companies to put poetry on every cell phone

Anonymous said...

Ditto MIRA, but add give authors the right to veto any aritstic measure taken on their book. Whatever has your name printed on it should truly represent you. LIKE THE COVER!!! You may sell it to a publisher, but your name is still on it!!

Anonymous said...

It would be to get rid of the the literary agents.

Too much power has been placed in the hands of too few people.

Here in Canada, a well known literary agent recently berated a person via her Twitter feed for having been critical of a book written by one of her clients.

The agent wrote: "At least my client is published... what have you ever done?"

This agent has so much power that she could probably take ten books that were publishable, and, on a whim, simply choose whichever ones SHE wanted to get published - and what would happen to the other writers, equally as talented? They wouldn't get published, of course.

The agent Ed Victor once gave a speech at a writers' conference in London, and explained that he would build his client list by meeting famous people, or from being introduced to new people through friends. A young writer, who had been struggling for years as an unpublished novelist, stood up and said to Mr. Victor, so what happens then if I don't know you?

And Mr. Victor smiled and responded: then you don't get published.

Big problem right there.

The literary agents absolutely do not respect the apprenticeship that novelists must go through in order to learn how to write fiction. Sorry, but they don't. If you've spent twenty years of your life working ten, eleven, twelve hours a day either writing, reading, or thinking about fiction, then that means nothing to them.

In no other profession would that pass.

If you were a doctor, or a lawyer, or a banker, and you spent ten years in school, then upon graduation you would be granted an immediate interview and shown the proper respect, and likely offered a job.

If you're a novelist, forget about it. The agents just don't care about that.

Just look at this website. The agent's advice is this: Don't quit your day job.

Really,

Don't quit your day job? So a person who has decided to live in abject poverty in order to write, and learn how to write, full time, is what... an idiot... a fool?

Actually, I would argue that quitting your job is almost essential to becoming a skilled novelist - nothing that's worth anything has ever come without a price; you have to work for it, and earn it.

I would say that a person who has quit their job to write full time is a person with a purpose in life, and is clearly someone willing to do whatever it takes to become a novelist (sacrificing a home, a family, food, transportation... everything). I would say that that's a person who should be treated with respect, rather than ridiculed at a site such as this.

Get rid of the literary agents. The sooner the better.

Nathan Bransford said...

Wow, anon. I doubt I'm going to change your mind, but in case anyone else is curious...

1. Agents aren't a monolith. One person does not speak for the entire industry. There are plenty of good apples in the bunch.

2. I'm a writer in addition to being an agent, so how could I fail to appreciate what writers go through?

3. Advising people against quitting their job unless they can afford it is prudent financial advice. You don't have to quit your job to write a novel. I didn't quit mine. If someone does: great! That's their choice. I'm not ridiculing people who do, far from it.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but the cover is not an "artistic measure" -- it is a selling tool, one of the most important in the publisher's arsenal. It does not have to fit whatever you think "truly represents you." It has to make the customer want to pick it up.

Anonymous said...

And, Nathan, your response about the agents is exactly. That screed is jaw-droppingly wrong in every way.

Jeff said...

Yosser, sounds like your mule is kicking. You might need some R&R. I can't put it better than this website has, but writing isn't everything. In fact, why do we write? I write letters to my mother, and my sister, and sometimes my dead grandfather, and sometimes fleeting love that left a particle of the good stuff, but man oh man life itself is far more important. "Those who write" sounds like an identity crisis. Or, more simply, an attempt at an identity. Deep breaths, deep breaths.

J. T. Shea said...

Anonymous 1.52 pm, your arguments are identical to those put to Nathan by a certain person in February in the 'Ask Nathan' part of the forums, and ably answered by Nathan then. Pure coincidence, I'm sure...

Is Ed Victor the only literary agent in the world? And when were you ridiculed on this site?

Spending 'twenty years of your life working ten, eleven, twelve hours a day either writing, reading, or thinking about fiction,' was your own choice and a privilege not afforded to many.

If you spent ten years in school to be a doctor, lawyer or banker, you would learn the peculiarities and limits of the human body or law or finance, and not sulk when they are not changed to accommodate your whims. You would jump through innumerable hoops, fiery or otherwise, and learn to work with other people.

You CAN write well and tell a story, but you're your own worst enemy at the moment.

Jeff said...

This has become interesting. Do people think that a bunch of words on paper, marks in ink, and soon just electricity generated holographic symbols, that apparently tell a story, will somehow change the world for the better, as if it is a heroic quest of some sort, as if we will stand upon the throne of truth at some point and the world will finally get it and live in immaculate peace? Man, writing is pure luxury. Pure, adulterated, luxury. I love it, but I know what it is. I know what it has given me, but I still drive a trash truck on the weekends. Go figure. And no offense intended to those who try so hard, but chill people, chill.

Steppe said...

I'm with you Jeff. It is about the joy of writing as an art form. Seeking publication is a whole different subject.
Writing a story to the point where only one ending can possibly close the story and finally figuring out what that ending is and feeling like you hit some cosmic lottery and tapped into something mysterious, just enjoying the whole process, and when its truly done and it is the best you can make it, giving it the final touches and putting it away until the detachment required to succeed at the process of seeking publication arrives. For ages people have written to express themselves or sold stories only to the locals in their area, even performing them as dramas or simple dramatic readings to a audience hungry for a well built story. A well written story with heart and soul won't whither on the vine it will get published sooner or later. Some agents are surely blowhards and some agents surely forward the cause of writers more than others whether through bluster or humility or like N. through sheer persistence and good humored common sense.

ZetMec said...

If I were the Big Publishing Poobah, I would champion an unknown-yet-deserving author. In fact, each publishing house, in addition to their bottom-line projects, should champion and pay $$ to 1-2 authors a year just because they believe in their work.

Have you seen the movie MISS POTTER? Everyone in her life and in publishing told her her "bunny books" would never make a dime, but because one man in publishing believed in her, she's now the best-selling children's author of all time.

Poem In October said...

It's been said already, but I would definitely start by banning returns, or at least banning pulping.

I had no problem with returns in concept until I found out how they work: fully HALF of the inventory at EVERY book store gets its cover ripped off and the book is mashed to a pulp. Did all you commenters know this all along, or am I the only one who had noooo idea until a few months ago?

I am amazed that this happens in an age where (a) so many people are buying hybrids trying to be somewhat better to the environment and (b) there are schools and libraries all over the country/world without enough books to go around. Geez, what a waste. Changing that system would definitely be my first order of business if I were the Reigning Publishing Monarch.

Anonymous said...

I'd be spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to compete with Amazon, which is quickly becoming the publisher of choice for many bright and talented authors. I'd offer more publishing options for nascent talent -- ebooks with a compelling royallty rate (digital first, as Carina press is offering), network marketing, speedier publishing (don't make an author wait 18 months to see their book in print). Lower advances but higher compensation on the back end for authors, and the promise to keep their book in print in digital format forever.

The writing is on the wall: Most publishers are heading toward bankruptcy or mergers to survive. Aggressive cost cutting will be the order of the day -- POD at point-of-sale is one option, ebooks is another.

Build brand recognition for the publishing house. If you truly believe readers value quality or a particular editorial voice, then market that quality.

Revive backlisted books, especially in digital format. This is money being left on the table.

NG James said...

Publish all books in trade paperback and eboook formats first, then paperback if sales are good, then hardback as a special edition.

New readers can pick up the best new releases for cheap, bookstores can start buying their stock--instead of the current returns system--because the format is less risky or they could keep a wider inventory for longer, and authors could make more money per book sold because the up front cost of publishing is lower.

Anonymous said...

Re: DeNile.com. There is one. http://www.thenile.com.au/

Anonymous said...

J.T. I find it to be somewhat disconcerting... actually, I find it to be highly disconcerting... that you were able to identify me, even though my comment was posted as Anonymous - I don't get that?

You must be psychic or something?

Is my IP address available for The Great Unwashed to look at? What's the point in posting as Anonymous if you're not?

J. T. Shea said...

Anonymous 1:52pm/7:21pm, don't be disconcerted. We only know what you chose to reveal about yourself. Even those of us who wash do not know, or care about, your IP address.

Neither am I psychic, as far as I know. As I explained in my comment, your arguments against literary agents are the same as were put to Nathan in February, word-for-word at times. No great powers of deduction needed.

BTW, do I deduce correctly you were also Anonymous 8:30 pm in the HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL comments on August 18th?

Amy Collins MacGregor and Bethany Brown said...

I'd create a series of tests, rules and licenses manditory before one could buy a publishing house. The purpose of which would be to keep banks, fund groups, venture capitalists and other non-book people out of decision-making positions. If you are not a book person, you can invest and share in the rewards, but you cannot make publishing decisions.

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