Thoughts on Publishing: Where We Stand

Right now the publishing industry is in flux. Ebooks are a growing share of the book market. Writers like J. A. Konrath are working to make self-publishing respectable. Some publishers are cutting paperbacks, some are dropping authors, yet the money is still rolling in. Here’s what I think the situation is right now.

Ebooks: the ebook is gaining momentum thanks to the Kindle. Ebooks are already over 5% of the market share; they could reach 10% in six months to a year. On the other hand, there’s still resistance to the concept, especially from older readers. Then there’s the iPad, an e-reader that actually lets you do more than read. Will the e-reader of the future be more like the Kindle or the iPad? The answer will have some bearing on the future of the ebook.

Self-publishing: Print-on-Demand (POD) and the ebook now make it possible for everyone to be a published author. Even better, they allow the author access to national and international markets thanks to Amazon and Lulu.com. But in spite of the best efforts of writers like Konrath, self-publishing still has a huge stigma attached to it. Unless you’re a known author, it’s still difficult to persuade readers you don’t know to buy your self-published novel.

The Major Publishers: you still have to go to them if you want to be a best-selling author. They have the money to dominate store shelves, and their authors have an advantage in obtaining reviews. However, the majors aren’t exactly racing to put out as many books as they used to. They aren’t pricing ebooks competitively. Will they continue to dominate the publishing industry? Everyone has an answer to that, and no one seems to agree.

The Small Press: they often get left out of these discussions on the future of publishing. POD and the ebook make their task of putting out product much cheaper and easier than it used to be. There are many niches that small presses can fill, especially with the majors giving up on marginal genres and sub-genres. But small presses also have the problem of getting their names out and, in the case of fiction, getting their authors reviewed.

Over the next several weeks I'm going to voice more detailed opinions about the publishing business.  I hope you'll leave some comments so we can pursue a dialog about this subject.  As a writer it's obviously very important; I hope it's the same for you.


  1. I am not a writer by any stretch of the imagination as is obvious from this post. Since you asked, here are my thoughts on eReading. I do not have a Kindle or iPad because I like books. I like the feel of them, the smell and to just have the book.

    The way I decide on getting a book comes about in one of two ways.

    One: my friends. The Belgariad is one of the best series ever. Beth introduced me to it and over the past 25 years I have bought six or eight sets of the series and given them as gifts. I would never have done that if she had not turned me on to it.

    Two: NPR. The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos are amazing. I heard an interview with Brian Greene on NPR and had to get them.

    I do not buy James Patterson books even though he is heavily advertised on the radio. I’m sure he is great, but I still haven’t read any of his books.

    That being said. If it were possible to get an eTeaser (not one or two lines because you have to draw me in) on a book and it was interesting, I would go buy the book. Not get it on the Kindle or iPad – at least until I become converted.

  2. Shawn, something I've just found out, since I posted my first ebooks the past week or so, is that both Smashwords and Amazon allow for a percentage of an ebook to be available as a preview. You'd still need a reader, but some are now free software downloads.

    Keep checking in; I'll have more to say about the ebook later.