31 December 2009

What the New World of Publishing Still Needs

From Locus in March, author Cory Doctorow considers the one part of publishing that is hardest for big firms to outsource, and hardest for authors to replicate for themselves through digital services: the sales force.

There are plenty of “little” publishers out there, dotted around the country, figuring out how to fill in the gaps that the big guys won’t stoop to conquer: short story collections, quirky titles, books of essays, art books, experimental titles, and anthologies. These are often fabulous books with somewhat respectable numbers, but they lag the majors in one key area: physical distribution.

For though it’s easy to find an outsource firm that’ll get your books from Warehouse (A) to Store (B), it’s a lot harder to find the cost-effective firm that will convince Store (B) to order the book from You (C).

That’s shoe-leather business, the slow, messy human-factor business of getting to know thousands of key people around the country, people who will introduce your book to readers who haven’t heard of you and don’t know why they should be reading you (good bookselling is fractal: the sales rep knows what the clerk will like, and the clerk knows what the reader will like).
Because the whole point of publishing is selling books to the public—i.e., people who don’t already know you. While, of course, keeping some time to write.

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