And what of Publishers…

The past couple of weeks has seen a few high-profile authors abandon their publishers and head off into the self-published e-book direction. Seth Godin for example:

Traditional book publishers use techniques perfected a hundred years ago to help authors reach unknown readers, using a stable technology (books) and an antique and expensive distribution system.

The thing is–now I know who my readers are. Adding layers or faux scarcity doesn’t help me or you. As the medium changes, publishers are on the defensive…. I honestly can’t think of a single traditional book publisher who has led the development of a successful marketplace/marketing innovation in the last decade.

In response, Paul Carr on TechCrunch suggests that there are still  very good reasons for publishers to exist. I like this one:

How about the timing thing? Says Godin: “The timeframe for the launch of books has gone from silly to unrealistic. Today, even though all other media has accelerated rapidly, books still take a year or more [to be published]. You need to consider what the shelf life of your idea is.” …

And so yes, Seth, you’re right: you definitely should consider what the shelf-life of your idea is. And if you find it’s so short that it’ll be redundant in a few weeks, let alone a few months, then you shouldn’t – mustn’t – wait!  You should Tweet it immediately. If, on the other hand, your idea is likely to stick around for a while – like the ideas of, I dunno, Orwell or Postman or Keynes or, well, any of a hundred thousand other authors whose ideas are still relevant today, then maybe it’s worth taking the time – and the multiple rounds of copy-editing and revising and proof-reading and checking and double checking that causes publishing to the so slow – just to make sure you get it right before you publish. 1984 was an instant classic; 1983.5 sucked balls.

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