Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Media Megas Are Paying Attention

Bottom Line It For Me, Baby Version (200 Words Or Less):

Media megaconglomerate publishers are starting to get wise to the new opportunities brought about by POD, ebook and Web 2.0 technologies. Now that it's becoming increasingly clear that these tools can allow authors to dispense with mainstream publishers entirely, those publishers are asking how they can use their ever-weakening chokehold on, and status in, the publishing industry to cash in on these new trends.

Hyperion founder Bob Miller is starting up a new venture that is being presented as a sort of forward-thinking, egalitarian response to changes in the publishing world, but the fact that the venture will be bankrolled by Harper is proof enough for me that it's just one more in a long line of efforts by the media megas to squeeze more blood from bone-dry stones.

P.S. My IndieAuthor Guide to Creating Your Brand is almost done, and next up after that will be The IndieAuthor Guide to Promotion. Watch for them at my website.

Go On An' Run Yo Mouth, I Got Nuthin' But Time Version (Can't Promise It Won't Go On Forever):

Mary W. Walters writes on the ABNA discussion board at Amazon:

From Publisher's Marketplace "Publisher's Lunch"
Hyperion's Bob Miller in Harper Start-Up

Founding publisher at Hyperion Bob Miller is leaving the company after 17 years to "launch a new global publishing program based on a non-traditional business model" starting on April 14 described as a "creative publishing 'studio' that challenges conventional trade publishing standards." They add: "Miller will publish approximately 25 popular-priced books per year in multiple physical and digital formats including those as yet unspecified, with the aim to combine the best practices of trade publishing while taking full advantage of the internet for sales, marketing and distribution. Authors will be compensated through a profit sharing model as opposed to a traditional royalty, and books will be promoted utilizing on-line publicity, advertising and marketing."
Continued on "Publishers Lunch", which is a free newsletter from

An author can accomplish all the same things Miller intends to do him- or herself and keep all the profit, and all the rights to his or her work, so where's the incentive to give up both rights and earnings in favor of a 'profit sharing plan'? Moreover, since Miller's venture is being bankrolled by Harper, however much it may quack like a duck and swim like a duck, his company won't be a duck: it'll be just one more branch of the existing media megaconglomerates. The more I think about it, the more this strikes me as typical, bottom-line focused media mega thinking. I can picture the meeting now:

MM Exec 1: It's the advances and promo budgets that are killing us out there.

MM Exec 2: Let's reduce 'em.

MM Exec 3: Nah, we've slashed as low as we can go. The last contract I signed off on included a clause for 'lifetime supply of ramen noodles' in exchange for electronic rights.

MM Exec 1: (snaps fingers) What if we do away with advances altogether? What if we sell authors on the idea of some kind of touchy-feely author co-op, where we invest virtually nil in them up front and promise them a piece of the back-end?

MM Exec 2: But back-end calculations are so slippery, no one would ever fall for-

MM Exec 1: Shhh!

MM Exec 3: What about start-up costs? We still have to publish and distribute the books, and you know Borders and B&N take a huge bite.

MM Exec 1: POD, and online sales only, my man!

MM Exec 2: Can't authors use POD and online sales by themselves already?

MM Exec 1: Shhh!!!

MM Exec 3: Okay, I like where you're going with this, but won't we have to spend a few bucks on PR and marketing?

MM Exec 1: Why should we, when PRLog, OpenPR, YouTube, Blogger, Amazon reviews, LibraryThing and the whole effing internet is free?

MM Exec 2: If that's true, why would authors sign with us instead of using those outlets themselves? If we're not offering advances, brick-and-mortar store presence, real world promotion on TV, radio and in magazines, but we're still asking authors to sign over all their rights up front on the promise of possible sales in the future, why on Earth would any writer in his right mind---

MM Exec 1 & MM Exec 3: SHHHH!!!!!

P.S. My IndieAuthor Guide to Creating Your Brand is almost done, and next up after that will be The IndieAuthor Guide to Promotion. Watch for them at my website.

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