What Godin gets wrong

Seth Godin’s announcement about abandoning traditional publishing ruffled a lot of plumage this week, for good reason. Publishing is navigating through disruptions and difficulties that make industry players fearful about the future. Amid all the news about layoffs and reorganizations, stores up for sale, declining sales, etc., Godin’s savvy and insightful business advice has pointed the way to safety and success for many. Now this. … [Read more...]

Sanity check for publishers

In all the discussions about digital publishing, enhanced ebooks, and the future of publishing, let’s not forget that we publish books. We don’t design games, produce movies, or animate features. We publish books.By “books” I do not mean a bunch of printed pages between covers, what is technically known as a codex. That format has been in wide use for the last nineteen hundred years or so. Before that the format of choice was the scroll. Today we have more format options—primarily audio and ebo … [Read more...]

Book-banning in a digital age

Last week Amazon deleted copies of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm from some of their customers' Kindles.This has happened before. In June, Amazon deleted some Ayn Rand titles. And it's happened with Harry Potter titles as well. Amazon's defense is pretty believable; they said the copies were pirated and that they were only acting to protect intellectual property. But as Farhad Manjoo at Slate says, "The Orwell incident was too rich with irony to escape … [Read more...]

Don’t just blame the marketing

Mike Hyatt is fond of saying that good marketing makes bad books fail fast. The logic is pretty straightforward: If the marketing works and people swarm to a book only to discover it's lousy, what happens? Blog posts, email chatter, coffee-shop eyerolls -- scads of people saying that the book stinks. The better the marketing, the faster they find out, and the quicker the book goes down like the Hindenburg.But most authors whose books bomb don't see it that way. If a book bombs, a common author … [Read more...]

Working in uncertainty

The book business isn’t doing too well in America right now. Sales are down. Returns are up. And foot traffic in bookstores is in double-digit decline compared to a year ago.But that's not the case everywhere. From its lofty seat in the lap of America’s publishing culture, the New York Times recently reported that things are different in Europe, where book sales are actually up. … [Read more...]

A source of innovation for publishers

The division of labor allows specialists to focus on their strengths in the marketplace. The idea is as good and useful today as it was when Adam Smith first talked about it in The Wealth of Nations. But the division of labor can also create other divisions -- divisions of assumptions, incentives, communication, and creativity. Sometimes I think that these divisions can do as much damage to a business as the division of labor does it good.Wise minds in the industry have addressed this problem … [Read more...]

Authors as entrepreneurs

Everyone wants to get published. It's universal. Read this from Justin Martyr’s Second Apology:And we therefore pray you to publish this little book … [Read more...]