Comment on the intelligence of publishers

First, this is a comment to this post on the self-pub review. Go read it first.

Generally, it’s about how contracts with publishers are now written to last as long as an author is selling, a version of indentured servitude locking an author into a contract that won’t be as beneficial as contracts of the past that didn’t recognize digital rights. Imagine that a book sells only 20 copies in a quarter. A traditional, hardcover only publisher would consider that a failure and probably let the author take their rights if that happened. However, what about $100 worth of sales of an ebook which has no production cost? That’s pure profit, and worth continuing since there is zero production cost. Simple as that.

The argument is correct. Most companies are very smart at “getting money now.” Whether that benefits them in the long run is another story. And it may even benefit them indefinitely, but be against the customer’s wishes. As an example, think of AT&T’s iPhone lock-in. It’s terrible, and even dumb, to limit customers to AT&T. But it’s incredibly good at making money, which in the business world equals smart.

I actually think a lot of business decisions made against public opinion are smart from a business standpoint, the publishers included. But only in the aspect that it will benefit them, not us. If I were running a company, I’d do it differently since my view is different, I want the customer to benefit while keeping me in business. I only need enough money to stay in business and expand enough to meet the needs of a growing customer base. Business doesn’t exist to make straight profit. It’s an economic cycle that keeps the world moving. Yes, some people make 30k per year, others make 2 million per year, but in reality they are both the same since they are both consumers. They both spend. There is no reason to keep tons of money, since money’s best use is to be spent. Debt is an entirely different, and possibly abominable matter, that isn’t suited for this comment.

It’s true that publishers are smart. To fight against e-books is actually a good idea when it comes to profit margins, if it could succeed. However, it won’t succeed, and that’s why it isn’t.

It’s fortunate they have been taken so long to realize this. If they had realized it earlier, the self-publishing movement might not have the same backing that it does now. A lot of authors are seeing the ability to set their own profit margins, to interact with customers on a new level, and to reap individual rewards that are unfiltered. %70 royalty doesn’t exist in traditional publishing. If I submitted my book to a publisher, they picked it up, and made zero changes to it before distributing it, I’d be astounded at why I would go through them in the first place. Distribution is the key. Publishers still control that, and they are smart enough to lock authors into their own distribution models. The freedom of the business doesn’t seem to be in line with the freedom of the artist. Maybe, business will figure it out and change. Or die, which seems to be happening now.

542 words I could have used in a novel.

About James Ashman

I write books of the fantasy, heroic, and adventure types. So far. I'm an author who loves fantastic stories.
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