Digital Marketing Manager at Kaplan, Brett Sandusky is also a co-founder of QBAH2 . His love for books is rivaled only by his love for France.
Let’s be honest here: the publishing industry is tanking. Everyone knows it; we just won’t admit it. Houses are merging, imprints are quietly dying, talented people are being laid off. All the while, we keep trying to find some shred of a thought of a possibility of reinvention so we can stay afloat for another quarter or two. Print books are starting to go the way of vinyl and CD, and all we can do is look around and pretend that our former glory perfumes the air through which we walk.
We are in the midst of an identity crisis. There, I said it.
We want to be print, we want to be digital, we want to be prigital , we want to be traditional, we want to be POD, we want to be ePress, we want to be social media, we want to be a New York Times bestseller, we want to rank on Amazon, and we want to sell at your local indie bookstore. We want to sell books like other consumer products and yet we still hold onto the notion that we are the filterers of content for the masses. All in all, we’re doing it wrong!
One of the biggest arguments against POD and self-publishing is that no one is there (read: we are not there) to determine if the content is worthy of publication or not. Well, look around - what exactly are we determining is suitable for publication?
Celebrities who don’t actually read or write, with seven figure advances and ghostwriters and media circuses?
There are zombies, vampires, and sea monsters (oh, my!). There is shlock lit, autobiographies of failed politicians and former meth addicts-cum-tennis-players. And reality show personalities - Lauren Conrad, Heidi Montag, Spencer Pratt and Bam Margera all have their own books. It’s the truth! And gimmicky blogs with two-month track records.
This is what we’re selling. No joke. Nice version: We’ve diluted the waters of quality content and now we’re paying the price. Not so nice version: We’re addicted to the crack of the home-run bestseller and we’re stealing from whomever we can just to buy our next bump.
It’s time to take a look at ourselves and decide what we are going to pursue. Are we filterers of content or are we distributors of content? Are we book printers, eBook suppliers, movie makers, game designers, app developers?
It’s time for a new model. A truly new model. A model that does not include the returns of those home-run "bestsellers". A model that does not include the same advance and royalty structures that have been on life support. Content has changed, ergo pay structures for providers of content should change. PULL THE PLUG! A model that supports readers’ device preferences (printed books are devices, too). A model that is adaptable for the future. A model that …
We need an XML business model. Time to retool.
What do I mean by XML business model, you ask? I am talking about a business model that is adaptable. A model that is made up of components which not only work in tandem with each other but can be applied or omitted based on specific needs. A model that would, in the end, be lean and yet address every scenario we could encounter. I am talking about a customizable, modular business plan that would allow us to have just the right equation for each type of content combination were it print, digital, or a combination thereof. Is it so crazy to ask that the business model mirror the business?