Are Publishers Lazy?

Thomas Nelson chairman and CEO, Michael Hyatt, has a post today that struck at the heart of one of pet questions.

The post is Three Reason Why Authors Must Develop Their Own Platform and his arguments all boil down to this: The market is different and publishers are behind.

In fact, he goes as far to point out that certain kinds of non-platform thinking is about two decades old (or two centuries in internet years).

Maybe you guys can help me: What, exactly, is a publisher suppose to do for me?

I understand that certain old-school authors need to be told to get a Facebook, but for those of us who have been blogging and facebooking/tweeting for a while now, the argument, “You need to get out and promote yourself before we’ll consider promoting you” sounds a bit, well, lazy.

I’ll admit I’m not in publishing circles nor am I trying to get a book published, but I do have friends who are and they’re all saying the same thing: You have to do your own marketing.

So, my question is, what on earth is the point of having a publisher?

That being said, as a teacher, I completely understand the desire to have somebody demonstrate their total commitment before you invest a lot of time and money into them.

But what this says to me is that publishers aren’t looking for a book, they’re looking for an author. Which is to bad, because readers are looking for a book.

All that being said, I think this all points to a niche market that may be ripe for harvest: pre-agents. That is, somebody who will help good authors develop their platform so that a “real” agent will give them the time of day and do, you know, agenty sorts of things.

What do you think? Is the publishing industry lazy?

13 thoughts on “Are Publishers Lazy?

  • March 14, 2011 at 7:05 pm
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    Interesting question. This is what I’ve been hearing at writer’s conferences on the subject:

    The publishing industry is broke.

    Most books never break even. You’re right… they ARE looking for an author… someone who can consistently sell what they write. They need someone who’s well known enough that they already have a following, so that the publishers have to use less of their tight resources to promote a book. And, that when they do promote a book, they can be reasonably certain that it isn’t a book that no one will buy. Publishers are looking for assurance, and gambling on a new author isn’t as popular as it used to be.

    I agree… it does sound lazy. And maybe it is. But that’s the reasoning behind it, I think.

  • March 14, 2011 at 8:05 pm
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    Yeah, I get that. Publishing houses, in a sense, are pushing a product few people want (namely, books) –which was essentially Mr. Hyatt’s second point.

    Aside from the obvious economic lesson (supply exceeds demand; prices go down), it’s the cycle: We can’t do anything so we don’t make money so we can’t do anything.

    Maybe the publishing industry is dying because it no longer provides a worthwhile service?

    Personally, I think the problem is in the expectations. Authors expect a publisher to, you know, publish them. But actually what a publisher does is mass-production.

    You go to a publishing house when you want to reach the whole world. An author has to reach his/her own world as the price of admission.

    I’m all good with that.

    But when Seth Godin tells me that I need to be the best in the world and the publishers jump on board that bandwagon saying I have to prove myself to be the best in the world before I receive their blessing, isn’t that hypocritical coming from an industry that can barely keep itself afloat?

    The economics don’t both me, the irony does.

  • March 14, 2011 at 9:13 pm
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    Mhm. Yeah, I know. Sit in a couple of writer’s conferences and it’ll drive you crazy. :)

    The industry is in transition, I think, and hopefully when it comes out, it will have taken care of that irritating irony.

  • March 15, 2011 at 2:03 am
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    As an invisible watcher, this was a fascinating post, and comment series.

  • March 15, 2011 at 4:01 am
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    @Jon Ha ha! Stalker!

    Seriously though, you’re in the book retail industry, what’s your take?

  • March 15, 2011 at 4:17 am
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    Hmm… just went and read said post. She makes a good point about the “myths”. If you’re willing to do the grunt work beforehand, it is possible to be published, but there’s no surefire way in.
    Actually… every aspiring author should read that post, in my opinion.

  • March 15, 2011 at 5:21 am
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    @Rachel Her entire blog is really helpful. Being in the industry, she has a lot of realism to offer the starry-eyed.

    Are you looking to get published?

  • March 15, 2011 at 8:16 pm
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    I was reading through her other posts, she’s definitely well versed in all things concerning publishing.

    I was for a long time, before my life crowded out time for writing a book. Now I just write articles and day-dream about writing a book. :)
    But I attend writer’s conferences and have looked seriously into the process, so that’s why I was interested in this post.

  • March 16, 2011 at 3:44 pm
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    Yes, she really knows her stuff.

    I know what you mean; often my response is, “Who isn’t writing a book?” Maybe it’s our culture, but if Mr. Hyatt’s numbers are correct, self-publishing has increased 181%, so I don’t think it can be written off as some sort of sub-cultural peer-pressure.

    Liz introduced me to a book called “Putting Your Passion Into Print”, a book that was recommended to her by Brett.

    It’s an truly amazing book on how to get published. It was recently updated to “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published”. You should definitely check it out.

    Even if you’re not planning to get published anytime soon, it’s a good idea to educate your day dreams.

  • March 17, 2011 at 6:15 pm
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    @Andrew Fear:
    Yeah, I’ve been hearing about Godin’s tribes idea. I haven’t read the book (nor the one mentioned in his post), but it is intriguing.

    My latest motto has been “feed the people who are hungry”. Meaning, don’t try to cater to people who don’t want what you’re offering. But that seems to be the model of television, movie and publishing industries.

    Aesop had it right, “Please all and you will please none”.

  • March 23, 2011 at 7:23 pm
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    Yup. And this is why those industries are going to change dramatically in the near future.

    It’s the curse of entrenched industries when innovation and change comes along. Either evolve and change or become obsolete.

    Look what happened to the music industry.

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