INDIE VS. TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING: BATTLE LINES DRAWN? by Steven Perkins

Embers of a long smoldering fire have recently been stoked. The winds of a publishing war are stirring, and opening salvo’s have been unleashed! Have battle lines been drawn between independent and traditional publishers? Is so, who in the end shall emerge the ultimate victor? Time, as they say, will only tell. Truly, the world of the printed word in this 21st century has entered an interesting, if not historic, and truly exciting era.

At least for some, that is.

From the dawn of Guttenberg’s printing press, until only recently, the world of publishing was the sole province of an elite group of established gatekeepers residing in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, and London. Historically, only but a handful have possessed the technical wherewithal, not only in the ways and means of print distribution and production but held the ultimate power over what, where and when information was distributed for mass consumption. In the grand scheme of human history, these latest developments are to be considered remarkable. The grand monolith of traditional publishing has been shaken right to its very core. Though it appears to be tottering, will it ultimately fall?

It was not so long ago, a very large percentage of the common masses were not only functionally illiterate but even denied opportunity to access public libraries. Now, with the arrival of a glittering digital era, that traditionally honored scenario has been forever altered. The common man can not only read but the for the first time, create works of viable literature. Not just writing books, but doing so in a commercially successful fashion!

One of the major catalysts for this change-the timely emergence of an equalizing digital platform: AMAZON!

For perhaps the first time in the history of civilization, the voice of the common man, and woman has not only observed more than a glimmer’s chance to be heard but instantaneously and globally distributed. Not all, of course, feel applause is warranted for this turnabout state of affairs in the publishing business. And who are these naysayers? They are most likely to be counted among those owning, operating and working for the big six traditional publishers who, in the last decade alone, have seen their normally robust market dominance beginning to shockingly dwindle.

Are there indeed battle lines being drawn in the proverbial sand, between the established publishing conglomerates and independent authors just now been given a golden opportunity to showcase their literary efforts before the world at large?

A recent spate of mainstream news articles appearing in America’s so-called newspaper of record, the New York Times, heralded the demise of the independent digital publishing market, claiming the coin of the realm has been severely devalued by the introduction of literary efforts from sources they no doubt regard as the common rabble. But, statistics exist to counteract such dubious claims sneered from the mealy mouths of cocktail sipping guttersnipes standing in Madison Avenue ivory towers. There are signs these dooming prognostications are quite calculated, in the hope long-time customers of overhyped and overpriced product shall be completely dissuaded from turning instead to independent book purchasing sources. Claims have been made-spurious at best that the independent publishing gold rush has long subsided. How to explain then, the presence of independently published books challenging, and even in some cases, still exceeding sales of traditionally published books listed in the most popular Amazon categories both in kindle and print versions?

Per latest reports and statistics, independent publishing continues to grab an increasing share of the global publishing market. While this is no doubt due to significant differences in price for most independent offerings, as opposed to those from traditional publishers, it is also due to increase in overall content quality. In terms of presentation, most independently published books now rival that of traditional publishers, despite a decided disadvantage in resources. The average independently published digital book retails at between $2.99/3.99, as opposed to the greater retail markup ($7.99/$9.99) found with most traditional books sold on the Amazon digital platform. Considering these stunning facts, what is the true impetus for mainstream media’s latest trumpets of demise for the independent publisher? Most likely, this is a game of perception management-a concerted effort in making prospective customers believe independently produced books are of inferior quality and aren’t worth significant emotional and financial investment. One must remember, those that own and operate the corporate publishing houses also own the media, and they shall continue to strategically utilize enormous resources at hand to protect their market interests. And yet, more independent authors continue to experience considerable growth in commercial success. Rest assured, going forward, the big six publishers will stop at nothing to derail the independent publishing locomotive now speeding headlong on the commercial fast track.

On the other hand, in the spirit of fairness and balance, one must play devil’s advocate.  

From a purely business perspective, traditional publishers have every right to see the emergence of independent book authors as a permanent threat to their continued publishing empire. Given such dire circumstances, why would they not make every concerted effort to retain a tight hold on market share, particularly considering the maintenance of stockholder portfolios?

However, considering the grand commercial scheme, Amazon has every interest in aiding the marketing potential of independent publishers. The greater the number of digital books inventoried, sold, or available free through author promotions, ultimately means greater potential sales for Kindle devices, which remain especially popular among the demographics of young adult customers.

In summary, if there are battle lines to be drawn in the fight for market dominance between independent and traditional book publishing, my final response is this:

I say, ready, aim, and fire -may the strongest and most cunning prevail!   

 

Our thanks to Steven Perkins for this enlightening guest post. It is a subject that has all of us in the writing field at attention. Steven is a participating author of Mystery Thriller Week and we are honored to have him joining us.  Raging Falcon is his debut novel and it is available in the book Cellar during MTW.  His books are also available on Amazon.

 

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