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Why Traditional Publishing Will Fail (and what it means for writers)

Why Traditional Publishing Will Fail (and what it means for writers)

Mike Doane

I saw an interesting job posting on LinkedIn recently. Macmillan Publishing was hiring a Digital Strategist/Product Owner for a “new online self-publishing platform and community.” From the description, it looks like they’re on track to create a competitor to Booktrope.

There’s lots of money to be made after all. Self-publishing is the future because it’s so easy to do. Give authors a community, a platform, and some resources to help with outreach and the technical aspects of online publishing and you’re bound to get a few winners. Take 30% of all book sales with little to no work on your end and boom! you’ve struck gold. It’s worked out for Booktrope so far.

Why Traditional Publishers Will Fail

A lot of traditional publishing companies are stuck in some pre-internet era purgatory. They spend an enormous amount of resources sifting through the sludge pile and investing all their time and money in a couple authors they hope will sell big. And sometimes they choose wrong.

The internet has changed things. Crowdsourcing quality work and letting audiences decide who succeeds is where publishing is headed.

But Macmillan isn’t you’re average traditional publisher. They’ve got a smart digital brand strategy with a smart C-suite who know the digital environment. This makes a powerful combination for transitioning into the digital publishing environment.

There are already a lot of strong start-ups helping authors publish their books and find their audiences. The past few years have seen a huge rise in self-publishing successes and the companies on Product Hunt’s Future of Books list are doing more and more everyday to drive that number up. There’s never been a better time to be an author (and a worse time to be a publisher without a digital strategy).

What does Macmillan exploring self-publishing software options mean for authors?

As part of German parent company Holtzbrinck, Macmillan is part of the top-ten publishers in the world. They have the resources and power to do things right and build a really great system for self-published authors. Being a big company they also have the potential for bad buracracy, something that could drive a product like this into the ground.

If they are successful, authors can expect to see a few things come from this.

1. More Opportunity

Macmillan has a strong brand already. Building digital imprints around that brand and giving self-published authors the spotlight through these could mean huge opportunity for authors who would’ve never stood a chance before.

I imagine Macmillan is collecting enormous amounts of data on their readers already. Targetting these readers algorithmically with books that cater to their interests could mean increased sales and more opportunity for authors to connect to their audience.

2. More Competition

Though self-publishing is on the rise, its still a bit of a fringe (or Dag, if you’re Australian) thing to do. There’s lots of advice (I’d say bad advice) that says alternative publishing is a good way to be blacklisted by major publishers, libraries, and bookstores.

With a strong player like Macmillan entering the field though, this would validate self-publishing for many authors on the border. This means a huge influx of self-published content and a heck of a lot more competition.

3. An Unexpected Paycheck

Depending on how things go, things could get better or worse for authors in terms of money. A saturated market means authors could see their work fall flat more often. On the flip side, deep audience targetting could mean their work is finding the right audience more often.

Either way, a major player getting involved means self-published authors will see some major changes in the status quo (just think of how much has changed since Amazon entered the publishing environment).

4. More Power

I welcome any company that wants to get involved in alternative publishing methods. It creates more competition for publishers and start-ups in the digital publishing and audience-finding space, which can only be a good thing for authors.

If a major publishing company like Macmillan enters digital publishing, it would give authors yet another option they deserve and the right to claim their work as their own.