Publishing, promotion and print-on-demand

It’s been a lively week in the publishing world – or so it seems to someone who was away from his RSS feeds for a week.

Genre mags are giving it away for free

I’m very pleased to see that Fantasy & Science Fiction are experimenting with publishing full stories from their back-catalogue on their website. It’s a great way to raise the profile of the writers, and to drive traffic to their own site by providing uniquely valuable content with no strings attached.

They’re some way from the mass of content that Subterranean are giving away, but it’s a good start. I think the recent overseas postal rate hike is making a lot of the small press mags look seriously at new options before they discover a hard place to hem them in between the rock at their back.

For example, I will not be renewing my sub to Locus in paper format; not because the magazine is no good, but because the airmail price increase means that I might as well stick to getting the news from their website – meaning that I get it when it’s still relevant. Hard choices, sure, but it’s a changing world. Better to jump before the chasm gets too wide.

Talking of giving away content, Gareth L. Powell’s story “The Last Reef” is available to read in full on the TTA Press website, as is a teaser for his forthcoming “Ack-Ack Macaque” (at the bottom of the same page, as a downloadable image of the mag layout for the start of the story). We’re looking at ways of expanding the amount of content that the TTA Press site carries over the coming months; more news on that when I have it in a definite format.

The Waterstones cash-for-promo leak

Of course, there are other options for promoting writers – but as the recent alleged leaked memo from Waterstones confirms, they’re strictly for publishers who have a lot of cash to splash around. As someone who gets to see some of the machinations of the music industry, those figures aren’t even slightly surprising. The record companies, music press and brick-and-mortar stores work in very similar ways to the bublishing industry, and that’s a large part of why they’re in such a mire of quicksand at present.

As I’ve said before, this is something the genre publishers should learn from sooner rather than later. Being smaller, they have the ability to change more quickly, being less caught up with the train-wrecking momentum of the big boys.

Harry Haxxor and the Pilfered Plot

The saturation of blather about the forthcoming final installment of [popular children’s fantasy series that I can’t be bothered to name-check] is reaching ridiculous proportions. I was more than a trifle suspicious when I saw the news that OMGHAX PL0+ SU|/||/|4RY G4N|<3d FRUM W3BSIT3ZORZ!!!1!!1, and Bruce Schneier also seems to be less than convinced that this is anything more than a publicity stunt.

The question of which side of the fence the stunt has come from will likely never be made apparent – at least not with the same degree of headline-grabbing fervour as the original story.

OUP just wishes Google would ask first

On the subject of the pilfering (or not) of licenced content, an executive of the Oxford University Press has gone on the record as saying that all publishers really want is the opportunity to give permission for their work to be digitised by Google, rather than the opportunity to refuse the permission already assumed.

I need to research this matter more thoroughly, so I’m not going to call one way or the other on the veracity of the claims until I know the facts of the matter. But there are hints that publishers are starting to wake up to the usefulness of the digitisation projects, even though they don’t want to go back on their earlier statements of outrage.

Espresso Print-on-Demand Machine goes live in New York

If nothing else, digital copies of public domain material could become far more useful and accessible in the next few years, once a few more libraries and bookstores follow the New York Public Library’s lead, and install Espresso Book Machines to print titles on demand for customers. Until we reach a point that the vast majority of readers are prepared for reading in electronic formats at all times, these devices are as close as the publishing industry can get to the just-in-time customer-satisfying power of downloaded music – and as such represent a wise step forwards in trying to adapt to a changing business landscape.

3 thoughts on “Publishing, promotion and print-on-demand”

  1. Paul, regarding the ‘leaked’ Waterstones memo. I work in the publishing industry and I’m a bit surprised at the niavety of the Times article – its been the practice of bookshops to charge for premium space for years. Its the same principle as Tescos selecting certain brands in their shops – retailers don’t choose on the basis of quality, but on what they can move. They also make a good deal of money from promoting their suppliers products.

    Is it a good or bad thing? I think at the end of the day it’s a business decision for the retailers – they need to maximise the revenue/sqm. Consumers though should be savvy enough not to think that just because something is well-stocked, in a bestseller chart or recommended by the shop that it’s good. Unfortunately though a lot of consumers are taken in by the advertising – thus the success of the likes of Dan Brown.

    Quality does not = success. I think the shock of the Times article comes from their mistaken belief that publishing and bookselling is not a business but a cultural service.

  2. I understand exactly what you’re saying, Mark – the music industry is just the same. The Times, like any newspaper, has to titillate – and if exploiting public ignorance is the way, then they’ll do it.

    But for me the take-away point is that the same business model is the thing that’s crippling the music industry right now; the age of the hit is over, because consensus is so much harder to manufacture in a multichannel media environment. The sooner the smaller presses, like the small record labels, start to think outside of the box, the better.

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