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Viewing Post from: Nathan Bransford
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Nathan Bransford is the author of JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, a middle grade novel about three kids who blast off into space, break the universe, and have to find their way back home, which will be published by Dial Books for Young Readers in May 2011. He was formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd., but is now a publishing civilian working in the tech industry. He lives in San Francisco.
1. The Biggest Challenges in the New Era of Publishing


As you may have noticed from my gazillions of posts about the wonders of e-books and the future of publishing, I'm a rather relentless techno-optimist. I think the future is going to be better than the past, and I believe having more books out there in the market is a decidedly good thing. I'm counting down the days until there's an invention that allows us to read five books at once.

At the same time, along with technological change comes major disruptions, and change is never even. There will inevitably be institutions and ways of life and old habits and jobs that will go by the wayside to make room for what's to come. Even if things are better on the whole (and I really do think they will be), there are going to be good things that are lost as well.

So I thought I'd devote a post to what I personally think are some of the biggest challenges for publishers, agents, authors, readers, and bookstores.

Publishers: Relevancy

In the old era, only major publishers had the infrastructure to get books to readers. You had to go through them to reach readers in large numbers.

In the e-book era, that necessity is no longer going to be there, and the distribution advantage that publishers have enjoyed for a couple of centuries will be severely, if not completely, eroded. All of a sudden authors, big and small, are going to have the option of going it alone if they want to, and the value proposition that publishers provide is not as clear-cut.

I don't think publishers are going to disappear entirely, and the package of services they bring to bear to produce a book is still unmatched. But if bestselling authors begin setting off on their own with regularity, it's going to have major ramifications for publishers' size and profitability.

Agents: Standardization

I don't think agents are going away. You know that phrase about how a combative person could start a fight in an empty room? Well, agents could start a negotiation in an empty room.

I personally think the biggest threat to agents isn't a decline of publishers - as I say whenever I'm asked, agents will negotiate with whomever is still around. As long as there are authors and readers, there will be someone getting the books to the readers, and authors will need agents to negotiate with those someones. And even in an era where agents aren't the gatekeepers to the literary world, they'll still have a role.

So what's the biggest threat to agents? I think it's standardization of terms.

Apple's iTunes and App stores have been revolutionary in many respects, but perhaps the most revolutionary is the one-size-fits all 70/30 revenue split for all apps. Big, small, it's 70/30. That 70/30 split is so powerful it even caused major publishers to adopt the model across the board for e-books.

If, hypothetically, advances largely go by the wayside and authors of the future are simply offered the same revenue split as everyone else and there's no room for negotiation, agents may be necessary for only the biggest authors.

Bookstores: Survival

When bookstores are already struggling and facing a looming mass conversion to e-books, it doesn't take a genius to see the challenges t

45 Comments on The Biggest Challenges in the New Era of Publishing, last added: 5/13/2012
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