Wednesday, December 21, 2011

10 Ways Book Publishers Are Fighting Back

Against piracy! Against the digital encroach! Against illiteracy! Against each other! Publishing, that cheeky teaser of mind, body, and soul, enjoys the same level of excitement and drama as other fields, if not more. As with every industry out there, it plays host to a crazy ensemble cast of heroes, villains, threats, challenges, underdogs, and other archetypes. Then conflict happens — or at least publishers come across a conflict that needs addressing. What follows are just some of the few exciting adventures that go down in the publishing world.

  1. Partnering with news outlets

    E-book developers pose a threat to their more traditional predecessors, and their recent team-ups with periodicals and blogs make things even harder for them. In order to fight fire with napalm, some publishers have decided to fight the encroaching competition with a good old-fashioned team-up. For example, Politico and Random House are now working together on a series of e-books relevant to the 2012 presidential cycle. Both benefit from this deal when it comes to profits and producing quick content and may very well set the precedent for future collaborations between different media outlets.

  2. Launching self-publishing departments

    2011 saw a major publishing house launch its own services catering to the desires of promising authors seeking self-guided options. Penguin's Book Country initiative embraces all the very same tenets making self-publishing such an attractive option, charging between $99 and $549 for various printing and promotions services. Unlike many other similar offerings, the major publishing house provides far more resources and opportunities for aspiring writers — not to mention easy access to some great talents who might very well work in more traditional outlets. Some members in the Book Country bullpens have sold upwards of 1 million units, making them prime candidates for moving on up Penguin's talent ladder.

  3. Restricting e-book lending to libraries

    When publishers and Amazon put up their dukes over e-books and e-book lending, innocent libraries suffer more than anyone else. In an attempt to eke out an edge over their digital competition, Penguin ditched its lending services on the Kindle, pulling all but some very old titles, which will still only last until the end of the year. The American Library Association understandably finds this move distasteful, as it greatly lessens their opportunities to provide free e-books to the community. Many cite the publisher's decision as a slap in the face to Amazon over "'copyright security' concerns" that struck the ALA instead, when the real issue should've been over lending rights on the front end.

  4. Making readers pay for floundering ad sales

    Cash-strapped sponsors have been slowly pulling out of periodicals, leaving the publishers without the revenue needed to stay afloat. But soft! What solution through yonder conference room breaks? To make up for lost cash flow, consumers are the ones doling out the dollars for subscriptions, exclusive content, and other offerings. Some estimates believe advertising fell by around 35% over the past three years, which places quite a financial burden on readers, who themselves might not have the money to pay for the information they need.

  5. iPad-exclusive content

    Penguin and Amazon's not-so-little Kindle tiff isn't the only rumble happening over e-book readers and devices (such as the iPad) enabled to act like them. Apple's notoriously restrictive content policies mean some magazines don't reach the readership they want — a sad prospect when one considers the tablet an ideal technological makeover for the medium. Some enterprising publishers, however, have decided to hook up with the tech juggernaut and offer their most popular reads at a dollar less than the cover price. Hearst Magazines (Seventeen, O, Esquire, Popular Mechanics, and Marie Claire) and Conde Nast (The New Yorker, GQ, and Vanity Fair) stand as the most notable examples of businesses working with the system that so often works against its contemporaries.

  1. Keeping digital royalty rates the same, if not lowering them

    Piracy remains a concern across most media, but each must respond to it in its own beautiful and unique snowflake way. In order to address the problem on a digital front, many publishing companies such as Faber and Little, Brown delegate more and more money to combating it. But consistently mounting legal and technical costs mean the money has to come from somewhere — and digital royalties frequently end up the most likely candidate for redistribution. So the authors themselves end up the most fiscally screwed over in piracy situations, though many publishers feel as if they have no other choice.

  2. Promoting discourse

    Rather than raging against serious business within the publishing machine, Atticus Books turns its fighting spirits to something more societal in nature. Believing polite, intellectual discourse currently experiences a squelching, agonizing death at the hands of insult-hurling, condescension, and closed-mindedness, it debuted the Six Degrees Left initiative in 2011. The series brings together writers across multiple industries and mindsets in order to strip away controversies to the barest facts. Atticus Books prides itself on offering straightforward talks entirely devoid of the eye-rolling rhetoric of hate found on most political talking heads programs.

  3. Partnering with nonprofits

    As with the previous example, it's entirely possible for publishers to "fight back" far outside inherent industry issues and do things that DON'T make them appear silly and/or greedy. Establishing productive partnerships with charitable causes — particularly those promoting literacy, naturally — does nothing but help all participating organizations. A few, such as the relatively new PUBSLUSH Press, take some admirably creative routes towards combating social ills. Its innovative structure allows readers rather than editors to decide what books end up published, and every one printed means one donated to a charitable literary cause. Impoverished children the world over especially benefit from their work with nonprofits like Flying Kites Leadership Academy, a Kenyan school desiring a fabulous library.

  4. CrossCheck

    Bibliophiles make the best editors. With their vast knowledge of the written word, they're far better equipped to catch plagiarized submissions than most. But even the most ardent individuals adherent to all things literary can't read every book, pamphlet, and cereal box out there. As such, some ne'er-do-wells out there slip through the cracks and unjustly end up hogging shelf space. Whether they print journals, books, or other formats entirely, some publishing companies have started relying on services like CrossCheck to widen the traps. Run by the nonprofit CrossRef, it allows them to compare submissions with others in the database and check for plagiarism before acceptance. And it's been working. As Nature noted in its article on the subject, around 10% of Taylor & Francis' 216 checked submissions proved sketchy over the span of six months; findings they may not have otherwise noticed.

  5. Creative, engaging promotions

    Innovative tactics meant to tantalize readers toward exciting new reads weren't even new when they were new, but they do grant publishers an advantage when trying to fight the Amazons and the Apples and the other hoopla the kids are into these days. Smaller, independent printers like Melville House must compete not only with the digital "menaces," but the Big Six businesses to boot, which requires extra creativity. Their fight against humdrum advertising sees them providing copies to independent booksellers earmarked as free giveaways when customers utter given code words. On the social media front, they drop prices for every 10 tweets sporting a specific hashtag. Melville House used both these strategies when drumming up interest in Gianni Rodani's Lamberto, Lamberto, Lamberto, which earned it some Publishers Weekly love.

Taken From Accredited Online Courses

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