It’s 2019 (I checked), and the book publishing industry is in the midst of a revolutionary transformation. Blink and you might miss it, or not notice it at all, but our business is experiencing what phone companies, taxi drivers and travel agents did over the past 15+ years: Adapt or die. And in my opinion, the disruption has only just begun.
For generations, publishing books was something done by “other people.” High-level deals done by high-powered agents for high-selling authors at high-powered New York publishing houses. Impossible for the little guy to get his or her book out. At least, that was the perception.
The reality is, attempts at “self-publishing,” or “independent publishing” go back hundreds of years, with plenty of success stories. Jane Austen paid to have Sense and Sensibility printed, and Stephen King made an attempt at cutting out his traditional publisher/middleman and selling his work directly to readers in 2000. After all, publishing is a commodity, right? Paper and ink and words on a page.
Wrong. Turns out, it wasn’t as easy as it seemed on paper (pun intended). Retailers and readers weren’t yet ready for this divergent model. Bookstores had been ordering from the same distributors and publishers since they first opened their doors. Readers had been buying books from those stores since they could reach the counter. And naturally, traditional publishing companies fought the change tooth and nail—this “new” model cut them out.
So what changed?
The same tsunami that hit those other industries: the Internet happened. E-readers happened. Amazon happened. Print on Demand happened. Together, without even realizing it, they democratized book publishing.
No longer were authors beholden to traditional publishers. They could do it themselves. After all, it was their intellectual property. Their artistic talent. That hadn’t changed. There became a realization that authors could hire their own editors, designers, marketers, printers, etc. Now they had the same outlets available to them that the traditional houses had to publicize and sell their books. Authors became emboldened. True independent publishing that could compete with the big boys had arrived.
Now, some of the biggest names in literature are eschewing their big-name New York houses and publishing their work themselves. And why not? They have direct access to their fans, outlets to sell their books, and can market them themselves. The result is more control and more money.
The physical quality of the books is the same as at the big houses (if you work with a good hybrid publisher, they’re printed at the same facilities), they’re sold through the same distribution channels, and readers don’t know (or care) if the book they’re leafing through at their local book café (the resurgence of small, independent bookstores is a whole other story, but suffice it to say, independent publishing isn’t the only model shift in the book world over the past five years) was published by Penguin Random House or a hybrid company like Ballast Books.
Ballast Books provides authors with all the resources they need for a successful publishing experience. Under this model, authors keep all rights, the majority of royalties, and enjoy quicker time to market. Books are available through the same distribution channels the big, traditional houses use. For many authors, even those with traditional deals available to them, the hybrid model is a no-brainer. Same book, less red tape, more money.
While the big New York houses haven’t gone the way of pay phones yet, experienced and affordable hybrid publishers are well on their way to becoming the next iPhone.
–Andy Symonds is an independent author and the president and publisher of Ballast Books. www.ballastbooks.com