What is the future of publishing?

You may have read about the heated contract dispute now going on between French publishing conglomerate Hatchette Livre and Amazon.com.

There’s a lot of media mudslinging happening between these two entities. So much in fact, that I decided not to publish links to any of it in this article. There’s just too many sides to the argument.

Of course, the people losing out the worst are the authors.

The ongoing disagreement between the two companies underscores the worries of what could happen for authors as publishing continues to shift and change.

The new era in publishing: an untraveled road

In a recent interview, I was asked to predict the future of publishing.

My answer?

“I don’t know.”

That was the only honest answer I could give.

Nobody knows what’s going to happen next with the publishing industry. Will big box book stores like Barnes & Noble survive? Will indie book stores survive?

Will traditional publishers be able to compete with self-publishing long term?

And what about self-publishing? What new restrictions or requirements will Amazon impose as self-publishers increase in numbers and revenue?

All valid questions, and there are many more. And we have answers to none of them.

Jumping the fence: the power of direct access

Despite all the uncertainty, here’s one thing I know beyond a doubt:

If you have direct access to your fans, you’ll be successful no matter what happens in the big picture.

Connect with your fans

Nathan Barry is a friend of mine who self-publishes. He doesn’t sell his books for $0.99 or even $9.99 on Amazon.com. In fact, you can’t even buy his latest book, Authority, on Amazon.

It’s only available on his website. It costs $39, and he’s been extremely successful with it.

How is he able to shun the biggest online bookstore in the world, price his books at more than 4 times that of most self-published books, and still be successful?

Easy. He’s established a line of communication straight to his potential buyers.

He has direct access to his fans.

Who do you depend on to sell your books?

There are a lot of different entities authors rely on to bring them readers, and all of them have built-in problems.

Publicists. You pay a publicist to find people who will talk about your book, or to find you opportunities to talk about your book. While there are times when this is a good move, it’s more often a waste of money.

It’s getting harder and harder, in the current fractured media landscape, to get a lot of attention drawn toward your book through individual promotions or appearances.

Even if you do get media attention and manage to sell some copies of your book that way, that method doesn’t build direct relationships with your readers. The next time you release a book, you’ll end up paying even more money, for fewer results.

Publishers. This point has been made in many places, but if you’re relying on your publisher to help you sell your book, even they will tell you that’s not their job.

Yes, they can get your book placed in bookstores, but that doesn’t turn into sales like it used to. Publishers play a role in creating your book, but it’s your responsibility to sell the book.

Retailers. Currently, the retailer of choice is Amazon. More than 90% of online sales go through them.

But merely listing your book for sale there is not going to get you the results you would like. And as mentioned above, it’s impossible to tell what will happen with them in future.

Who should you depend on?

Simply put: You can only depend upon your fans.

I point out how vital this fact is in Chapter 2 of my book Your First 1000 Copies. And the only way to depend upon your fans is to make sure you have permission to communicate with them in a way that gets their attention and drives them to action.

So what are your long-term plans?

Do you want to be a professional writer, or just someone who wrote a book once?

Do you want to be a writer?

The only way to ensure your long-term success — and know that you can weather any storm the publishing industry conjures — is to connect directly with your fans.

Then it doesn’t matter where you sell your book, who your publisher is, or how you make it available.

Your fans will be excited about each release — and will know exactly where to go to buy it.

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