Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Ostrich Syndrome

By Ad Hudler

I usually use this space to be funny, and to give my readers what they expect from me: laughs. But when it comes to the future of publishing, this month's blog topic, I'm a pretty serious businessman.

All printed-word industries have been reeling these past five years or so because of the changing reading habits of the American public. Newspapers have taken the lead in reinventing themselves and finding different ways to reach readers – and, in the end, I think newspapers will survive … although in a different form. But the future of books? I'm not as certain.

Problems:

Too many books are printed every year, tens of thousands, and thrown out into the public like dandelion seeds in the wind: haphazard and without any marketing strategy. Did you know that Big House publishers don't even use focus groups for covers? I was shocked when I discovered this. How can you improve your chances of getting the public's decision when you don't use focus groups? If I invested six figures for a title, I'd sure as hell use a focus group for the cover.

Too myopic: Publishing needs to get out of New York City. Those editors and marketing people need a better feel for the South and the West and the Midwest. Manhattanites are sadly ignorant of the world off of their island. If I had a publishing house, I'd base it in Des Moines or Kansas City or Denver. Face it: Editors and agents no longer need to live in the same place; technology has changed all the rules. And I'm getting very tired of books and movies set in The Big Apple. Wouldn't Dallas or Salt Lake City or Milwaukee be an interesting change of venue?

Audio books. Too many times authors' books aren't sent into audio until the print version hits a certain benchmark of sales. HELLO?!?!?! People who buy books- on-tape often are a DIFFERENT audience than those who buy the printed books. Print and audio should be released simultaneously with EVERY BOOK.

Authors should be provided city-by-city and region-by-region breakdowns of sales. This way they know which markets to focus on when approaching booksellers and potential speaking gigs. I don't know about you other authors, but getting hard cold statistics from my publisher is as easy as doing the breaststroke in Karo syrup.

For too long, publishing houses have had a very head-in-the-sand approach to technology; they need to realize that some day very soon there might not be a need for printed books. All it's going to take is an AFFORDABLE or FREE version of a Kindle-type machine … and someone's going to offer such a thing sooner than later. I'd love to think that the printed product will be here forever … but can we be that na├»ve?

That said, I think that as long as authors create compelling characters and plots and interesting, enlightening, entertaining memoirs, the "book" will always be around. In what form? I'm not sure. But all these techy changes have reinforced my opinion that the word is All Powerful. Video has taken back seat to the written word these days, with Twitter, facebook, email, texting, etc. I think the written word will be here forever. But how those words will reach readers? I’m not sure.

BTW: I'm at the Beauty and the Book Girlfriends' weekend in Jefferson, Texas this week. And I'll also be one of the featured authors at the Southern Voices conference in Hoover, Alabama this February. Come on out and see me. As always, you can catch me and my blog at AdHudler.com.

Keep enjoying those books, my friends.

3 comments:

A Good Blog Is Hard to Find said...

Bravo, Ad. If publishers expect authors to take charge of marketing they need to be less coy about sales figures. Otherwise how are we going to know what works and what doesn't?

Karin

Jayne Jaudon Ferrer said...

I love the idea of providing regional sales figures. What a fabulous marketing tool!

Shelby said...

exactly what I'm thinkin'...

love al hudler.