Three authors, three examples of the disruption in (print) publishing!

Three authors, three examples of the disruption in publishing http://t.co/ldzT3lx

Both book publishing and film/television are industries that were built on scarcity, that are being disrupted n an age of non-scarcity. That’s not to say that there isn’t success and money to be made in the traditional businesses, but book publishing is an interesting place to look for parallels to television (particularly).

In “olden” times book publishers approached writers, offered them an advance against royalties, to write a book. Somewhat more dramatically than the budgetary pressures on television production, the advances offered to writers in the video technology and techniques space have dropped to about 20% of what was being offered as an advance a decade ago.

Given that even those advances really didn’t cover the time it took to write a book, book writing was done for profile/career rather than from the publisher. In fact an author makes more from the Amazon affiliate commission (for sales in a State where Amazon still has affiliates) than from the publisher for the sale.

I went for “self publishing” a few years ago, starting with some PDFs of Final Cut Studio tips and on to some more serious book writing: most recently Conquering the metadata foundations of Final Cut Pro X. I’m selling both PDF versions and print versions (thanks to Amazon Createspace): pdfs directly and print via Amazon itself.

Now, I’ve written before on what you need to know and handle for yourself if you’re going to self publish, but for me it’s worked out well, with returns commensurate with the time invested in writing the book, so I get both a decent financial return and the profile/career boost as well.

The television industry, like print before it, has many levels between creative and customer – in fact it confuses the customer relationship because the broadcaster and cable companies’ customer is the advertiser, not the audience. These levels cost the consumer, but when the technology limits supply (of airwaves or cable channel real estate) it can be justified.

Until technology bypasses the control and allows print authors to go directly to customers, and still have access to the biggest book distribution channel in the world for physical books (and increasingly their digital equivalents). Although nowhere near as complete, we’re seeing a similar disruption to the television and film industry that will play out over the next decade as the print industry transforms ahead of it.

All the things that a publisher (substitute network mentally) provided for me as an author now have alternatives. As I wrote in the article referenced above, you will need to find an editor to peruse your work (unless you’re supremely confident) and someone to lay it out, but there are tools for that, or services at very reasonable prices. Even cover design can be done by template or service (through Createspace). The other things a publisher did for an author – printing, access to distribution and publicity – are things I can do myself or through Createspace and its competitors. Print happens on demand (and for very small number provides an interesting PR tool); by filling in some web forms the book appears in the Amazon catalog and publicity really fell to the author beyond the publisher sending out a press release at the time of publication and organize some interviews: things any competent author can do for themselves.

And without a large upfront investment required, funding the book is nowhere near the problem it was. Now, with film or TV production there’s generally a crew to fund as well, so the numbers will be bigger, but ultimately I think the same type of disruption will affect studiio film and television production.

Thanks to technology (and some work on my part) an independent has had the best selling Final Cut Pro X book in Amazon for June, July and August 2011. (Because there are no other print books being sold for Final Cut Pro X!)

2 thoughts on “Three authors, three examples of the disruption in (print) publishing!”

  1. Hi Philip,

    any idea how to sell a movie through online distribution? Is there anything like an AppStore for movies through which I can sell a movie? Like what Amazon is doing for the books.

    It would be great to have an digital distribution channel that is well rspected, has many crdit card already on file, like iTunes through which an Indie Filmmaker could sell its movies.

    Mybe you have some ideas?

    Best
    Andreas

    1. I am involved in Open TV Network which is a mechanism for selling video into the iTunes software bypassing Apple, but apart from that there are no easy distribution channels for independents. Apple really only talks with major producers and Amazon doesn’t seem to have any submission process. But no doubt it’s coming.

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