Publishing legacy: With chaos comes opportunity – Traditional publishing is in flux. Content is still king, but how that content is procured, presented, distributed, and consumed has changed radically from the good ol’ days of newsstands and drugstore spinner racks.

With publishing initiatives from Amazon and Google nipping at their heels, publishers are scrambling to stay relevant in the newly redefined marketplace. But companies like Amazon and Google themselves aren’t the enemy, according to best-selling author Neil Gaiman, who was the keynote speaker at the 2013 London Book Fair. “The enemy right now,” he says, “is simply refusing to understand how fast the world is changing.”

Gaiman is correct, the world is spinning faster these days. The publishing industry is probably thinking that it has spun out of control. But from chaos there comes opportunity, and authors now have more leverage and options available than ever before. Signing a fat contract with McGraw-Hill might not be the No. 1 objective for every writer with a manuscript on his or her hard drive.

publishing - rules of force

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“It’s hard to overstate how fast the publishing industry is changing,” says Steve Statham, an author who has experienced both sides of the publishing coin. He wrote 12 books that were initially published in the traditional way. But the Texas author recently decided to experiment with self-publishing options. Since 2011, he has released three novels in his manly Connor Rix adventure series.

For Statham, the new publishing paradigm is like a walk in the park on a sunny day. Commenting on his self-publishing experience, he says, “I like the time-to-market aspect, the control over pricing, control over the cover, the ability to check sales any time of day or night, and getting paid monthly.” And, he adds, he especially values the opportunity to retain all rights to his creation.

Publishing Dispensing Justice

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For Fritz Freiheit, the Michigan-based author and mad genius behind the Nova Genesis World series, the creation of Amazon’s online e-book market opened the floodgates for self-publishers and e-book publishers. In the past there was a disconnect between authors and their readers. Without a big league publisher and distributor at your disposal, nobody was going to discover your book. “There wasn’t a real market for e-books until after the Kindle was introduced,” says Freiheit.

Even though there have been stellar success stories in the world of e-publishing (E.L. James and Amanda Hocking immediately come to mind), there remain nagging issues for writers who turn their backs on traditional publishing. For example, they don’t get the benefits of professional editorial guidance, they don’t have access to sales and marketing diligence, and they forego the thrill of seeing their novels shelved in bookstores next to Stephen King, Judi Picoult, and Neil Gaiman. Authors need to sit down and consider their choices carefully.

One thing is certain, however; with all the options available we are at the dawn of a new publishing era. And over the next few years we will undoubtedly see a new publishing culture emerge. Manhattan publishers are a wily bunch. They’re not waving the red flag in defeat any time soon. Their relevancy may be diminishing, but you can bet they’re working overtime to keep their legacy alive. But keep this in mind: in tech, a legacy system connotes something whose time has passed, yet for reasons of time and money, is still in service. In the future, the publishing industry may not want to embrace its own legacy.

Based in San Francisco, Eric Searleman has worked as a newspaper reporter, a fiction editor, a comic book artist, and a rock star (confirmation required). Follow him at @SuperheroNovels or Eric Searleman on Google+.

Eric Searleman
Based in San Francisco, Eric Searleman is an editor at Eric has worked as a newspaper reporter, a fiction editor and a comic book artist. Email him at [email protected]
Eric Searleman
Eric Searleman
Tags: Business,Entrepreneurship,Tech Culture