Are We Ready for Change?

icebergWhat the Publishing Industry can Learn from Kodak

Part 3 of 3

The last two days we’ve been looking at things publishers, agents, and writers can learn from the decline of the Kodak company. Monday we discussed knowing our business, and yesterday we looked at knowing our customer. Today let’s talk about dealing with change. Here are a few more things I took from the Kodak situation.

7. The time is now (or three years ago) to begin changing and preparing for future more cataclysmic changes.

Kodak had a good ten-year window of opportunity to change their business—they had research and intelligence that predicted exactly how the market was going to change. They even stepped out to meet it—Kodak invented the digital camera, after all. But they failed to change enough. It’s not sufficient to be aware of coming changes. Our organizations must be taking action.

What is action? It’s innovation. It’s turning the ship—and remembering that if you start turning it soon enough, it’s okay to turn slowly.

Writers and agents are fairly flexible, so many of us are already turning our ships. It’s harder for the big publishers, many of whom have never been known as “innovators” in the first place. They’ve been operating on the same business and product models for a century or more. It will be interesting to see which companies are able to turn their ships sufficiently to avoid disaster in the next decade. Are they hiring new leaders with vision, courage, and innovative thinking? Are they anticipating even more changes in technology, reader habits, and the bookseller landscape?

8. If we’re not flexible and open to change, our business will be overtaken by upstarts.

By the time Kodak had fully entered the digital realm, its business was already eaten up by new competitors with better products. It was too late for them to recover. They hadn’t been blindsided—they knew change was coming—they just moved too slowly, and not comprehensively enough.

If we don’t provide our customers what they want, somebody will. In publishing, it’s already happening as new companies start up with the goal of connecting writers directly with their readers quicker and cheaper. Other companies are filling the reader’s need for some kind of gatekeeping and review process (hello, Goodreads).

“The story of Kodak’s downfall is an affirmation that true innovative spirit is much more often found in smaller companies and startups rather than old-school behemoths of yesteryear.” (Mashable)

9. It’s crucial we stay well-informed on technology and consumer trends, and develop plans to effectively respond to the ever-changing information.

It’s two separate things: gathering information, and then effectively using the information. The former is pretty easy, the latter is harder and seems to be the crux of Kodak’s downfall. We should all be asking ourselves if we’re looking at both sides of this equation.

10. We must keep asking questions, and do our best to make sure we’re asking the right ones.

  • What is our core business? What do we do well? How do we need to change what we do?
  • What do consumers want? What will they want in the future?
  • Are we doing ENOUGH to keep up? Are we doing it quickly enough?
  • How can we harness our strengths to become innovators rather than simply trying to “keep up?”?


Like I said in the beginning, I’m not a business analyst and these last three posts have just been a simplistic look at what we in publishing can be taking away from the Kodak situation. I hope it’s enough to spark some commentary, ideas, and debate.

Some questions for you:

What are some ways writers and agents need to change their thinking and approach?

Do you think the “upstarts” could ever truly replace the Big 6 publishers?

What are some more questions we should be asking ourselves as we look at the future of our business?

Part 1: Do You Know What Business You’re In?

Part 2: Do You Know Your Customer?

Sources: In researching the story on Kodak, I read articles from Forbes (here and here), CBS News, Information Week, Tech Crunch, and Mashable.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Do You Know Your Customer? | Rachelle Gardner on June 11, 2012 at 2:37 PM

    […] Tomorrow: Are We Ready For Change? […]

  2. Luigi Fulk on March 25, 2012 at 12:10 PM

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  3. Author Kristen Lamb on March 5, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    I have no idea if the publishing industry can recover or even remain in the game. I know I have offered help time after time for the past almost five years and gotten no response…so since NY felt that consumers would always love paper and that social media wasn’t a new necessary skill for a writer, I started consulting start-up indie authors and publishers. They are now making millions while NY is trying to figure out how to keep from being eaten by Amazon.

    I believe that the publishing industry has had even more time and more warning and they wanted to hold on to the traditional way of doing things in a world that changes every six weeks. Yet, we can’t help people who are unwilling to listen. I am no real fan of Amazon and I do feel traditional publishing has a lot to offer, but I feel the need to quote Jerry Maguire, “HELP ME, help YOU.

    Thanks for the series.

  4. Sandra Tyler on February 24, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    Im sure the business of finding and the relationship with an agent has changed drastically since my last publication. And with technology wer are always, writers and agents, on the steep learning curve.

  5. Charise on February 20, 2012 at 11:35 PM

    I thought this was an especially great series of posts. I thought book publishing would have looked to its cousins in newspapers and magazines to also recognize change and some of the pitfalls. As a writer, I find it challenging (confusing) to be in on this change. I don’t like what I see on the self publishing route but am concerned by the lack of or slow innovations on the traditional track too.

  6. Paul Martin on February 17, 2012 at 4:32 PM

    I find it interesting that you are using Kodak as a jumping off point here. I interviewed with an R&D lab rep in 1985 or so while finishing up graduate studies in engineering. They clearly saw the future at that time. They just couldn’t respond to it. Our challenge is to avoid that mistake.

    Seth Godin has an excellent article in his Domino blog on lessons from the music industry. check it out here.

  7. Dustin Hansen on February 17, 2012 at 2:26 PM

    My post disappeared. I blame technology. I’ll start writing it long hand and send it in the mail. Should be there in a few days 🙂

  8. Dustin Hansen on February 17, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    This has been a wonderful series. I found it after returning from ToC this year and digging through the recaps. Porter Anderson’s Writing on the Ether post is worth a read. He hits some of these issues head on and gives a very nice promo to this blog

    I’ve been watching this for some time now. I’m a Creative Director for the largest video game publisher in the world, and believe me, this has been a hot topic. For the last three years there has been a major shift happening in the video game world – but unlike Kodak, EA (my employer) is surviving. Thriving even.

    Unfortunately, it took a small start up (Zynga- Farmville and the like) to really bring the big boy publishers to attention.

    Innovation is the key. Innovation at every step along the path. Marketing, distribution, pricing, content, user engagement and retention, data mining – you name it.

    I think the question “Do you know your consumer?” is the pinnacle. But I’d change it a bit. “Do you know your reader?”. I write MG – so my reader and consumer are not necessarily the same person – but I must target my reader first. Not an easy thing to do with that age group.

    I have a list of innovations that make sense in the book world. Some of them are completely crazy – some of them are very obtainable.

    I have a few questions of my own:

    How does book length figure into this equation? I think it’s a HUGE issue and probably the easiest to address.

    What would it take for an author to allow her reader base to get involved with the creative process? Are authors willing to take this type of input?

    What does the YouTube for books look like? It ain’t the Amazon store – I’ll tell you that much.

    How would an author/agent/publisher monetize a free book offering? Games are making a killing with this financial model (Farmville, Tap Pet Hotel,,,).

    How does facebook fit into your book marketing and reader outreach plan? Will twitter ever appeal to kids under the age of 18 in numbers that justify its huge time sync? How can you get your book cover/content ‘Pinned’?

    OMGoodness – I better stop.

    Answering these questions will be paramount in the next wave – heck, the current wave of books. Agents/Publishers that don’t allow/encourage writers to participate in these conversations will be sorry.

    Innovation is key.

    Oh – and Hi Uncle Stevie. 🙂

  9. Lawrence J Caldwell on February 16, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    Here’s an interesting perspective from today’s Guardian:

  10. Leanne Bridges on February 16, 2012 at 3:26 AM

    Thank you very much Rachelle, very informative. I appreciate your passion and honesty.

  11. Heather Gilbert on February 15, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    Thanks for the brilliant series–great parallels b/t publishers and Kodak. I love people who have the foresight to see what’s coming down the pipeline and get prepared for it. Thanks for the heads-up, Rachelle. Guess I’ll let my son buy that Kindle after all…hee.

  12. Jennifer M on February 15, 2012 at 5:56 PM

    Another factor of Kodak’s decline was their level of pretension and self-importance. I can hear the Old Guard spurting “But we are Kodak!” in the life boats over and over while the ship was sinking. Yes, you may be in a lifeboat, but unless it pulls away from the ship, you will drown. I wonder how many headhunters were hired by frustrated Kodak tech people because no one would listen?
    If you’re going to invent the wheel, you’d better invent the engine and the steering as well, or all you’ve got is a heavy plate with a hole in it.

  13. […] It’s happening rapidly and drastically. As literary agent Rachelle Gardner has addressed on her blog for the last several days, one can either look ahead and stay on top of trends, or be run over by […]

  14. Susan Bourgeois on February 15, 2012 at 12:47 PM

    Upstarts can turn into giants over time because they fulfill a need that many didn’t realize existed.

    Consider E-Bay and Amazon.

    Take a look at the big guys, Costco, Wal-Mart, etc. Many smaller companies cannot compete when they enter an area. Is this a bad thing or is this an example of how these companies continue to flourish, they are always one step ahead of the game.

    Isn’t that part of what’s happening right now with the books for sale at these super stores?

    You would think all of the big publishers would see this trend, right?
    Surely, they have a division that stays abreast of these type sales. I would assume all are participating and not ignoring these trends.

    This is one example of the possibility of getting left behind.

    People like to get value for their buck. They also enjoy the convenience of one-stop shopping. Certainly the publishers must realize that fact.

    Price and convenience are two important factors for most consumers in our fast-paced world.

    It would be prudent for publishers to realize these facts.

    True successful giants are like a locomotive that refuses to pull dead weight. They continue to add cars that are vital to their growth; they detach the ones that bog them down or prove to be unfruitful.

    They are continually streamlining.

    Most of us love the smell and expanse of a bookstore. That’s a nice visual but most of us are pressed for time. We appreciate the opportunity to purchase a bestseller from the book section at Costo where we’re able to accomplish numerous tasks during one stop.

    In addition, we get the book at a great price. This is a strong example of reaching the hurried consumer.

    The giants are established businesses which must continue to roll in order to keep up profits as they strive to remain progressive.

    That’s not an easy thing to do. It’s often difficult to juggle all that’s necessary and in an attempt to remain profitable and progressive.

    Upstarts don’t have the old way of thinking, they start out progressive. They refuse to carry heavy loads. They can concentrate on a slower growth and they have more time to search for the niche markets. They may center on progressive areas only. They don’t have to spread themselves so thin. Many don’t start out with massive overhead.

    Upstarts have a knack of getting their foot through the right door that sets them on a great path to success.

    Think about how Amazon started, from what I remember reading, it was from tables in the garage.

    My answer to all of your questions: “We need to become locomotives. We need to streamline and forge ahead in numerous directions if necessary to provide our customers with the one thing we know they crave, entertainment and a break from the realities of everyday life.”

  15. Patricia Raybon on February 15, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    I ponder your great questions with two minds. I concede, first, that staying in tune–and in time–with trends and technology is critical. Yet, second, I think of my latest fascination–a little PBS-produced soap called “Downton Abbey.”

    Nothing high tech about it at all. Great plot, characters and drama. Everybody I know, it seems, is hooked. I, too, watch it faithfully. For writers, it’s a stunning reminder that great storytelling still scores.

    On the flip side, however, I use the latest technology to enjoy this series even more. Facebook, Twitter, the Masterpiece web site, online chats with the cast and more. My takeaway? As a writer, focus first on fundamentals. Write good stories and tell them well. But stay up with technology to engage my customers–that is, my readers. The artist in me tries to say no. But the businesswoman in me challenges my resounding “yes.”

    Thanks for this great Kodak moment to convince us all!

    • Rachelle Gardner on February 15, 2012 at 5:41 PM

      Patricia – one of the reasons people like Downton Abbey, I think (whether they know it or not) is that the era it portrays was chock-full of technological advancements that many found hard to accept. In the time period the series has covered so far, our characters have seen the advent of the automobile, electricity, the telephone, and the phonograph. From our vantage point, it all looks like progress, but they must have felt things were changing pretty fast.

      So yes – we watch it because we’re fascinated with a “simpler time.” The irony is that the simpler time was experiencing rapid change just like we are today.

      • Patricia Raybon on February 15, 2012 at 6:14 PM

        Excellent point, Rachelle! Every era wrestles with “progress,” from new technology and more–and Downton Abbey’s characters are no exception. As for me, however, in light of Kodak’s struggles, I pay homage to PBS for not relying solely on Downton Abbey’s strength as a great drama. Not content to rest on those laurels, PBS hasn’t missed a beat using social media to engage the series’ viewers. What a reminder for me that if social media is good enough for PBS and Downton Abbey, it better be good enough for me! Thanks for giving us yet another interesting way to reflect on our times and its changes!

  16. Doug on February 15, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    It’s not correct that, “By the time Kodak had fully entered the digital realm, its business was already eaten up by new competitors with better products.” Kodak was the first manufacturer of digital SLR cameras (1991) and the first manufacturer of consumer cameras (1994, under the Apple QuickTake brand).

    In 2005, Kodak was the biggest manufacturer of digital cameras, but they found that even being #1 wasn’t providing enough revenue to sustain a large company, and they saw that the future promised only lower prices, lower margins, and fewer customers. Very simply, consumers were going to spend a lot less money on photography. Kodak started getting out of the digital camera business in mid-2005, but there was really no place for them to go.

    My wife was a travel agent for 17 years. Today, very few travel agencies are left. Nobody needs them.

    Digital products and the Web are powerful “disintermediators.” We have less and less need for people to provide connections between supplier and consumer. My wife was a travel agent for 17 years. Today, very few travel agencies are left. Nobody needs them.

    The Big Publishers are doomed because they don’t provide sufficient value to the reader to justify their price markup. As collateral damage, the Big Royalty Advance is doomed.

    There is no viable long-term strategy for Big Publishing except an exit strategy. They can become small publishers, or they can quit publishing entirely. Those are the options.

    • LC on February 15, 2012 at 3:31 PM

      Your analysis of Kodak’s position is right on. The coming of digital imaging cut the guts out of their revenue model, which was based on a constant and robust stream of income from selling film, photographic paper, chemicals and all the other expendables involved in traditional photography. A digital camera is a one-time sale; you don’t have to buy another memory card every time you want to take pictures. It was as if Gilette sold a razor that never needed new blades.

  17. CG Blake on February 15, 2012 at 10:16 AM

    What Stephen King said. My thoughts exactly and I couldn’t have said it any better.

  18. Wendy Paine Miller on February 15, 2012 at 8:54 AM

    Two words jumped out at me from this post: Harnessing strengths.

    I’m grateful in this ever-changing publishing climate I’m open to what may come and I’m unafraid of taking risks.

    My motto as I continue in this industry is discerning risks.

    These posts have been wonderful!
    ~ Wendy

  19. Stephen H. King on February 15, 2012 at 7:31 AM

    Rachelle, once again you’ve written a wonderful post.

    One thing I recall from the business strategy (“Capstone”) course of my MBA studies is that very, very few companies, when faced with a disruptive technology in their industry, respond in the smart way. The greater majority, as we saw by reading case study after case study, instead of embracing change will dig the earthworks a bit deeper, raise the battle cry, and hang on to the belief that if they just do what made them successful in the first place, but a little bit better/faster/stronger, it will get them past the “bump.” It’s crazy, but it’s kind of human nature to be myopic in your assessment of and response to industry challenges. Thus, it’s not surprising to see insistence on “tried and true” business practices (“the public will spend at least $14.99 for an e-book, and they’ll continue to like it”), or calls for protection (certain large bookstores: “Please, Big 6, don’t publish e-books till 6 months after the print books”). That, to me, is the first sign of impending death of a company, and it’s only later that you see the signs in their balance sheet ratios.

    “What are some ways writers and agents need to change their thinking and approach?” – I wouldn’t presume to understand the world of the agent. It has always seemed to me that your business “hat” is hung on the Big 6’s rack, though, so as they succeed, or not, so shall you. That said, I don’t think we’ll see all the Big 6 fold; there will be a Big something come out of this. Will it be a Big 3, or a Big 4? Who knows? Some will survive, though. What I’d ask you is how the agent model fits into the Amazon imprint process. Since the Big 6 seem to be myopically disinterested in defining the direction the publishing world will take, Amazon probably will do it for them, so–how do agents fit in there?

    As for writers, we have a key and interesting–and fun!–position in this. We’re the content providers rather than the middlemen. I think we’ll need to be flexible in our acceptance of changes in how our revenue stream (those of us who have one…) comes to us (advances are a thing of the past, et al), but no matter what happens to Amazon and the Big 6 and Smashwords and everybody else, we’re still the ones who are needed. I do think authors will need to either learn the publicity business for themselves or be willing to add a publicist (or publicist/agent) to their teams–but is that really that much of a change from how things were 10 years ago?

    “Do you think the “upstarts” could ever truly replace the Big 6 publishers?” – Yes, I do. Nobody ever goes into a bookstore and asks for a Tor book or a Penguin book. Instead, they ask for a Robert Patterson book, or “the newest Jean Auel.” I’d never even been to a publisher’s web site till I started writing, and when I finally visited I noticed it’s mostly about “lookit who our authors are.” Nobody on the customer side really cares who’s doing the printing and distribution, so long as the end product is of a requisite level of quality. The only reason the demise of the Big 6 hasn’t come faster, I think, is that there are many independent writers who put out low quality work, but there is a LOT of activity in the Indie community designed around fixing that problem. Some will be successful, and some not, of course. The key thing that should probably scare publishers more than anything else is that the quality IS out there in the Indie writing world–I just finished reading one great example–all it needs is a way for the great writing to rise to the top. I think we’ll see that happen in the next couple of years.

    “What are some more questions we should be asking ourselves as we look at the future of our business?” – I think the most useful thing people other than authors can be asking is “what’s Amazon doing that’s so right?” Like them or hate them, the fact that they’ve built up a market capitalization that dwarfs Barnes & Noble and several of the Big 6 as well is evidence that they’re doing something right. I think it’s that they know what their customers want. Since their customers are also your customers, then maybe the smart thing to do is quit fighting and start mimicking.

    But that’s just my two cents.

    • Rachelle Gardner on February 15, 2012 at 5:37 PM

      Truly thought-provoking, Stephen, thanks!

  20. carol brill on February 15, 2012 at 7:29 AM

    Rachell, thanks for making us think about change. A collegue of mine often says, “only a wet baby likes change.”
    One goal last year was to get much smarter about self-pub, blogs, book marketing-not always fun and comsumed a lot of my writing time-but necessary to keep up.
    I also hired an editor, recognizing like Julie the value of professional feedback. Whether I go traditional or self-pub, I will offer a better product.
    AND YES, I met my goal to start a blog. To read more about wet babies and change 🙂 you can visit my blog post

  21. Sra on February 15, 2012 at 4:13 AM

    Something I’ve been wondering about a lot with these e-reader posts is libraries. (I work at one, so I wonder this a lot.)

    Yeah, libraries have been getting e-rentals and stuff. But one of the significant purposes of a public library is to provide books and internet to people who don’t have access otherwise.

    The homeless guys that come in to read aren’t going to be getting e-readers, whether they want one or not.

    So I guess my question is, what are opinions on this? How will the digital trend will work as far the public service aspect? Will it adapt, and how? Or will it just die, and therefore damage our already falling literacy rates?

    • Julia Reffner on February 15, 2012 at 9:53 AM

      These are great questions offered in the post and have really caused me to think further about how to adapt to a changing industry. Thank you, Rachelle.

      SRA, the questions you pose are quite interesting. I formerly worked for a college library and these are challenging questions. I know budgets for public libraries are very low, so if we go this direction how does it influence the library that can’t shell out megabucks for the amount of computers needed to provide these services. As it is our libraries here have a constant stream and waiting list for the available computers. I know they do have e-books that can be read on the computers. The expense is considerable and I do wonder whether libraries can keep up with these challenges.

      I must admit I am one of those who “wasn’t going to buy a Kindle.” But I did a few years back. I prefer standard book format and rarely use my Kindle. The smell, the feel of a book, especially an old one. Yet, I am in the minority. Partly because I am a homeschool mom who spends most of my day within the home, books work for me, but I understand most appreciate the mobility of Kindle/Nook/iPad.

    • Stephen King on February 15, 2012 at 2:11 PM

      Interesting questions, especially in regards to public service. I’d say the homeless guys who come in to read will still be served the same. I mean, no library I’ve ever seen would give someone who doesn’t have an address in the tax district a library card to check books out with. Thus, the people without addresses are welcome to come in and read, but can’t leave with anything. I suppose collections will slowly–very slowly, I predict, especially as the lending rights are battled out and people realize there are more battles to be fought in court–transition from print to electronic versions. However, there are apps that will allow you to read ebooks on PCs, so as long as a library allows its patrons access to the Internet on workstations, the format of the books won’t matter a lot to those who use the physical library building as an oasis of literacy.

  22. Amanda Dykes on February 15, 2012 at 3:02 AM

    Are we ready for change? I think so.

    I went for my semi-annual haircut (I’m not very on-the-ball with some things…) last week, and my hair stylist told me all about her continuing education classes and how, even though she’s been doing this for decades, she wants and needs to stay current on methods, tools, innovations, trends, in an ever-changing industry and society.

    Are we any different? You talked yesterday about the importance of being willing to embrace change in this rapid-fire technology turnover we have grown accustomed to. If this is the new norm, a paradigm and industry-view shift is needed on all our parts. Instead of adapting to the occasional change and “new normal,” and hovering there for a decade or two until the next drastic change comes along, we are now learning to adapt continuously to those rapid-fire changes.

    I think what you say is true: “[Action is] innovation. It’s turning the ship—and remembering that if you start turning it soon enough, it’s okay to turn slowly.”

    Getting used to a constant tweaking and turning of the wheel, adapting to the obstacles and course changes that arise… this is what we’re signing on for. Thanks for the apt analogy to navigating at the helm of a ship, and for the pithy assessment of Kodak and what we can learn. It’s been very informative!

  23. Neurotic Workaholic on February 15, 2012 at 2:46 AM

    I think the upstarts could only replace the Big 6 publishers if they offer something that the big publishers don’t. I think that a lot of people are attracted to new things, but a lot of consumers stick with what’s familiar and reliable too.

  24. P. J. Casselman on February 15, 2012 at 2:41 AM

    What are some ways writers and agents need to change their thinking and approach?

    Writers must be prepared to do a tremendous amount of online marketing to sell books. We must ask the question, “How does the average reader choose a book in today’s world?” In years past, they often bought based on displays in book stores or reviews by those they trusted. Oprah, for example, helped shape the reading habits of an entire generation of women. Today, the web has become the first place most people go to find books. How can our book stand out online? The answer to this question will be the starting point of both authors and agents.

    Do you think the “upstarts” could ever truly replace the Big 6 publishers?

    Not only will they, but they have already laid the seeds of doing so. The only thing the big six has over the upstarts is capital. Not even their name will hold fast in the barrage of literature that is jamming the market. Placement on Amazon goes to those who grease the palms of the E-Book giant. If a few choice investors choose to back some of the upstarts, the book giants will continue to lose footing until they are a memory. That is, unless they formulate a synergism with Amazon.

    What are some more questions we should be asking ourselves as we look at the future of our business?

    Here are three simple questions:

    1. Who does the majority of book buying according to genre.

    2. On what basis do they purchase books?

    3. How can the publishing companies place their product before the purchaser so that it becomes the hand down choice.

    These are basic marketing questions which have been largely ignored by publishing companies due to their refusal to see the change in the market. Get your book on top of Google and Bing searches, have it listed high on Amazon, and create a reader that handles MOBI, but is cheaper and is programmed to push your books. It is really not complicated, IMHO.

    Projection- The first companies to create a MOBI reader that handles all books but advertises their own material will be on top of the book market in five years.

    • Leslie Budewitz on February 15, 2012 at 1:53 PM

      Many publishers are studying who buys books and how, using Bowker’s research division and other firms who also survey the market. In 2010, Sisters in Crime commissioned a terrific study from Bowker that asked these questions of mystery readers. Unfortunately, the data change quickly, so staying current is expensive, but the data are interesting. If you’re a SinC member, the study is on the website,

      • P. J. Casselman on February 15, 2012 at 2:13 PM

        Thank you for the information, Leslie. 🙂

    • LC on February 15, 2012 at 3:13 PM

      I don’t know a single civilian (non-writer) who admits to ever having read or looked for an author website. I think you far overestimate the impact that author-marketeers have on the general reading public.

      If readers buy books online, they do it through iBooks or Amazon or, and the problem of connecting with a reader in those venues becomes the same as it is in a brick-and-mortar store: how do they know you’re there? It isn’t because of the current closed-loop system of would-be authors blogging on each other’s websites and tweeting like crazy to other would-be authors.

      People still find books they want to read through legacy publicity channels such as best-seller lists, reviews in trusted media, or word-of-mouth from people they actually know. Authors can’t break into that with the tools available to us now, no matter how many hours they spend on Twitter or Facebook. Until those legacy channels are replaced by something that reaches beyond the author echo chamber, the big boys will still be able to fight off the upstarts.

      • P. J. Casselman on February 15, 2012 at 3:47 PM

        LC, did you mean to reply to my post? I said nothing of blogs, Facebook, or Twitter. My post was about upstart companies creating discount MOBI devices with promo software for their apprentice.

        • LC on February 15, 2012 at 4:03 PM

          I was responding to the second paragraph in your comment: “Writers must be prepared to do a tremendous amount of online marketing to sell books. We must ask the question, ‘How does the average reader choose a book in today’s world?’ In years past, they often bought based on displays in book stores or reviews by those they trusted. Oprah, for example, helped shape the reading habits of an entire generation of women. Today, the web has become the first place most people go to find books.”

          I’m pointing out that people STILL buy books based on trusted reviews, advantageous product placement and mass tastemakers such as Oprah, not because an author has become a blogging dynamo or spends hours 24-36 of each day on social media. Those levers of author-to-reader connection still belong to the big publishers, which will help them fend off the upstarts until the upstarts replace or take control of the marketing machine.

      • Merrie Destefano on February 17, 2012 at 1:45 AM


        “I don’t know a single civilian (non-writer) who admits to ever having read or looked for an author website. I think you far overestimate the impact that author-marketeers have on the general reading public.”

        You might want to check out the following author sites. Their books are bestsellers and each author has a large fan base, all of whom seem pretty glad that their favorite author is also a blogger.

        Beth Revis:
        Kiersten White:
        Maggie Stiefvater:
        Amanda Hocking:

    • Helen W. Mallon on February 15, 2012 at 9:56 PM

      What’s MOBI reader stand for? Is it an ereader that can handle all formats–Kindle, etc. etc.? thanks!

      • P. J. Casselman on February 16, 2012 at 1:57 AM

        Helen, MOBI or .prc is what Kindle uses. While there are some other formats in use such as Epub, MOBI is used by Amazon.
        The idea of cross marketing a reader with ones books would be the same as the phone companies are doing with their phones. In order to get a special deal on a Blackberry, for example, you get their plan for web-based phone service.
        Wouldn’t people buy a Thomas Nelson Kindle at a cheaper price that gave promos for their books? 🙂

  25. Julie Daines on February 15, 2012 at 12:50 AM

    My main reason for going with a publishing company instead of self-publishing is that I want the feedback from an editor, I want my story to be the best it can be, and I’ve seen so many self-published stories that really need some editing attention.

    When the market is flooded with self-published books, how are readers to know which books are worth their time? For me, having an editor and publishing company behind a novel helps to narrow the field.

    Note: I’m not in any way saying that a self-published book can’t be beautiful and amazing. I know that many are.

    • Firebyrd on February 15, 2012 at 9:25 PM

      Believe me, that thought has crossed my mind, but I’ve now had a Kindle for two years. I’ve been absolutely amazed at how often a book with egregious errors has turned out to be published by a real label. Having a professional editor is a guarantee of nothing.

  26. Donna Pyle on February 15, 2012 at 12:46 AM

    Over the past few days, your posts have caused me pay serious attention to how people around me are reading. The e-readers outnumbered the paper & glue books by 7 to 1. And, most surprisingly, the audio book listeners weighed in at 40% of those. I’ve never listened to an audio book, so I was intrigued. The audio book listeners admitted they don’t have a lot of idle time, so they catch up on their reading while on the treadmill and commuting.

    It taught me as a writer I need to focus on honing my writing skills and maximize my time for faster turnaround. Publishers need to focus on digital avenues and faster turnaround on publishing schedules, as well as hiring great vocalists to get those books on audio. Just my two cents after a few days of intentional reconnaissance. Now, I’m off to order my first ever audio book to experience it first hand. Thanks for a great series of posts!

    • Rachelle Gardner on February 15, 2012 at 5:31 PM

      Thanks, Donna. Glad I’m provoking some thought!

  27. Charmaine Clancy on February 15, 2012 at 12:18 AM

    Really thought-provoking post! I think the big question publishers and agents need to ask now is ‘what can we offer the author that they can’t give themselves’. And maybe the answer will simply be more time to write. It is a quickly shifting industry and although the changes are exciting, it’s a little scary too.
    Wagging Tales

    • Joseph Ramirez on February 15, 2012 at 1:36 AM

      Good question.

    • Rachelle Gardner on February 15, 2012 at 5:25 PM

      Charmaine, “more time to write” is the perfect answer to the question!