“Creative destruction” is what happens when a technological breakthrough challenges existing power structures. Think of the effect of the automobile on the horse buggy business. A more recent example is the rise of file sharing and the world of digital music. In the past five years, music publishing profits have declined by more than 50%. And yet, there is no shortage of music. Music isn’t being destroyed; it is flourishing. But until Apple and the iTunes model came along, music publishers were in trouble, and many are still having difficulty adapting.
With the rise of the dedicated e-reader (the Amazon Kindle), tablets (the iPad, and Android tablets), and the smartphone has come an explosion of writing. Small and independent publishing houses no longer need huge presses, warehouses, and shipping operations. They can put their books on websites, servers, or attach them to emails. In the past two years, the output of the independents has increased at least sixfold.
But the biggest growth of all has been in the world of self-publishing. Why? Put simply, the legacy publishing model was all about gate keeping. You had to find an agent. The agent had to get you past the acquisitions editor. Even after you got published, you needed to get reviews. Together, those gates kept well over 95% of would be writers out in the cold.
Even if you managed to storm the castle, you still handed over the lion’s share of the money. Most authors make between 8-15% on the sale of a book.
But with self-publishing, you don’t need an agent. You don’t need to run the gauntlet of serial rejections. And self-published authors flip the deal on price: 70-85% of the money goes to the author.
So there are more books than ever. Does that mean that all of them are making money? No. (It doesn’t mean that all of them are good, either. But some of them are – in 2012, 16% of the New York Times bestsellers were self-published.) Here’s the key challenge of the 21st century: how do you get noticed?
In a period of creative destruction the players change. We can be sure of this: the world of publishing, of book selling, of public libraries, hasn’t faced this kind of challenge since the invention of printing.
Welcome to the most exciting time in the history of writing!
James LaRue is the former director of a successful public library district, featured in Forbes Magazine and NPR as an innovator in the space of ebooks and libraries.
To learn more about having Jamie speaking at your upcoming event, please visit his page at www.denverspeakerbureau.com/jamie-larue , contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (303) 478-6652.