business / publishing / writing

The Problem with Publishers (and Agents)

The publishing industry is changing. No doubt about it. I posted on the impact of ereaders yesterday. There’s more to it, though.

As an author, I attend conferences. I chat with agents and publishers, listen to their take on writers and the industry. Few admit to a problem in the publishing industry. Most of them, as they sit on the dais with their tired faces and overworked stares, continue to whine about how busy they are. How they have floods of authors trying to rise above the frey, how they really don’t have time to read more than the most scintillating of query letters.

Most often, they blame authors for our inability to get noticed.

We authors and wanna-be’s have listened to them. We believe they are too busy for us. Considering 80% of Americans want to write a book, that’s an awful lot of people disillusioned with our chances of cracking the glass ceiling of Published Authors.

What publishers and agents didn’t consider was that we wouldn’t give up. We didn’t crawl back to our home offices to rework our novels, or buy more books on How to Write the Blockbuster Novel, or enroll in yet another conference that promised to get us noticed by Those on the Dais.

We found another outlet for our writing fervor, one that has made millions of cracks in that glass ceiling: Ebooks. And publishers don’t like it. Doesn’t matter, though. It’s too late to turn this ship around. More books are e-published and self-published today than any other method, and that’s having an impact on those very agents and publishers who refused to give us the time of day. I don’t revel in their demise (OK, I’m sensing some repressed anger in myself which I promise to deal with–later), but I do consider it the consequences of their actions. Here’s one example:

Editor & Publisher’ to Cease Publication After 125 Yearseditor and publisher

December 10, 2009 12:13 PM ET

Editor & Publisher, the bible of the newspaper industry and a journalism institution that traces its origins back to 1884, is ceasing publication.

An announcement, made by parent company The Nielsen Co., was made Thursday morning as staffers were informed that E&P, in both print and online, was shutting down.

The expressions of surprise and outpouring of strong support for E&P that have followed across the Web — Editor & Publisher has even hit No. 4 as a Twitter trending topic — raise the notion that the publication might yet continue in some form.

Nielsen Business Media, of which E&P was a part, has forged a deal with e5 Global Media Holdings, LLC, a new company formed jointly by Pluribus Capital Management and Guggenheim Partners, for the sale of eight brands in the Media and Entertainment Group, including E&P sister magazines Adweek, Brandweek, Mediaweek, Backstage, Billboard, Film Journal International and The Hollywood Reporter. E&P was not included in this transaction.

As news spread of E&P’s fate, the staffers have been inundated with calls from members of the industry it covers, and many others, expressing shock and hopes for a revival. Staff members will stay on for the remainder of 2009.

Greg Mitchell, editor since 2002, has hailed the staff and accomplishments, including a dozen major awards and strong showing on the Web for many years. Some staff writers/editors have been at E&P for a quarter of a century. “I’m shocked that a way was not found for the magazine to continue it some form — and remain hopeful that this may still occur,” he said.

Editor & Publisher was launched in 1901 but traces its history to 1884 — it merged with the magazine The Journalist, which had started on that earlier date. (more)


6 thoughts on “The Problem with Publishers (and Agents)

  1. Pingback: Are Ebooks the Publishers’ Waterloo? « Word Dreams…

  2. I am still young but even I recognize changing of power to the independent writer and all his aspirations. I’ve read/heard kept my ear to the ground that next year is going to be the year of the eBook Reader.


  3. I am an old doctor. Any line of work, be it medicine, automobiles, music, or books, that becomes about the industry and not about the people it should seek to serve will fail.

    When that happens, the people who ran it aground are always surprised. Those of us close to the street are sad but perplexed as to how they could not see it coming.


    • Therein lies the real reason old school media is failing. They’ve lost touch with the writers that made it vibrant. Like those old bluegrass musicians who first made the genre popular. Nice blog you have over there at Stories of the Bluegrass music Road.


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