tea and philosophy

Why traditional publishers are sleepwalking into oblivion

Reading Time: 2 minutes

tea and philosophyRob is a successful writer and publisher.

I met him at one of my self-publishing workshops where I teach people how to convert print books into eBooks.

Rob became an independent publisher after his manuscript was rejected by every major Australian publisher.

Undeterred, he bought a professional binder and printer and made paperback copies of his book. Pretty soon he’d sold eight thousand titles and was receiving orders for many more.

Encouraged, he approached traditional publishers again and showed them his sales figures. He offered a business model that was advantageous to them both. After all, it was now clear he had a healthy audience for his books.

Again he was rejected. Rob thought he must be doing something wrong.

In an effort to discover what it was, he attended a workshop on how to pitch a book. It was here that he heard a presenter say that a best-selling Australian author sold about three thousand titles.

Rob was astounded. If a bestseller means three thousand books, then his paperbacks were blockbusters.

He also realised that traditional publishers are completely out of touch with their readers. He said traditional publishers are not entrepreneurial and couldn’t see a new business model right in front of their faces. Rob realised he didn’t want to be associated with an industry bound up in old thinking.

So he walked away.

Rob continues to sell thousands of print books.

Recently, he was forced to turn down an order for a thousand of them because his printer and binder broke. So he added eBooks to provide extra revenue, and so he wouldn’t have to rely solely on print books any more. And when he converts the remainder of his collection into electronic versions, he’ll reach an even wider audience via Amazon. When this happens, he’ll be one of Australia’s best-selling authors.

Rob’s story is inspirational, but he has some advantages:

  • He knows traditional publishers are wrong and that there’s an audience for his work. In other words, he knows he has a niche market;
  • He’s knowledgable about his subject;
  • He was prepared to buy a professional binding and printing machine to distribute his books; and
  • He’s keen to learn, hence the reason he attended my eBook workshop.

I admire people like Rob because instead of being discouraged by rejection slips he became pro-active. And guess what?

He’s right.

Rob’s gamble — that he could publish and distribute the paperbacks himself — paid off. And now that eBooks and print-on-demand books are easily available, he won’t even have to buy a new printer and binder.

Traditional publishers are sleepwalking into oblivion.

Don’t join them.

Author: Sue Bell
Sue Bell is an entertainment writer and author of Backpacked: A mostly true story, Beat Street and When Dreamworks came to Stanley.

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