I attended my first Book Expo at the New York City Javits Center with Opednews' own veteran Book Exponier, Rob Kall, who's visiting for his "sixth or seventh year." I'm the anonymous "friend" he mentions in his article Doing BEA 2015 who was looking for a freelance publicist. More on that in a moment but, gee, Rob, you could have mentioned you attended the expo with one of OEN's Managing Editors!
Anyway, it was good to go with an experienced guide to show how to network at a confab like this, which is really the major reason to go. We both went as press, which gave us additional insight to how the publishing world has changed, and not always for the better.
The "rise of the rest" or, as Rob would put it, the "bottom
up revolution" is a mixed blessing.
While it has allowed for a new slew of writers, orders of magnitude
greater than before, it has also so overwhelmed the industry, and the ability
of people to read all these books, that marketing has now become more important
than the book itself. Some years
ago, Amazon predicted there would shortly be more self-published books than
traditionally published books, but that prediction is now looking like the good
old days. Today,
More than 2.3 million new titles were published in 2012 (the most recent year for which complete figures are available). Of these, 86 percent (more than 2 million books) were "non-traditionally published, including print-on-demand and self-published titles.
...says one of the exhibitors, Indie Book Awards, in their catalog of 2015 winners. Awards like the Indie Awards, are, of course, one of the growing numbers of ways authors try to distinguish themselves from the great mass of pulp out there, perhaps leading to the need to rank awards themselves now, as well as the books. Maybe we need an award for the most important awards?
None of these long odds, however, seemed to dampen the enthusiasm of either the publishers, the support industry, or of the fans, who sometimes queued up by the hundred or more, to get a signed copy of a free book by their favorite author. It's hard to understand how giving away free books, as well as free author's time, is a viable business model, but I guess they make it up in volume"or, maybe not. That the Harry Potter's of the world carry much of the industry, is a cliche. And I didn't pick that super-successful series by accident. A section of the show was dedicated to the series being re-released in a highly illustrated version by Bloomsbury this Fall. And James Paterson, the world's highest-earning author, and never one to miss a publishing opportunity, is launching a children's imprint too. Bottom-up may be percolating with thousands of new authors on the "long tail" as Rob put it when we were talking to a potential publicist for me, but top-down Paterson grossed $90 million last year, says Forbes.
Being definitely in the far end of the long tail myself, with a self-published 2-volume novel, Neitherworld, now both old and (2007-2008) and obscure, and a brand new non-fiction book "America is Not Broke! Four Multi-Trillion Dollar Paths To A Thriving America" (Tayen Lane, 2015) which is doing little better at this juncture, I have been shopping for a publicist. Publishers, especially "micro-publishers" (the term used by another exhibitor for publishers like Tayen Lane, who have under 50 titles) can't or don't do much marketing, at least not by the megabuck standards of the larger houses like McMillan, Scholastic, Disney etc. or even on the micro side at the show, where independent publishers can rent a small table for $1,800 for the show's 3-day run (there's a second, more consumer-oriented 2-day show over the weekend, which the $1,800 fee covers as well). It's good to see there is an opportunity for even the smallest of publishers to get exposure for their less than half dozen titles, but oh, if only they didn't appear so desperate...
Getting back to Rob's and my interview with a potential publicist, she confirmed that A) the publishing industry is in the throws of a contraction and realignment within an overall trend in which the public thinks "information is free" and that B) authors now have to provide for their own publicity, because publishers won't do it anymore. Of course, the book is only a vehicle, at least on the non-fiction side, and a good publicist will help promote the ideas and the person delivering them, and not just the book. Several professionals have written that no one interviews a book, they interview the author. These days, says this publicist, many media outlets don't do either. The old days of authors going on the Today Show, or other mass media to promote their books, are gone, unless they are celebrities, and now you have to tie your message into some topical story, often writing a couple of times a week, just to keep your message "out there." This comports with my own experience. I've been writing about the ideas in my book for several years now and in fact, the book is an updated anthology of articles previously published on Opednews and elsewhere. And the publisher approached me. But in fact, I've had more readership on Opednews and Huffington Post for the articles than when they were tied together in my new book. But the question is, as the publicist pointed out in an interesting discussion between her and Rob Kall, is when everyone is writing for free online, "how do authors get paid now?" Rob and the publicist are coming to the bottom up revolution from different perspectives then, and the only thing one can say for sure at this juncture is that the revolution is here to stay and ongoing. One other thing can be said for sure, the old Labor Theory of Value, in which "the economic value of a good or service is determined by the total amount of socially necessary labor required to produce it," has been finally and firmly put aside in a day when an author can labor for years on a book that answers the great questions of the day, yet which few will buy, while another author makes millions by trading on her celebrity and may not even write the book to which her name is attached. Writing, that most intimate of public pursuits, is now often outsourced as well.