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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Will Publishers Get Better at Incubating Talent and Selling the Niche??

I'm unaccustomed to coherent thought before the second cup of coffee, but reading Publishers Lunch's recap of one of yesterday's panels at the 2011 Digital Book World Conference & Expo, "A CEO’s View of the Future," might have triggered a neural blip.

Lunch quotes Perseus CEO David Steinberger as saying that he "sees a giant wave [coming] where the book that has a more modest audience is going to reach people in a way that's more seamless than ever before."

Much has been written about self-publishing as an increasingly viable alternative to fruitlessly banging on traditional publishers' doors as they've become preoccupied with the "big book" for lots of reasons, some of their own making and some in response to marketplace pressures and profit demands of conglomerate owners.

Two things publishers brought to the table for physical books were distribution machinery and major media connections. If publishers can become as good at mining niche markets through online marketing for e-books as they became at distribution and major media for p-books, they could become once again a fertile ground where the so-called "midlist" or "niche" book can succeed and contribute to everyone's bottom line. Maybe there could be a renaissance of sorts, where publishers could return to a cherished earlier role of incubating talent rather than buying it at nosebleed prices that don't do the industry or the next crop of talent any favors.

Maybe others have had this thought - I take no ownership for its originality. It arrived, as I said, before my second cup of coffee.


  1. It would be great if publishers could develop the niche marketing talents imagined in this post, but with very few exceptions I see no real signs that this is happening . . .

  2. Wish it were otherwise. The windows of opportunity slam shut faster and faster these days.

  3. It's interesting that the two things traditional publishers brought to the table in defense of traditional print books were distribution and media connections. Seems to me that getting books into stores and getting the word out that they exist are two of the areas where publshers have been weakest in recent years. More and more they appear to be looking for authors who bring those very skills to the table for them, via "platforms" developed in areas other than book publishing. I'm certainly not saying that e-book publishers necessarily do any better, but at least distribution isn't an issue. I think that if I were a traditional publisher I might want to push the longevity of the printed book, its lasting shelf-life (at least in the home if not in the book store). I've yet to see anyone with an e-book shelf-lined living room or den. Even I--addicted as I am to the convenience of my Kindle--miss that aspect of being a reader.

  4. This comment from Perseus ticked me off. All of a sudden the niche or medium or midlist, whatever we call it, book is back in style for conventional publishers? Reminds me of the spouse who suddenly can't live without you once you have filed for a divorce.