How is your Publishing sonar? Or Size matters?

Publishing and the future. Change is, of course the key word here. We’ve been seeing change, but not much of a response from the big 6 publishers.

Now some of the big publishers are merging or considering a merger–Random House & Penguin and possibly now Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins. One wonders if this is the best direction for them to go, but it certainly makes sense to want to combine resources to survive.  I enjoyed the November 3rd article on TechCrunch.com, the “Quick, Tie the Rafts Together” by Devin Coldewey (the link is here:  http://techcrunch.com/2012/11/03/quick-tie-the-rafts-together/ ) where he discusses the Random House/Penguin merger.

But with so many authors self-publishing and thus becoming entities that are both more nimble and faster in the new market–publishing in 2 months, thru ebooks, rather than in 2 years, thru print–I have to question this trend with publishers to want to go bigger. Normally, in the past, this would be the way to go in any industry that faces such change–to find ways to strengthen your company and maybe diversify a little.

It’s great that they’re finally really perceiving the need for change. As best-selling author and Cool Gus Publishing’s copublisher Bob Mayer said, back in April 2011 (and actually before that), the big publishers response to the epublishing trend was basically to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic–mostly they have been just protecting their turf (see his Write It Forward blog post, “I Don’t Know; I’m Guessing; I Know–the future of publishing for authors”). And in the industry itself, the rearranging has been in the percentage of books that are Indie vs Traditionally published, ebook vs print. Personally I like the combination–ebooks & print–and see the necessity for a combination of them in our society, but that’s another story.

I’ll take the analogy of the Titanic just a little further. The Titanic itself was so huge that it could not be turned in time to avoid that collision with the iceberg. And it didn’t help that it was also going too fast for the dangerous terrain.

So, while it’s good that these publishing houses are no longer just rearranging the deck chairs, are they becoming like the big ship itself? That is, a ship that’s too big to navigate through today’s uncertain waters, where the normal sonar may not register the shifting undercurrents and icebergs of change..or at least signal that a change of course could be needed quickly to avoid a disaster. And about the number of lifeboats…

As an aside, our government is facing the same issue. In the form of the Fiscal Cliff. Can we change course in time to avoid disaster? Congress seems to have its head in the sand.

On one final note, in the movie TITANIC directed by James Cameron, in the scene where most of the major characters are gathered around a table discussing the building of the huge ship, the heroine makes the comment about Freud’s theory on the male preoccupation with size. (In the context, it was funny.)

But it’s also interesting to note that one of the causes of the Titanic disaster was that the ship’s rudder…was built too small. A little irony.

In this case, maybe smaller would be better. The raft…

 

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