Seth Godin recently offered an interesting blog, "Without fortune cookies, are there fortunes? His post discussed the changing fortunes of writers. From my own experience as a writer, I've seen the extremely slow and lethargic publishing industry grind out a process to edit, promote and print my upcoming book. All told, it will be about 14 months start to finish, from the time I signed my contract to the time the book is actually on shelves at Barnes & Noble, Borders and Amazon (I guess Amazon must have shelves too). Advances on royalties are modest for all of those who are not Bill Clinton or Sarah Palin. And once the book starts selling, there is still a significant lag before a writer receives royalties. This model is challenging at best for any would be author, then again, my primary goal is to use the book as a platform to further support my B2B Marketing Services firm. This results in a symbiotic relationship, with the book(s) promoting my business, and my business creating profits allowing me to write more books. An author, seeking profit from book sales alone will likely need a sideline to pay the bills, often as an editor, copywriter or in many cases some unrelated field of endeavor. Very soon, the costs and logistics of paper based book production will likely result in a metamorphosis similar to the music industry as it transitioned from CDs to iPods. What will happen to the writers then? Will earnings for writers be further squeezed to the point that there are no more "full time" authors?
Magazines are predicted to suffer a similar fate to book publishers, with most periodicals paying freelance writers tiny sums, and those magazines which still have a full time writing staff under pressure to reduce costs and salaries. Paper based magazines are now competing against free publications including online magazines and blogs, most of which have content developed for free in return for exposure and improved search engine rankings.
Where is the publishing world going? It seems to be moving in a logical direction toward electronic distribution and it is moving there rapidly. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure this out. Barnes & Noble now offers an electronic reading device with a large Point of Sale display at the very front of their store, taking up valuable, premium floor space. One look at this exhibit and you know things are changing in their industry, and changing fast. In the not distant future, books may be available on your Kindle, Nook or Vook for a buck or two and articles for 10 cents (there are already many publications available on the Kindle for free). Writers may publish directly, cutting out the middle man, drastically reducing the time and money to publish. Perhaps readers will subscribe to an online news publication or a writers web site for a dollar a month. Perhaps the Kindle, Nook and Vook will directly publish works, paying authors royalties, electronically, and real time. One thing is certain, newspapers will no longer be delivered, paper based books will become a novelty and traditional magazines will become an Eco-anachronism. And I'm 100% confident that writers will be here forever in some type of reincarnated form. So I guess that's two things for certain.
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