Marketing expert Seth Godin spoke to recording industry execs recently about the changes they’re going to have to make to survive in the new music market.
Well, the publishing industry faces similar changes as ebooks approach true feasibility, and any writer, editor, agent, or publisher who is interested in surviving in the changing market needs to read Godin’s Live Music Talk and step out ahead of the curve.
One point Godin emphasizes is that recording companies could shift to providing valuable services such as building tribal-type communities for their artists. Interestingly, the most successful romance authors I know have been building their tribes for years. For example, Nora Roberts has her Noraholics, and Debbie Macomber has her incredibly faithful band of readers who turn out for signings in droves (Debbie publishes a paper newsletter that goes out to thousands of these faithful!). Both Nora and Debbie have put a lot of time, money, and attention into gathering these tribes, and it has paid off in spades. Only recently have their publishers begun to contribute to their efforts.
Authors can already put digital copies of their books on-line very easily (check out these free downloads from science fiction author and blogger Cory Doctorow). Once a truly usable ebook reader hits the market, the houses will find themselves fighting the same DRM battle as the record companies — with as little success (as Godin points out, suing listeners/readers is both a BAD idea and a battle you can’t win). Instead, smart publishers — the ones who ultimately survive — will find a way to provide valuable services to readers (and thereby to their writers) other than killing trees.