Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Major publishing executives confirm their utter incompetence

Executives representing traditional publishing companies, on an industry panel this week at BookExpo America, demonstrate their utter cluelessness about how to address the ebook revolution. Here's a sample, to give you a clear grasp of their self-admitted incompetence:
Though none of the panelists, publishers all, were ready to say they don’t care about consumers—Random House Digital President Amanda Close immediately responded that “we have always cared deeply about our consumers”—they admitted that they’re facing stiff challenges in getting readers to discover new e-books. “Publishers do not know how to market e-books yet,” said Evan Schnittman, Managing Director of Group Sales and Marketing at Bloomsbury. Or, rather, they know how to market the new titles that they’re simultaneously marketing in stores, but the older titles that publishers are converting into e-books present more of a challenge. “Let’s be honest with ourselves, we’ve never marketed backlist before,” Schnittman said.
"Backlist" refers to older titles, the ones that the publishers no longer push. The way the industry has worked to date, they throw out a book for a few weeks, wait for the sales (and unsold returns) from bookstores, then forget about it (and its author) and move on to the next book, hoping for a bestseller. For authors, this means that their books have little chance of being discovered by readers before their publishers abandon efforts to sell them, and they become "backlist titles" -- which one exec admits "we've never marketed."

The ebook revolution has allowed authors to (sometimes) reclaim from publishers the rights to these older titles, then self-publish them. Books that are years old are now discovering new readers as ebooks, and some are selling hugely. But traditional publishers are sitting on vast archives of these works, and haven't a clue what to do with them.

Here's another report about the same panel. Skim it, then try to answer two questions: (1) What the hell are these self-important idiots saying? and (2) What author in his right mind would entrust his work and career to this collection of lame-brains?

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