NB – I have noticed from the amazing amount of commentary this post generated over the last two weeks that there seems to be a misunderstanding of my intentions here. Granted, I chose a very inflammatory title, but this article, especially when taken in context with the follow up piece Discounts Must Align to Risks, is about supporting growth in the ebook market, not predicting its demise. Ebooks are the future and getting there as an industry will require some hard evaluation of how things work and a better understanding of publishing economics.
This piece is about consumer or “trade” publishing as we call it in the industry. To begin, let’s review how a book becomes a book. A writer gets an agent who peddles a manuscript to an editor who buys the book. The Publisher then pays an advance against the future royalties. (N. B., trade books advances are often, if not nearly always, greater than the actual royalties earned.) The publisher edits, designs, produces, prints, binds, warehouses, and finally, distributes the book to resellers (retailers and wholesalers). Concurrently the publisher is out pre-selling in an attempt to get as many units shipped to resellers as possible.
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