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Publishers fear the Internet because the consumers are in control now

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Old 02-16-2012, 09:25 PM
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Default Publishers fear the Internet because the consumers are in control now

I think all of the anxiety that people are expressing over the advent of electronic books and other new technologies can be broken down to one thing. The real fear is not of online piracy or of self-publishing upstarts defeating corporate publishing; it is in the shift of market control from the producers to the consumers. I think this is a good thing. It forces publishers to be as honest as possible and it forces writers and editors to think of the readers in everything they do.

The consumer is selfish, as selfish as anybody ought to be when it comes to their money and what they want to do with it. The consumer does not owe loyalty to any writer, publisher, or vendor. This has always been the case, but before we had social media, it was possible for those who own the means of production to monopolize the discourse about the entertainment products that they buy. Reviews, interviews, advertisements everything about the latest book was found in major media outlets that were tied to the publishers; either through advertising dollars, or through simply having the same corporate structure as them and thus, being able to communicate with each other through normalized channels. The major retail chains are no different; neither are the major online retailers.

It's different now. It is easy to find consumer-generated buzz about something online; people will flood forums, blogs, twitter, and whatnot with their own $0.02 about anything they want to, especially popular culture, including the books that they read. The volume of this is greater than what publishers, agents, and other "official" marketing sources can do; they can spend all the money in the world that they can afford to spend, but they cannot outweigh the consumers.

What this means for everyone is that the consumer is at the center of the equation. Everything that we create and publish has to be somehow relevant to a consumer's experience and need. I am not talking about the need to escape or the need to be entertained because as important and as obvious as these things are, they are too general. Writers need to ask: what kind of reader will be able to relate to this book? What needs will the characters and the things that they do in the story satisfy for the readers? What kind of reader has these needs? Agents, editors, and publishers all need to know this too. It is not practical to market a product as if it is for everybody, by screaming out about it to the public as if it was an undifferentiated faceless mass. (At least, it is not practical for everybody to do this for all products; some companies still have the money for this sort of thing.) Every book has to be thought of in terms of the individual needs that they fulfill.

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Old 02-17-2012, 01:31 AM
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("...no, the word internet is far too vague a term for me..." replied the goblin feeling that forumland, moreover, actual forum readership should be their biggest fear here, why, because of various factors, one, that people have less time to read at length as reflected in both their shortened attention spans and alternative distractions, two, that a good forum should be able to offer the reader a mixed bag of content that an individual can't offer, three, that the reader can interact on a level playing field unlike a blog which talks down to its readers or a book which one can't talk to it at all, four, that the reader at any moment can switch from being the reader to being an author by either replying of starting a new thread, five, that the username is in effect the author's penname here where a google search quickly shows up their internet history so that a that famous livewriter become both known and traceable without any of those published hoops and hurdles, six, that the established writers have by and large overlooked this medium as something either unprofitable or beneath their stature leaving the field wide open to the livewriters here, seven, that the publishing world shares the same view as those established writers do, etc., ...", "...well, that's and a lot thats goblin, btw goblin, in your humble opinion do you think anyone sane ever reads to the end of your posts here..." asked the voice in the back of the goblin's mind once more, "...well yes, but only if they're that desperate I suppose..." confessed the goblin about it)

Last edited by fleamailman; 02-17-2012 at 06:14 AM..
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