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Publishing: Change or Die

Cover of "Change or Die: The Three Keys t...

Cover via Amazon

I read a fascinating book called Change or Die recently. It documents what makes us change and what makes us resist change. Quoting heart disease and lifestyle specialist Dr. Dean Ornish, “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.” But change is coming and it’s happening faster than so-called experts predicted just a few months ago.

The premise is that for people to adapt, they must harness the power of community, process and engagement. Leaders must lead by example. Facts and fear don’t change people, even in dire circumstances. The author looks research showing how heart patients and career criminals made real positive change and adapted.  Real change is collaborative.

What’s interesting about the changes that are happening to publishing is that, despite a long history to draw on, the changes are still happening to publishers. Publishers are harnessing the awesome power of denial to affirm that they are still on top and will always be on top. We’ve heard this tune before and you know it ends with a swan song.

For instance, in Change or Die, we can see the same pattern with GM. GM insisted their cars were superior despite facts. GM execs even changed the scale of how they measured their success (i.e. number of car defects) to protect their illusions. Throughout, they would not acknowledge the superior reliability of foreign cars. GM had to lose a fortune before they began to see they sucked. Arrogance nearly killed them. Thanks to a huge reality check and huge government checks, they got saved from themselves. (Publishers aren’t too big to fail though, so we’ll see many big publishers disappear or become micro-publishers soon. Well, that’s really already happening.)

Traditional publishers have had market dominance so long, many still think it will last forever. They take the facts—self-publishing and ebooks are going through growing pains—and affirm their eternal dominance. Nevermind all those people buying e-readers! Nevermind the expansion of self-publishing and DIY due to technological changes. The e-book ad POD problems aren’t a sign of their demise. That’s growth. No technology emerges in its final form. There is no final form until we’re extinct.

The market is changing under publishers. They aren’t, on the whole, acting in a proactive way. And yet, we can’t scare them into believing the revolution is here. Facts don’t work, but fear doesn’t, either. (I’m not writing this to scare anybody, though inevitably it will scare some.) The publishers and agents of the traditional structure will survive long-term when they decide these aren’t problems but opportunities.

When they turn from despair for the old models to hope, then they can begin to adapt to new market conditions. Then they can change and thrive. There will be room for everybody. There are more readers reading more (but they are reading in new and fractured media.)

As a writer, I see the opportunity to promote my work. I might sell part of it myself and go the traditional route with other parts. (No, publishers can’t assume they get all the rights anymore. I’ll have to work harder and diversify and they’ll have to accept less or get nothing. Everybody gets to take part in the adaptation process and it won’t all be fun, but how much of business is all fun? Suck it up, writers and publishers.)

As an editor, I see more opportunities to work with diverse authors on their self-published books. I don’t have to live in Toronto anymore to work in Canadian publishing. In fact, where I am isn’t at all relevent. (Loved T.O, but I like raising my kids in a smaller city.)

As a reader in an electronic world, I can get easier access to books I never would have been aware of in my local bookstore. Yes, there’s more curation to do, but there’s always been curation to do. Now I can find out from friends and trusted blogs new stuff to read that isn’t on a top ten list.

Digital books are easier for me to access and eat. Digital books are easier for me to produce. E-books are easier to edit. Oh, look, I’m a curator, too! Look at all those links to check out!

And now you have another book to buy: Change or Die by Alan Deutschman.

Filed under: authors, book reviews, Books, ebooks, Editing, Editors, links, publishing, Rant, self-publishing, , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

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