Posts Tagged Big Six Publishing
Wednesday’s post, Big Six Publishing is Dead made me sad to write. Yes, I am an indie author, but I never have held any malice for New York publishing. I’ve liberally offered ideas, suggestions and help. Still do. I think competition in the market is good for everyone. Yet, the current situation does make me wonder. What went wrong? Why didn’t New York act quickly enough? They saw what happened to music. They saw what happened to Kodak. How could they fall victim to the same problem when they had so much warning?
Actually, it is simple. They were a victim of pride and fear. Why am I writing about this today? Not to beat a dead paradigm, but I think we all can take a huge lesson from this in our own lives. History repeats itself only when we fail to listen.
The same thing that happened to NY publishing can happen to you. It can happen to me. Every day we must really challenge ourselves and be unafraid to ask the hard questions.
Beware of the Defense
I can debate with the best of them. I used to be like trying to have an argument with an attorney. For many years I excelled at being “right.” But I didn’t grow. I didn’t learn. I was a lousy leader and had very few friends.
Oh, but I was “right.”
What I’ve learned through years of hard work and failure and criticism is that being “right” is highly overrated. These days, the second I hear myself defending my position…I know I am wrong. When we have to explain and defend, that is a HUGE sign of trouble. We are all wise to listen for this. Will save a lot of headache.
When NY started having to defend the paper-based paradigm, that was a red flag. So why didn’t they see the red flag? Why is it still SO important to be right?
People will always want paper.
Target Fixation Trouble
What we believe is true is not always true. It takes humility to ask others their opinion because we risk not being seen as “smart.” Pride leads us into believing we know everything.
Years ago, I was in paper sales (a tad bit of irony here). I recall being in a corporate meeting and they were putting together the core marketing plan for 2000. They were going to get the customers lower prices.
I was the only female in the room and about 20 years younger than most of the attendees. They were all older men who’d been in the paper business for decades. I was afraid, but I raised my hand and asked:
“Is this what the customer wants?”
“Of course everyone wants lower prices!”
“Um, well, uh, no Sir. Not always. There are other factors we might be overlooking, like lead-times, customer service, quality, etc.”
So I challenged them to table the marketing plan for two weeks. I would write a survey, and, if all the customers wanted lower prices, then at least we would know “lower prices” was where we needed to be putting our efforts.
Turns out price was rated #4 on the list of what customers felt was important. #1 Lead-Time. They wanted their product as fast as humanly possible.
See, the people who ran my company just assumed they knew what the customer wanted. They never bothered asking and it cost them dearly. Even though the customers almost unilaterally said they wanted faster lead times, my bosses would not approve a second production line that I proposed, and it would have only cost a few thousand dollars. They refused to rent a warehouse in Houston (my other idea) where we could have stored the most popular products and it would have given us the ability to have same-day service.
I even suggested that we get away from filling out orders by hand. Do it on a computer. We could digitize the catalogue to make ordering faster. If we used computers for ordering, it would have synced beautifully with the new SAP system that our customers were integrating.
Nope. Fill out the order sheet by hand. Make everything slooooooooww.
And they lost millions in business. I watched my territory hemorrhage customers. I feel it is part of why my health finally suffered to the point that I had to resign.
Granted the company beating our tails was actually cheaper, but time and time again customers told me they wanted to stay with us. They liked us and had done business with us for years. They preferred our quality. But, time and time again they needed our product FAST and we couldn’t get there. Eventually the customers preferred a less-than-stellar product NOW over a better product in a week.
My company never understood that. They had target fixation…price. It kept them from being innovative.
NY believes it can charge the same price for an e-book as for a hard cover and that people will pay it because of stellar quality. Yet, I might suggest learning from my paper parable. Sometimes a customer will take less quality NOW and CHEAPER over later and better quality. (And, the indies and self-pubs are closing in on having as good of quality if not better).
Can’t See the Stories for the Books
NY has had target fixation–protect the paper book–and it has hindered creativity and innovation. Instead of leading the charge into the Digital Renaissance, they’ve been protecting the Dark Ages with agency pricing and grabbing of author backlists. They were so focused on paper, they failed to see they were in the story and information business…no matter what medium.
New York is suffering from what I call “intellectual inbreeding.” This isn’t an insult. All of us will suffer this and we must take action to bring in outsiders and fresh perspectives in order to keep this syndrome at bay.
When people spend too much time together, they begin to think alike. At first this is really wonderful because it is easier to work as a team and there is a surge in creativity. But, after a while, the creativity begins to taper off. As a group, it is easier to get tunnel-vision and target-fixation.
The Trouble with Being an “Expert”
Experts run into this problem a lot. It is why we need to be willing to ask potentially embarrassing questions. It’s why, ironically and quite paradoxically we need to admit we don’t know everything.
Hey, we’re experts not omnipotent.
We need to be willing to leave the safe shores of our expertise. It is why, at the end of every post I ask for reader opinions. Alone, I can’t know everything. With your help? I can get pretty close, :D.
My opinion? New York thinks too much alike. They have too many “experts.” Publishing is centered in New York and has been for over a century. Everyone knows everyone and they all work closely together. It is why we writers must always be kind and respectful (aside from it being the right thing to do). Why? Because that agent we blast in an e-mail because she rejected us might one day be the editor at the house of our dreams. NY publishing is a close-knit community, to say the least.
Which is why it is at a disadvantage.
It isn’t that the folks in New York aren’t brilliant, wonderful people, but their very environment leads to group think. It is easy to become more interested in defending what is, than to think of what could be. I can appreciate the conundrum. How would I feel if I had to envision a world where my colleagues would be out of a job?
The Future is Ours to Shape
Yet, the sad part is they didn’t have to be out of a job. When we are brave enough to face the future, even the scary parts, we can make a plan. We have more power when we face fear and kick it out of the driver’s seat.
The folks in New York could have been retooling personnel. Teach them how to format and be the best dang digital formatters in the business. If e-books were in the future, then by gum, NY would lead the charge.
But they didn’t and I don’t know how steep the consequences will be. They started making fear-based decisions, which never work out well. They may be making some changes now, but the problem is those changes are three years too late.
Many of those in New York are feeling the way many Americans are feeling. In the factory model, we are replaceable, usually by machines or people in other countries willing to worker harder, longer and for less pay. This why it is SO critical now of all times to be proactive, innovative, creative and remarkable.
Top-down decision-making is a dead paradigm. Regular people have a hand in shaping our future.
Creativity Needs Fresh Blood and Brutal Honesty
Creativity and innovation are easier when we bring in those with a fresh perspective who have nothing to lose by offering us honesty. I feel New York can’t see the forest for the trees, and they have underestimated the intelligence of “outsiders.” Has happened to me on Twitter quite a few times. I’m not in NY so I don’t understand. *shrugs* Okay.
I think that publishing could benefit greatly by giving their toughest problems to outsiders. Eli Lilly did it with InnoCentive. Heck, I do it with the WANAs. Some of the best solutions come from everyday people. Sometimes us “experts” get a little blinded by our “expertness.”
It is a remarkable time we live in. We are in the Digital Renaissance. But as the world grows more and more complex, so do the problems. It is taking more than one mind to solve the present problems. All the low-hanging fruit is gone and we need to reach higher. Even writers. We can take a lesson. We need each other.
The 20th century was the Age of the Individual. The Digital Age is the Age of the Collective. We must form teams and work together or we are toast. We are in a global economy with global problems, so we need global solutions. We need each other. We need to be more creative than ever in human history. To do this, we have to be humble enough to admit we don’t know everything and open to outside help.
As this world changes and grows and presents challenges never seen, we have to remember We Are Not Alone. Even you, New York.
So what do you guys think? I think the Big Six is dead, but Madonna, Britney Spears and Robert Downey Jr prove resurrection is possible. Industries have been known to reinvent and come back stronger. Do you think this is possible? Or is it too far gone?
What about your own lives? How do you keep creativity and innovation fresh? Have you been the victim of your own tunnel-vision and need to be right? What are your thoughts?
I LOVE hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of May, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of May I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
Winner of last week 5 page critique–Mona Karel. Please send your 1250 word Word document to author kristen dot lamb at g mail dot com.
Winner of 15 page critique for April is Heidi Thomas. Please send your 3250 word Word document to the same e-mail.
***IMPORTANT MESSAGE–For those who have not gotten back pages. My web site fiasco has been responsible for eating a lot of e-mails. Additionally I get about 400 e-mails a day and the spam folder has a healthy appetite too. It is hard to tell since some people never claim their prize, but I could have very well just not seen your entry. Feel free to e-mail it again and just put CONTEST WINNER in the header so I can spot you easily. (especially if your message is kidnapped by the spam filter).
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.
Thank you Parks Australia for the image.
A couple of weeks ago, I started a new series that I called Don’t Eat the Butt. Why? Because typing “butt” makes me giggle. No, I think there are some important lessons here, so let me explain. I have always found the puffer fish fascinating. For those who choose to eat the puffer fish, there is only ONE TINY PART of the puffer fish that is not deadly. Oh, and if you don’t know how to cut a puffer fish correctly, you can unwittingly unleash deadly poison into the non-poisonous part.
Take a bite! I dare ya!
Herb: Hey, this puffer fish kind of tastes like chick–…*grabs throat and falls over*
Fred: Note to self. Don’t eat the butt.
This idea of the puffer fish made me start thinking about our careers as artists. There are a lot of common misperceptions that can leak poison into our dreams if we aren’t careful. Thus, this series is designed to help you guys spot the toxic beliefs that can KILL a writing career. You might have heard the saying, Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Well, I am saying, Don’t Eat the Butt.
Some of us have been there, done that and got the butt-tasting T-shirt. I am here to hand down what I have learned from being stupid enough to eat the Literary Puffer Butt and survive. Watch, listen and LEARN. The smart writer learns from her mistakes, but the wise writer learns from the mistakes of others.
Without further ado…
Don’t Eat the Butt Lesson #3–Persistence can look a lot like stupid.
The successful writer is the one who never gives up. Yeah, uh…no. This lesson is a bit tricky since, of course, the ability to stick to something is a major factor in success. But, as I like to say, “Persistence can look a lot like stupid.”
For those of you who follow this blog, I hope you took time to read Wednesday’s post The Future of Publishing–Bracing for Impact. Why do I mention this post? Because traditional publishing is certainly not giving up…on an old, wasteful, utterly uncompetitive paradigm. They are being persistent, all right. They are being persistent to the point of making dumb moves like “agency pricing” and clinging to the printed book in a digital world. The Big Six are doing what has worked for decades, oblivious to the changes all around that are about to spell their doom. What do you call the publisher who never gives up (on a flawed business model)?
Big Publishing is currently eating the butt. They saw the music industry eat the Music Puffer Butt and DIE, then the film industry dined on some Kodak Puffer Butt and DIED, and, in the midst of all these dead
bodies industries, The Big Six are pulling up a chair and ordering the Literary Puffer Butt thinking they are the special exception. So let us at least be smart enough to learn from all this carnage.
Literary Puffer Butt KILLS.
Okay, moving on…
I believe in persistence, but we need to always make sure it is a smart persistence, an informed persistence, an honest persistence. I love Konrath’s quote, “What do you call the writer who never gives up? Published.” I totally agree, but this really great quote needs a little bit of clarification. Persistence alone (as we are seeing with Big Publishing) can be a disaster. It can make us get tunnel-vision and fail to see that we are on a dead-end road to destruction.
I teach at a lot of conferences, and every year I see the same people with the same books that have been rejected 624 times. They bring the same book to critique and redo the makeup on a corpse that they drag around even though it has started to stink up the place. Granted, some don’t keep querying the corpse, they self-publish it, and, even though it has only sold ten copies (all to their mother), they keep retooling the marketing plan, placing all their future hopes in one book. They remain loyal to a dead novel instead of taking it as the learning experience that it is and moving on to write more books and better books.
We all need to learn to be persistent. Persistence is a mark of maturity and character. Amateurs and infants drift from shiny thing to new shiny thing; professionals stay the course. But while persistence is noble, it must always be taken with a solid dose of reality. We need to stop, take an honest look at the situation, whatever that situation might be, and then be unafraid to ask the hard questions. We must invite real criticism even when we know it likely could sting like hell. And, after we’ve gotten a candid assessment of our novel or business plan or our dream to create the world’s largest Twister board? Then it is time to genuinely seek guidance from others to make a new plan, a better plan.
In the end? Friends don’t let friends eat Literary Puffer Butt.
So I have mentioned clinging to the same novel and reworking again and again as an instance of Literary Puffer Butt. What do you think? What other Literary Puffer Butt is lurking out there on the buffet that we might need to look out for? Have you eaten Literary Puffer Butt and lived to tell the tale? Share your story of survival. Have you saved a friend or family member from Literary Puffer Butt? And, yes, I am having way too much fun typing Literary Puffer Butt :D.
I LOVE hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of February I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.