Rethinking the Publishing Company

September 14th, 2010 · 42 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

I think we all know what the publisher of today looks like. The hierarchy and positions have become comfortable, established. Sort of like really nice flannel pajamas. That’s not to say nothing ever evolves; I mean, who wears the same pair of pajamas forever? And, if you talk to publishing people, you know those flannel pajamas are threadbare in parts, have a few holes, yet remain too familiar to abandon.

Now the analogy falls apart, mostly because while, sure, I can talk about pajamas with great authority, I’d rather talk about new jobs and new skills for 21st century (and beyond!) publishing companies. It’s a mix of stuff I’ve discussed before (as have others), stuff I’ve been mulling over, and stuff I’m test driving.

Note: there are publishers out there already implementing and hiring and rethinking. Love them. Love them. Love them.

Second note: these are not single person positions. They are skills. They are woven into the job.

Project Development
Hands down, the coolest changes will happen in the editorial department. Editors will continue to acquire, develop, copyedit, and go to bat for great projects. No question there. You’re not going to get out of acquisitions meetings that easily.

However, acquisitions editors will change how they think about — and there’s no way around this word — projects. There will be booky-books. There will be multimedia extravaganzas. The type of project will drive the final product. Just as authors and agents are starting to think big picture when it comes to works they are shopping, so, more and more, will editors. Is it text, is it a web-based community, is it an application, is it a living, interactive experience? One or more of those?

The key difference between an enhanced/transmedia/fill-in-your-buzzword books and books with some additional marketing material is how it is approached in-house from day one. Enhancements must be planned, and they must be logical. This requires vision at the acquisition phase. The editor of the future will consider what serves the work rather than what serves a format, and that editor will be required to consider enhancements for every book published, deciding if they are truly transformative or merely marketing on a case-by-case basis.

Our thoroughly modern editor will sometimes go by the the name project developer. Rightly so. Even today, books are projects. Acquisition, editing, artwork, production, marketing…all of these are part of the final product that is known as a book. This project must be shepherded through the entire process, guided by a strong vision. Fragmentation of vision is a guarantee of failure.

Someone needs to be in charge of all aspects of the book — whatever form it takes — from beginning to end. This is particularly true if the book is slotted as a transmedia project. Nobody — nobody! — is better positioned to execute the vision than the acquiring editor. It’s a different kind of job. It’s a visionary kind of job.

Note: Marketing material, those author interviews and recipes and tacked-on content, is just that. Never confuse the two, because your readers won’t.

It will take a different set of skills, and not every editor will be suited to the job. This doesn’t make them less valuable. The new publishing house leverages all types of specialized and generalized skills. The coordination of a multimedia project requires the ability to see the finished project, to find the right in-house or third party talent to fulfill the vision, to keep the entire project on track, and, yep, drive the marketing machine. Editing a booky-book (which may be digital, print, or both) requires other skills.

As a booky-book type person, I appreciate that editor beyond words.

(In my magic world, marketing reports to the editorial team because that’s where the vision starts.)

Editorial, Again
Editorial staff will be on the front lines of coding manuscripts; they’ve already started this. Yes, I did say coding. There will be tools to make this job easier. They will be awesome tools. They will work the way they’re supposed to work the first time. Because this is the future and things work in the future.

But the process of mark-up will originate in the editorial group and — if all goes according to plan — be finessed in what can only be called the copyediting phase (but there will be a cool job title associated with this). In order for a true XML or any digital based workflow to be effective, the manuscript handed over to production must be properly prepared. That’s the job of editorial. You cannot count on production to guess at formatting, and getting it done right by editorial means fewer passes at the manuscript.

Because this is my magic world, authors will also work with Word correctly, making the lives of the editorial staff much more pleasant.

(These skills are not crazy-fantasy talk. These are the skills that are — almost — innate to anyone who spends time in the online world. It’s not how old you are, it’s how comfortable you are with digital tools. Within a generation, this familiarity will be part of our DNA.)

Obviously, the ideal is a digital file that can be output to any and/or all formats possible. The file will (ideally) be ready for a little graceful degradation — a concept that allows the book to move from a high-end system that displays all bells and whistles to the lowly eInk device (which is not so lowly). Or progressive enhancement, which is the opposite, with the same result.

Right now, outsourcing is au courant. This adds costs to the product. I know publishers are bringing digital production in house, and, speaking as a consumer, it cannot happen too soon. We get too many bad conversions, be they library titles or brand-new books. Better workflow will lead to happier consumers!

Oh, and production people will be involved, to a degree, with the creation of all that lovely multimedia stuff. They have talent in layout, design, typography, HTML 5, Flash (yes, okay, but yes), audio, and more. This is the staff who will handle projects great and small. Having the right people on staff is critical. They need to know the technology, today’s and tomorrow’s, because it’s impossible to make smart decisions without understanding what is being requested versus what can be done.

They may not have all the talents necessary, or time necessary, for projects. But if you don’t have people on staff who understand the project, how do you communicate it to freelancers and consultants? How do you get effective (read: cost effective) bids? How do you know who to hire? Who speaks the right language? Who translates between the creative team and technical team? Who makes the decisions to outsource or handle it in-house?

Hmm, overlap with marketing? I’m sure there is. It’s either the circle of life or the way teams in publishing should work. Your call.

I sorta feel like I should leave marketing out of all this because there are smarter minds than mine thinking about how to connect books with readers. Marketing is tough, and if anyone has figured out the formula for marketing books, I haven’t heard it. In a perfect world, every book gets a huge marketing push and that helps it sell a bazillion copies. In the real world, that doesn’t happen.

Still marketing needs to be involved early and often. Not to say that they can’t figure out how to market a book editorial loves. Marketing, I think, should be yes men. Marketing should be working with editors to figure out how to best position that book to reach the right reader. We have so many options, so many possibilities, that books should be less about can’t, and more about how.

(The above paragraph should have a reasonability clause. Sometimes you need a grown-up in the room because you can definitely swing from those rafters, but someone needs to point out the rotted beams.)

There are a lot of parts to the marketing job, and the work is piling on, not reducing. Today’s marketing people must know the traditional aspects of their job as well as web analytics, web development techniques (if not to build in-house, then to clearly guide contractors), online social media (meaning offline social media, too), and more.

Marketing needs to be part of a partnership. When Jonathan Karp announced his reorg focusing on small teams, there was understandable skepticism. The vision of “…two editors, two publicists, and one marketing specialist…” was seen as fantastical. Clearly, this small team approach is only meant for some books, though the zeitgeist should permeate the entire Simon & Schuster publishing environment. At least I hope it will.

It’s a great vision, one I’ve advocated (and probably stole from Karp somewhere along the line). As you see above, I’d add in production people in certain circumstances. Teams need to be across disciplines, based on the book, not hierarchy.

I’ve worked in team environments before, and with the right team, things are amazing. There’s a flow that happens, especially when egos get checked at the door and strengths and weaknesses are accepted and embraced. I’ve worked in bad team environments as well. Made me appreciate the great teams all that much more.

Marketing needs to be focused on traditional and digital. It needs to be focused on consumer-oriented, personal communication. Social media — which is our digital version of hand-selling — needs to move beyond the push approach to the conversation. Which means marketers need to be empowered to speak to consumers directly, in the places where consumers live.

One of my favorite marketing initiatives of the past few years happened when the person behind the Little, Brown Twitter feed and a sales rep for Random House separately engaged in making holiday suggestions for readers. Yes, they pimped their own house books, but they also made thoughtful suggestions. To me, this is the best kind of marketing a publisher can do. I’m still thinking about it, two holiday seasons later.

Consumer Relations
One major publisher has, of course, looked to hire a director of piracy. In my opinion, the job description (mostly) did not describe a director-level position. Presumably there will be staff to handle the take-down notices and whatnot. That leaves a lot of free time for a director, assuming said director has staff, and if you’re a director without staff, huh?.

What I propose is creating a smarter, more robust team dedicated to consumer relations. Piracy is part of this group. Macmillan’s biggest flaw — based on their job description — is the job they’ve described is entirely focused on anti-piracy initiatives, most of which are not terribly effective. There wasn’t a single proactive, consumer-focused task on the list. Which is not to say this position is not needed. Piracy is a huge problem. But focusing on fly-swatting is not a director-level job.

Focusing on consumer relations? There’s a job. Especially if publishers are serious about moving into a business-to-consumer world. The customer service aspect of the job will increase. This group will be online everywhere, and will be all over the globe, talking to readers at festivals and conferences. They’ll be selling the publisher and catalog instead of a single book. They’ll be selling the value of books in smart ways.

Right now, no publisher is talking to readers about what they do, how it matters, how consumers fit into the ecosystem. It’s so much easier to rip of a faceless conglomerate than it is to rip off someone you know. Consumers don’t know publishers. They don’t know the business. They don’t know how their choices impact authors. Wouldn’t it be nice if they did?

Which leads me to one of the toughest consumer problems publishers face today. Handling the issues surrounding bad files and making sure readers get what they paid for (or licensed, as the case may be). I’ve spent some time trying to deal with ebook quality control issues via various the customer service areas of various publishers, and I haven’t been very pleased with the results.

The best is Random House, who uses Get Satisfaction. However, the responses still haven’t been that great, questions have disappeared, and my comments have also disappeared. Also, I couldn’t figure out to get there from the RH website; a friend pointed me toward the service. Still, I did get responses, if not satisfaction.

B2C means dealing with crazy ebook problems, dealing with piracy, dealing with Twitter, blog postings, Facebook, GoodReads, and any other forum where people are talking about your books. The job overlaps with marketing (which should offer a hint of where this job fits on the org chart), but focuses on what consumers are saying. This position (or positions) should have a voice, an ability to influence management. The consumer is not always right (oh boy!), but the consumer has a point-of-view that should be represented.

Dealing with consumers directly is hard. Trust me, I have a nasty scar to prove it. Listening to consumers is absolutely worth it. The publishers who get this will engender great goodwill. The publishers who don’t will not. The latter is not good.

I know I’ve overlooked, underanalyzed, barely considered these roles. What am I missing? What other roles need to be rethought? I’ve left out finance, I’ve left out web development. Boy, there is an entire week of essays. Most importantly, I’ve left out passion. I linked to Ami Greko’s “Three Jobs Publishing Houses Need to Fill in 2010” at the beginning of this piece, but wanted to circle back to one job she identifies: The Passionate Insider.

I particularly like her examples of passion, and at least one of the people she calls out had her work noted in this article. Passion, talent, skills. One can be taught. One can be developed. And one can be the key to success.

File Under: The Future of Publishing

42 responses so far ↓

  • Mike Cane // Sep 15, 2010 at 4:36 am

    So editors become Hollywood Executive Producers or even Producers? And shove “transmedia” down a writer’s throat despite the writer’s own intent? And those booky-books that are stupid things just filled with words … they can go to the graveyard of Smashwords? I go slit my throat now, kthxbai.

  • Robin Mizell // Sep 15, 2010 at 7:01 am

    Kassia, you mention that the publisher’s “editorial staff will be on the front lines of coding manuscripts.” In some situations, that might be true, but at many houses, the editors are not inclined to be quite so tech savvy. Consequently, just as sorting through the slush often is done elsewhere, coding manuscripts could become the responsibility of the author or the author’s agent. With the super new tools of the future (I’ll believe in them when I see them), that won’t seem like such a burden. For now, a great XML how-to guidebook would be nice. I’m sure I’ll be needing one.

  • Guy LeCharles Gonzalez // Sep 15, 2010 at 7:14 am

    Your vision for editors and the often overlooked aspects of consumer relations in B2C are spot on, but I’d vigorously disagree with marketing as “yes men”. That’s not a partnership, that’s a recipe for disaster, akin to the idea that “Big authors don’t get edited.”

    In a multimedia world, marketing becomes an equal partner with editorial, so much so that I believe the lines will blur so much at some publishers that you’ll have a difficult time separating the two. That’s a good thing, IMO.

    Great post, and a perfect spark for this week’s Roundtable. 🙂

  • Will Entrekin // Sep 15, 2010 at 7:20 am

    You need to rethink marketing. New marketing (like new publishing, which is actually just publishing) is no longer about books: it’s about content, stories, and authors.

    Authors, not their books, are the brands.

  • New Skills for Publishing (Roundtable: 9/16/10) | Digital Book World // Sep 15, 2010 at 7:30 am

    […] Rethinking the Publishing Company Kassia Krozser, Booksquare The key difference between an enhanced/transmedia/fill-in-your-buzzword books and books with some additional marketing material is how it is approached in-house from day one. Enhancements must be planned, and they must be logical. This requires vision at the acquisition phase. The editor of the future will consider what serves the work rather than what serves a format, and that editor will be required to consider enhancements for every book published, deciding if they are truly transformative or merely marketing on a case-by-case basis. Our thoroughly modern editor will sometimes go by the the name project developer. Rightly so. Even today, books are projects. Acquisition, editing, artwork, production, marketing…all of these are part of the final product that is known as a book. This project must be shepherded through the entire process, guided by a strong vision. Fragmentation of vision is a guarantee of failure. […]

  • Stacy Boyd // Sep 15, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Great piece! In my own work, I only edit booky-books, not transmedia projects, and yet I’m already feeling the move toward “project developer.” All of the books in my line-up are sold in multiple areas: North American retail of course, but also mail-order subscription, direct-to-consumer ebooks, and in hundreds of overseas markets. They may also be picked up for translation to manga for print and mobile. These are things I must consider when buying, editing and packaging books.

  • Kassia Krozser // Sep 15, 2010 at 7:43 am

    Guy — As you likely noted, I somewhat backed off my yes man statement by noting there does need to be a grown-up in the room. The problem, in many instances, is that marketing has far too much power, and that power, right now, is focused on “marketing” as it works in the print world.

    If the team approach is to work, yes, there is some sense of equality, but there must also be a team leader. I am proposing that be an editorial person. I agree the lines will blur — that’s how it works when you have a really strong team environment. It’s a bit like ronduri, only without the strikes and blows.

    Remember: this is my fantasy world. I’m letting others add on.

  • Kassia Krozser // Sep 15, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Mike — I’m not all that het up about enhanced books (I am a booky book person), but I accepted, long ago, that this is the right direction for many books. While I didn’t address the roles of authors much here, I did note that this is the direction authors and agents are already going. They are positioning their books as multimedia projects, and, if publishers plan to compete on a serious level, they need to have people on staff who can see that vision.

    It’s not about shoving something that doesn’t work down the author’s throat, it’s about serving the work.

    Pablo Defendini of Open Road asked me (and others) what the line between motion picture product and book product is (paraphrasing wildly, of course). I thought it was clear in my mind then, but I still haven’t fully formed an answer. One starts life with the intent of being a purely visual medium with words as adjunct. The other starts life as a text-based medium with images and sound and movement bolstering those words. And already, there is a blurry line between the two industries.

  • Stephen Page // Sep 15, 2010 at 8:52 am

    A very smart piece. The lines around this stuff are likely to be fuzzier but you nail the key shifts. The issue is a cultural one. How do you persuade the central, acquiring editor – who in many cases are driven by taste, conviction and a close association with books – that these new skills and ways of going about things only improve their chances of finding readers for their writers? Not by calling them Project Managers I suspect. Like all cultural change I suppose it’s most important to find out what those editors are fearful they will lose, and find out if they are sceptical about what they’ll gain. They are usually the smartest people in the building…..

    And yes, marketing has as much to learn but is perhaps more often inclined…

    Great piece.

  • Susan Neuhaus // Sep 15, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Some writers and editors seem to like the xml workflow, and the control it gives them over their content. At e production hour on twitter (#ePrdctn), Marie Bilde outlined the xml workflow currently in use at Gyldendal. The lexicographers author the dictionaries directly into xml using iLex:
    “Actually, lexicographers seem to like this detailed semantic structuring of entries!”

    This may not be true for all kinds of books, but xml workflows may not be a soul-killing experience, either.

  • Kassia Krozser // Sep 15, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Stacy – thanks for this. Since you work for a publisher who really pushes the envelope of experimentation (which, you know, I admire beyond words!), having the kind of vision to see possibilities in books is essential. As is, I suspect, a great memory for books you’ve previously acquired as new initiatives come online and you’re asked “so what would work for this new idea?”

  • Mike Cane // Sep 15, 2010 at 10:29 am

    >>>And already, there is a blurry line between the two industries.

    And there shouldn’t be! The line should be clearly marked.

    What the publishers don’t yet realize is when you add, say, video with audio, all that has to be redone for other markets: audio in local tongue, text inside video in local tongue. Suddenly, having to translate *just text* — like the “old days” — won’t seem like such a bad idea!

    And oh, wait too — if it’s a video Q&A with the writer, do you just add translated subtitles or — gah! — dubbing?

  • Pablo Defendini // Sep 15, 2010 at 10:30 am

    @Robin Mizzell
    “at many houses, the editors are not inclined to be quite so tech savvy.”

    I hate to be harsh (ok, maybe not), but then maybe they’re not the right people for the job anymore…. the times they are a-changin’. I’ve seen this happen in the design/advertising business during the transition to desktop publishing. Older art directors who didn’t keep up with the times (and some young ones who decided that sticking to their anti-technology biases was the trendy thing to do) eventually faded away—they either retired or were replaced (some of them did have enough clout that they got assistants, who we lovingly referred to as ‘crutches’).

    It’s a shame, because some of those guys had real skill, experience, and talent, but the reality of a business is that if you don’t keep up with the state of the art, the world will pass you by.

  • Kassia Krozser // Sep 15, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Robin — I think (and this is always caveated with “it’s *my* think, yours will be different) the editor mindset will change. Look at the comments of Stacy Boyd and Susan Neuhaus. I also believe editors have more skills in these areas than their management realizes. We’ve been in the web world for closing on 20 years, and editors are comfortable with the language of mark-up. Yes, there will be some who aren’t inclined in this direction, and each house will have to figure out the how of implementing smarter, more cost effective workflow. I simply believe it’s an editorial responsibility, not a production responsibility.

    And, as each house implements its workflow, it will acquire or create the tools needed to help editors do their jobs. What I see as coding will largely be invisible to editors, just as most web people no longer handcode sites. We have the technology to do much of this work already. So you’ll get a guidebook, but it will be unique to the house since there is no one-size-fits-all flavor of XML.

  • Kassia Krozser // Sep 15, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Susan — Thanks so much for sharing this. Somehow I am not surprised that lexicographers are taking to the this ;). And Marie Bilde is just awesome.

  • Clive Warner // Sep 15, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    So where are publishers going to get all those “editors”? (by ‘editor’ I mean people who actually mess with words.)
    I believe things will just get worse and worse. Bloated old publishing companies won’t adapt fast enough. By the time they see the light, bookstores will have ceased to exist and everyone will be self-publishing on Kindle.

  • Chris Kubica // Sep 15, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    I think the successful publishing company of the future will not see a book as a static paper or digital product but rather an ever changing combination of author, editor, publisher, reader.

    I also think that they will need to get out of thinking of a static eBook or pBook “text” as the main input. Rather, a book will be a collection of content and raw data. Then there are endless outputs from that…videos, audio, POD pBook, eBooks in their many open and proprietary formats, Web output, and so on.

    Also, I think the most valuable “markup” for future “books” will come from the author and the readers. Editors/Publishers/Agents in between will act as various types of expeditors/facilitators/matchmakers in the markup process.

  • John Blossom // Sep 16, 2010 at 6:50 am

    Great insights, I think that you’ve nailed many of the key trends. Would that more publishers were adopting them more aggressively.

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  • Robin Mizell // Sep 16, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Pablo, if evolution were pretty, then everyone would jump in and learn what was needed to get the job done. But as you say, the process often entails turnover, or if there isn’t enough money to employ assistants or to outsource, then stagnation and, eventually, obsolescence results. Often, the workhorses who pitch in to accomplish tasks that aren’t in their job descriptions suddenly find themselves with permanently expanded workloads and no increase in pay or authority. I can’t overlook the trend that has authors and agents assuming more of what at one time were the responsibilities of publishers. If I must choose my poison, I’ll be better at coding than book publicity. I’m no different than the editor who still uses a red pencil, I suppose.

    Kassia, your concept of project management makes sense, but perhaps a project manager (or, in Mike Cane’s view, a title producer) should have the latitude to pull together a team based on the skills required rather than the team members’ job titles or job descriptions. I can imagine a future in which an author’s work is produced by a crew of skilled collaborators who come together for the duration of a single project. In other words, book publishing might become part of the gig economy. And yes, it would look more like film production.

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  • Lisa // Sep 17, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Thank you! as a “Project developer” of “art of” and “making of” visual books for film and television, you have described my job, as an editor, perfectly. I spent my first ten years in the publishing business as an “audio editor” working with lecturers and original spoken word teaching tapes. After getting into visual books and experimenting with a bit of multimedia, from my perspective technology is finally catching up with the “transmedia” possibilities for the publishing industry- mainstream or otherwise. Looking forward to being a part of this evolution. It’s happening whether we like it or not, so might as well embrace it!

  • Shelley // Sep 17, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Sigh. Although I’m a writer, I can barely keep up with what you say here. I’m so old-fashioned!! I do see, though, that a lot of you ideas dovetail with Seth Godin’s as well.

  • Melita M. Pereira // Sep 19, 2010 at 2:45 am

    This was an incredibly informative post and a great insight into the way in which participants in the publishing business are having to re-calibrate their notions of what is necessary to make successful publications in a constantly evolving environment!

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  • Anna DeStefano // Sep 20, 2010 at 8:11 am

    Late to the party, Kassia, but I’ve enjoyed reading all this. Dorchester is one of my publishers, so you can imagine how timely your topic is for me and my peers at that house.

    The project management approach you describe is already being used not just by the Dorchester staff I’ve work with, but other publishers as well–teams of professionals creating a total package designed to meet consumer expectation. It’s just that the projects these teams are charged with making a success are changing faster than ever before.

    Complicating this dynamic is the reality that what we’re selling is ultimately an emotional connection between an author and a reader. How does a project team harness that? There is no magical, one-size-fits-all solution for what makes one story work for an audience, while another fades no matter how much money and time goes into producing it.

    Regardless of which direction the publishing industry moves next, we can’t forget that the book itself is the core of our business. The story. A timely promotion campaign can propel a book to a great sales result. But the story must satisfy the reader, or we lose word-of-mouth momentum and return business.

    The writing (and by writing, I mean the collaboration between author and editor, honing the story to as close to reader expectation as possible before it’s packaged) must remain a key focus. A successful publishing team first needs a kick-ass book to build their plans around. As much time and money as possible must go into creating each story. Yet advances and deadlines (and editorial staff) devoted to mass market fiction contracts seem to be shrinking at an alarming rate.

    As we study the publishing industry’s changing business model, my hope is that more attention than ever is paid to the “development” side of the project management cycle. To the authors and editors that produce the product that the rest of the team is hired to promote. For some reason it appears as if supporting that part of the business model isn’t receiving its share of the conversation these days. An unfortunate oversight.

  • Bob Mayer // Sep 20, 2010 at 8:28 am

    All good points. However, I see so many articles, blogs and conferences on the future of publishing. And constantly being over-looked is the author. Digital Book World was a bunch of publishers, editors, tech people, but no authors. We’re saying the book is changing, but is anyone asking the authors? Or are authors still going to be interchangeable parts in this business? Because, frankly, as an author who started his own publishing company, I’m doing everything above with the people I work with. David Morrell, ditto. Covey. Do we see a trend developing? The other person I see that isn’t part of all this discussion is the reader. Authors produce the product. Readers consume the product. Everyone else: lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way. I really suggest all the experts start getting input from either end of the process.

  • illukar // Sep 20, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Multi-media is to books what 3D is to movies. It can be done brilliantly and well, making the medium into a whole new experience. It can be a reasonable addition, a subtle enhancement. Or it can be a pointless waste of time which was never appropriate for the piece, causes negative structural changes, and is seen by the consumer as a blatant money-grab.

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  • J. Nelson Leith // Sep 22, 2010 at 7:33 am

    I just want to jump in to say that Robin’s comment about “workhorses who pitch in to accomplish tasks that aren’t in their job descriptions [and] suddenly find themselves with permanently expanded workloads and no increase in pay or authority” is one of the most insightful observations about the dynamics of business (any business) that I have read in a while. It’s certainly more refreshing than the diversionary, pro-management apologetics that typically masquerade as business analysis.

    When workloads jump for whatever reason without a commensurate increase in compensation, the organization has effectively cut the salaries of those affected and/or demoted them. They are essentially being punished for providing more.

    Talk about disincentives! Such shifting workloads during this tech revolution may be a partial explanation for why PW’s survey found that 32 percent of people in publishing either wanted out of or were “unsure” if they would stay, while 19 percent more wanted to switch firms. (That’s a 51-percent unsatisfied rate, for those without calculators at the ready.)

    When dealing with workers who have high-end talents (professionally literate people certainly fall into this class) execs can fool themselves into thinking morale and retention aren’t problems, due to the huge pool of third-stringers waiting to move up. But, when third-stringers move up, quality slips down … including quality in accurately recognizing first- and second-string talent.

    There’s no practical, economically sustainable substitute for fair dealing and meticulous attention to function and compensation. Rethinking is necessary, in the face of technological advance, but the industry can’t neglect basic economic dynamics in the process.

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  • Shelley // Oct 2, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Well, I’m learning from all these comments. An ancillary problem for me as a writer is to find an agent who is (a) established enough to be able to help, but (b) new enough that they’re thinking ahead of all the technological changes being discussed here. I assume there’s no such clearinghouse for such agents….

  • Ryan // Oct 11, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    The most interesting aspect of the future publishing industry in this article is the idea that piracy should be combated through intimacy.

    I hope that as conglomerates begin to lose their market share to independent producers catering to niche markets on the internet, the indies will benefit from having depended on that intimacy to establish themselves in the first place, let alone survived the whitewater changes rocking the industry recently.

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    […] your writing skills can be used with transmedia it reminded me of a great post on Booksquare called Rethinking the Publishing Company. Although published in September 2010 I still find this is very apt when having a conversation […]

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