The transformation of publishing

A lot of people miss that the transformation of the publishing industry has little to do with literature, authorship, even the reading audience. It is a business transformation driven by shifting costs.

There is no more economic need for publishing companies. Printing presses, paper and binding, distributing books are all so cheap they might as well be free. There is still a need for editors, qualified critics, and the other players who contribute to well-done polished books, but with improved electronic communications, a project manager, not a publishing house, is all that is needed to produce a book. Publishers are endangered by the disappearance of their purpose.

The transformation has not done well so far with incorporating the non-authorial contributors to the evolving publishing process, but it is early times and I have hopes.

I believe readers like and are willing to pay a premium for good books. Therefore I, as a reader, am not threatened by the transformation and the other contributors to a good book are not threatened either, but the ride may bounce us all around for a while.

—Marvin Waschke, on The Passive Voice


  1. It would be lovely to have a project manager; how much do you think one would cost?

  2. All the services I see tend to get very expensive very quickly – and I don’t trust them. Easy to spend money, hard to guarantee results.

    I just wish I had more than two hours daily of brain function.

    Do you do your own?


    • Yes, that’s the problem. Or rather, the problem is that most of the ‘services’ are actually vanity presses. What I have in mind instead, when I say ‘concierge service’, would be someone who acts as a sort of general contractor, seeing that the freelance editor, the cover artist, and anybody else hired to perform a specific service, get their jobs done on time and under budget. And who would be able to look at a given book and identify which services are needed, and recommend editors and artists and so forth who would be suitable for the job.

      I can sympathize about the two hours of daily brain function. With me it’s more like 14 hours a week, distributed more or less at random among the days. Some days I can’t do anything at all; once in a long while I can go like stink from dawn to dusk (or more often, from dusk to dawn).

      I do my own file conversions, proofreading, and interior layouts (for print books), and generally have a hand in the cover design. However, I employ trained artists to do up the covers, and I have a couple of consultants that I go to regularly for higher-level editorial help.

      • I am about to go that route – I think the cover is gelling in my head, finally. I have a friend who has offered to proofread – and I do a lot of that.

        I bought Scrivener, and will master it to make .mobi and .epub files (or else). Interior layout – we’ll see. There are some templates, but I don’t know if they will handle everything, as I have a bunch of extra features (which I minimize on WordPress and Wattpad – and it doesn’t get much simpler than Wattpad). I would love a nice hardcover with all the features I want – and may make myself one at some point.

        Time is money, but I want to know what I’m doing, even with my lame brain, before I let other people participate.

        I sympathize with the 14 hours/week. At least I can sort of corral mine into a couple a day at about the same time. When I’m not sick (sicker than usual), I make steady progress.

        In any case, if you don’t have spare brainpower and energy, then you can’t use it to sell your experience to others (like me) and that’s that.

        I keep trying to go forward. The good Lord will decide if I get there.

        BTW, I’m rather enjoying your essais – except that they use a lot of brainpower, so I’m not going very fast. I particularly liked the Star Wars one.


        PS Vanity presses make my skin crawl.

        • In any case, if you don’t have spare brainpower and energy, then you can’t use it to sell your experience to others (like me) and that’s that.

          I may be able to help with some things. Writing taxes my brain much more heavily than other, related tasks. It may be that I can offer some assistance, if you wish it, in the hours when I am not fit to do anything productive with my own work.

          PS Vanity presses make my skin crawl.

          Mine, too. In fact, if you see an empty skin crawling about on its own, corral it and send me a message. It may be mine, which crawled right off of me the other day and was last seen heading south for the remainder of the winter.

          • Writing taxes my brain much more heavily than other, related tasks.
            For me, writing is not that hard. The hard part is publishing: lining up an editor, a formatter, a cover artist, and putting it all together.

            • I’m a perfectionist – was first diagnosed as one about the age of seven; have never been able to quite shake it since.

              That means that when I am writing, I do not allow anything but my very best work to pass muster. (I mean when I am writing copy for sale. Obviously this does not apply to some of the silly tripe I post on this blog, or in comments on other people’s blogs.) I can only produce that quality of work when I am at the top of my game; it is very difficult.

              Formatting is something I do for fun, and I am sufficiently good at it for fiction (which needs to be formatted simply for best effect), unless I am putting files through the God-rotted ‘Meatgrinder’ at Smashwords. The output files from the Meatgrinder, for reasons unknown to me and undetectable in the .epub file, are mildly gibbled when displayed on iOS devices. The font changes at random intervals from that specified by the user to Times New Roman, and I am blest if I can find the code that makes it happen.

              As for editors and cover artists, I don’t make heavy weather about them, because I have a budget of pretty nearly zero for such things and have to work with those people who know and like me well enough to cut me a pretty substantial discount. (The liking is a higher bar than the knowing.)

              Putting it all together would be a heavy time-sink if I were more prolific, but since the bottleneck for me is the actual writing, I publish a new book too seldom for it to become a burden. Alas.

  3. It is a long term goal of time to start a review site specifically for self-published books, with a team of people (however small) performing the role of quality control, albeit flawed. This is the big loss that’s going to come with the downfall of publishing houses, and it’s a hole that can be filled.

    • There are a number of people who are trying to do the same kind of thing, but I haven’t heard that any of them have got any real traction in the market yet. So go with my blessing (for what that may be worth) and make your own attempt. You may be the one to work out the problems that others could not.

      • I’d imagine the main problem is one of marketing – which is ironic because that is one of the problems that this is supposed to solve.

        One day. Perhaps I’ll see if the Evil League of Evil is willing to promote it when I do actually attempt it. That would help.

Speak Your Mind