Five Events That Rocked Publishing In 2012

Sharing is Caring

Browse Categories

Five Events That Rocked Publishing In 2012 by Tim Sanders

December 18, 2012

No one can say that 2012 was an uneventful year in the publishing industry.  It's featured buyouts, law suits, disruption, and an everywoman's story of unlikely dominance. All of this while we kept reading, writing and honing our craft.  Here are five events that we'll still be talking about next year, and likely for some time after that:

1 - 50 Shades Of Grey Blows Up:  This story, featuring E.L. James, started in 2011 when she self-published her novel in the UK.  Several social reading websites, such as Goodreads, discovered the book and created a mountain of buzz, which made it a breakout title in 2012.  Vintage picked up the book, offering it wider distribution and a packaging/PR machine to take it to the next level.  Currently, the book has sold over sixty million copies, eclipsing sales records set by the Harry Potter series.  This development is significant, as it's inspired countless scribblers to create their own trillogies, self-help tomes, biographies as well as fan/fan fiction knock offs of the Grey series.  This has to rattle traditional publishers, as the uber-successful self published author has tremendous leverage over them in negotiations, relegating them to the role of VC/Distributors.  Expect several stories like this next year, albeit not as likely to be as huge in terms of unit sales. 

2 - Amazon's DOJ Sues Publishers For Value Fixing:  Last year, it became apparent to major publishers that Amazon's $9.99 razor blade/shaver approach to driving eBook adoption was commoditizing their business model. Instead of a book being worth $15, $20 or $30 based on it's content, it was now $9.99, based on its format (electronic).  Amazon could maintain this subsidization strategy infinitely, until either publishers or publsihed authors were beaten into submission.  So, the Big 6 (allegedly) got together, creating a new model that allows them to set their own price and give Amazon/retailers a 30% fee for the transaction.  The result was still a book that was priced substantially less for the electronic version than the costly print version. The DOJ decided that it was price fixing, and now publishers must pay the freight and we are back to buying books at a price point that resembles double issues of magazines and not information products that pass many hours of time or solve real problems.  This means that, in the digitally delivered future, it will be harder and harder for authors and their publishers to make a reasonable profit from their work.

3 - Random House and Penguin Unite For Survival: Likely influenced by the year's current events, combined with last year's retraction of retail shelf-space, Random Penguin was created in a shotgun wedding.  Consider this the first verse in the musical chairs production we are likely to witness over the next few years.  This merger won't be as impactful as a cross-industry merger, such as Time Warner Cable buys Hachette or Google buys Hyperion.  The precedent, though, is set for traditional publishers to either unite in collusions or be purchased for parts (editorial, sales channels, back titles) in a fast changing industry.  God forbid they ever have to break out their actual operations numbers, which will reveal that they make up for their bad decisions by the occassional hit and the ability to hide inside multi-national conglomerates as a 'boutique division.'

4 - eReaders Get Appified: In less than ten years, eReaders have seen their sharp rise and fall from necessity as tablets and minis swallow their value proposition in a reading app.  If you no longer carry a compass (there's an app for that), an address book (sync'd apps abound) or a point and shoot camera (you get it), you can see the future of the eReader.  Futurist and Net Minds Select author Robert Tercek sites that this may go down as the fastest obsolescence event in product history.  In a few years, eReaders will be incremental devices, sentimentally owned by the same people that collect vinyl records, wear writwatches and print out maps before they leave the house.

5 - A Major Publisher Decides To Double End Its Business Model: In real estate, when you make money on the buyer and the seller, it's called "double ending the deal."  You represent both sides of the equation and double your commissions, usually to the detriment of either the buyer or the seller.  Earlier this year, Simon & Schuster partnered with self-publishing mammoth Author Solutions (ASI) to wade into the author services business.  A simple Google search of "ASI" and "scam" will yield enough hair raising results to suggest that this operation (where editing, design and consultations were delivered by offshore workers on a treadmill) fails to serve the authors or their intended readers.  As one pundit sniffed, "they should call the new entity Simon & Schister!"  This means that, in the future, the slushpile becomes the money machine, where publishers tell authors that their manuscript isn't worthy of being published - unless the author is willing to mortgage their house. (Go ahead, click on this link for the Google results.)

What were the biggest events of 2012 from your perspective?  Tell us in comments, we'd love to hear about them!

Tim Sanders

About Tim Sanders

Tim is a bestselling author and former Yahoo! executive with a mission to disrupt the traditional publishing and self-publishing industries and share knowledge with authors looking to publish and market high-quality books.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Read More Like This Post