The writing industry is changing every day, and many people aren’t sure what to do next. The waves of change are beating upon us and no one knows which way is up. But I think I’ve figured out how to better orient ourselves, and I challenge authors and publishers to consider this and to get on board with this new way of thinking. I, for one, am ready to make the change.
It begins with the music and movie industries. I’ve made the parallel between the music and movie industries and the future of the writing industry before. (Click here and here.) But I’ve been thinking a little more practically about such things recently, and I’ve decided that in light of the obvious parallel’s there’s something we’ve been missing in our approach to the writing industry.
Once upon a time in the movie, and more recently the music, business large studios held all the chips. They paid for, produced, filmed, and distributed their most prized items. But when these industries began to change, studios saw value in sub-letting the production and distribution processes. What studios became were the funding and marketing arm, the grand master of the project, and a gate-keeper name by which audiences could trust to produce quality content.
But in the writing industry, these large studios, or publishers, don’t want to give all that up. Instead smaller publishers have grown to fill the void, but are still trying to do a similar job as large publisher. Even in the indie world of film and music, a small production company trying to act like a large studio is ludicrous.
So that’s where we need to be…a similar structure to film and music production. And all it’s going to take is a paradigm shift in the way we think. In order to explain, let me lay out the general process in the film and music industries.
Someone writes a script. A production company reserves the rights to the script. The production company pitches the film to the studio. The studio contracts the production company to produce the film. The production company produces the film. And the studio puts its name and resources behind the film to make sure it’s a success. Look at the back of a DVD…how many logos do you see?
It’s the same story basically in the music industry. A band writes some songs. A producer signs the band. The producer pitches the album to a large studio. The studio contracts the producer to record the album. The album is produced. And the studio puts its name and resources behind the album to make sure it’s a success. Look at the back of a CD cover (do they still make those?)…how many logos do you see?
How do we apply that to the writing industry?
An author writes a book. A production company “signs” the author. The production company pitches the book to a larger publishing arm. The publishing arm contracts the producer to create a finalized product. The project is completed. The publishing arm puts its name and resources behind the book to make sure it’s a success.
Well…maybe it won’t work out exactly like that. hopefully you get the drift. And I’m not sure if we can get the major publishing houses to play this game yet. But it’s probably coming. In the meantime consider this:
- Most every element in the writing industry already fits this mold of being either author, part of the production company process, or publishing arm. They just don’t think about it that way and are trying to perform multiple roles to the detriment of their own sanity.
- Many authors are easily capable of being their own production company, much like directors who write and produce their own films, but are often discouraged from doing so.
- Small publishers usually either excel in production or in being a publishing arm, but often not both.
So, I’m challenging all of you out there to figure out where you fit into this puzzle. Are you author, production company, or publishing arm? Let’s shift the way we think to follow the same pattern we see in film and music. And yes…we’ll begin to see multiple logos on the backs of books.
Author…are you capable of being your own production company? If so, do it! Look for publishing arms that fit your needs, but don’t forsake the importance of having a good label name attached to your product. If you can’t produce yourself, then find a producer…it need not be a “publisher,” but maybe another author or editor that is successful as a production company.
Publisher…do you really excel in both areas? If not, stop trying to be it all and excel in what you’re good at! If you’re a production company, then be that. Look for authors who can’t produce themselves, and look for other “publishing arm” excelling labels to work with. If you’re a publishing arm, then be that. Look for production companies, be they author, editor, agent, or small label owned, and let them do the heavy work. Concentrate you name and resources to making sure what they produce is a success.
I for one, from hence for, decry myself a an author/production company. I am perfectly capable of handling such things myself and have the resources and connections to take a project from beginning to publishing ready. I am NOT a publishing arm, and do not wish to be. I will consider publishing options on a project by project basis. And if you are an author that does not wish to do their own production, then I invite you to pitch your project to me.
I realize there are some details to work out…like royalties, production costs, contract terms, and rights ownerships. But I think it can be worked out…because really nothing big is changing, it’s just shifting. Production and publishing need not be the same thing, and it’s time we followed the example of film and music and stopped working ourselves insane trying to follow a defunct model.
And for the love of all that is good and holy…will someone PLEASE forward this to the large publishing houses and convince them to get on board as the big-name studios that contract out to the smaller production companies.