Friday, September 07, 2007

What the Authorhouse Acquisition Means to Readers and Writers

News about an acquisition from Publishers Weekly confirms that the publishing industry keeps changing and that those of us interested in books must keep up with it, even if it doesn't seem to pertain to us.

Why is the news that AuthorHouse, the Bloomington, Ind-based self-publisher backed by the private equity firm Bertram Capital, has acquired competitor iUniverse, backed by Barnes & Noble, important to those of us not involved with either as well as those who are? Because this kind of thing can affect the pricing of printing services(with less competition, you may have to pay more if you want to use those services). Because this kind of thing can affect the numbers of books being printed which affects how any book must meet the competition. For readers it may mean they will have to choose more carefully and watch their book allowance more carefully.

That both of these giants (iUniverse publishes about 400 books a month and AuthorHouse does between 500 and 600) now have competition they didn't have before may have been instrumental in the acquisition. After all, Lulu.com and the looming presence of Amazon's CreateSpace are nothing to sniff at.

So what does all this mean? The principals at both subsidy-publishing giants assured Publishers Weekly that they had no plans to cut back on production or close offices. Nor to change the branding of the two houses. (iUniverse offers lots of editorial services and AuthorHouse tends to "give authors more control over their work" which, in the long run may mean a less professional product). Authors, especially new authors, may need more guidance than they get from many of the subsidy-publishing companies. That may mean more opportunities for editing services. It may also mean more scam artists will get into the already considerable praying mantis mode. In fact "preying mantis" might be a more appropriate spelling.

That aside, it looks as if authors in general need to ratchet up their marketing efforts. Certainly, there is no indication the numbers of competing books will drop.

Further, all authors -- those who are traditionally, self- and subsidy-published -- will want to battle the idea that all books that are printed on demand are somehow inferior.

In spite of this cozy acquisition, I see the industry becoming more finger-pointing and intolerant rather than less. Our role, as readers and writers, is to demand that books be judged not by their covers or the press they are printed on but by their quality.

And how can individual authors, regardless of how they publish plan for success?

1. Think niche markets as you plan your titles. Jewel Sample's children's book that focuses on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is an example. A niche helps you find your specific reader more easily by going where they hang out -- on the web or in real-life venues like bookstores and classroms.

2. Promote wisely and frugally. You're in competition with writers who can pay for lots of services from iUniverse (or others) and/or writers who have the budgets of big publishers behind them. The Frugal Book Promoter will help you sort out the possibilities and give you the details you need to work the choices you make.

3. Write as if your career depended on it. It does. That means edit for all you're worth, from the first cover letter that gets sent with your first contest entry to your book manuscript. The Frugal Editor is now availalble to help you with that.
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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author THIS IS THE PLACE; HARKENING: A COLLECTION OF STORIES REMEMBERED; TRACINGS, a chapbook of poetry; and two how-to books, THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER: HOW TO DO WHAT YOUR PUBLISHER WON'T; and THE FRUGAL EDITOR: PUT YOUR BEST BOOK FORWARD TO AVOID HUMILIATION AND ENSURE SUCCESS.
Her other blogs include The New Book Review a blog that helps writers and publishers turn a ho-hum book fair booth into a sizzler.
She is also the founder of Authors' Coalition.

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