The Quirk Survival Handbook
Survival experts will tell you that the keys to surviving any life- or limb-threatening situation are always the same:
• Be prepared.
• Don't panic.
• Have a plan.
These handy tips (in addition to a well-read copy of a certain emergency-yellow-colored, best-selling survival manual …) will help you emerge intact from the worst disasters you will ever encounter, be they shark attacks, earthquakes, debt crises or hurricanes.
But are these simple tips enough to get us through the massive disruption taking place around us? The demise of retailing and distribution as we know it? The removal of the middle man? The push from the 800-pound retailing gorilla to become a 1,600-pound publishing and retailing gorilla?
I believe that the short answer is a resounding "yes." The disruption we are all living through in the publishing industry is nothing if not life- and limb-threatening. But, if we are adequately prepared for the changes that are still to come, if we remain calm in the face of uncertainty, and if we formulate a plan (or at least have a vision) and stick to it, we'll be more than fine.
I believe that as publishers and curators of the most ancient form of mass entertainment and information that has ever existed (that object we call "the book"), we will not only survive, but will in fact thrive, and even (gasp!) create new opportunities for future growth and success beyond what we've experienced yet. I believe that at the end of the day, we have the potential to sell more books—and more profitably—than ever before.
However, the challenges publishers face are not small. Most of us have focused on honing our curatorial skills and our distribution skills over our creative development skills and our marketing skills. As a result, we have allowed others to sit between us and the two most essential groups of people in our industry: our readers and our authors. We've let agents occupy the position of trust and value between publishers and authors, and retailers occupy the same position between publishers and readers. We've allowed ourselves to become the middlemen, too, despite the fact that we are the ones directing, developing and certainly funding this entire crazy endeavor. And now that the digital disruption is rapidly removing all that stands between authors and readers, we need to make sure that publishers don't become one of the things that gets removed.