Author Royalties in the Hot Seat
Of course, this has only been proven to work with a certain type of author—nonfiction writers who see themselves as strong brands. For this reason, some see these new approaches—from no-advance models to special e-book deals to self-publishing—as a sort of cherry-picking of proven talent, leaving traditional publishers to take all the risk in developing, for instance, good fiction. (RosettaBooks CEO Arthur Klebanoff was quoted as saying, of the Covey deal, "There are superstars, and superstars are entitled to more.")
The Internet May Be a Game Changer, but Publishers (and Their Authors) Will Still Be the Players
Ellenberg, however, doesn't buy this. When the dust has settled on the transition to Web 3.0, he believes the traditional marketing and distribution advantages enjoyed by large publishers will keep them in good stead. "The Internet is a game changer in every sense of the word, and one of the ways it's changed the game is it has allowed information to flow much more freely," he says—which can be good or bad, depending on one's ability to get, and hold, a consumer's attention.
"The six big publishers remain the primary repositories of the absolute best in fiction and nonfiction," Ellenberg says. "I don't see that changing. I think their reach is going to continue to be what it is, and there's no reason why, if we can find a successful model for selling intellectual property … the big publishers won't continue to do well. The whole self-publishing market is really a variation of subsidy publishing of 40 years ago. It ultimately is going to frustrate the consumer, and they're not going to get involved. Who can browse 100,000 books and say, 'Oh gee, I really like this one?' We need tastemakers; we need professionals. I think publishers have tremendous strategic advantages that are not going to go away."