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The Future of Publishing & the Writing on the Wall

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

This past Monday (November 20th, 2023), Draft-2-Digital announced that they broke the million book mark! (That's titles, not books or copies sold).

This is an incredibly interesting number. If we consider that Draft-2-Digital started in 2012 (11 years) that means, on average, they've released just shy of 91,000 titles per year.

Statistics released during the Penguin Random House/Simon & Schuster antitrust trial in late 2022 stated that, of their 58,000 titles per year, half sold fewer than a dozen copies. Now, let's forget about the 50% selling less than 12 copies. That's a topic for another day. Let's just focus on the 58,000 titles (books) per year.

This is the largest publishing house in the USA. One of the big 5.

Now Draft-2-Digital just announced their breaking of the one million title mark. That's, on average, 90,909 titles per year. (And I'm sure that latter years average higher than the earlier years).

That is nearly double what the biggest of the big 5 traditional publisher in the USA reported.

A sign of the times? I think so. The older antiquated models are being replaced with a newer model. The phenomena of the rise of the indie-author is upon us. The end of the age of the gatekeeper-publisher is here. The ascendance of the smaller press and publishing models has arrived. My, my, my, times are a changing.

It is the end of the gatekeepers that's shines more predominantly to me. It is the end of the 'safe sale'. (ie Justin Trudeau's Common Ground will definitely sell copies, but is it any good? It isn't important whether it's good or not. It will sell).

Big corporate companies deciding what does and doesn't see the light of day. Historically, the traditional publishing houses don't know - and never really have known - what is good and isn't. I alway go to the examples of Edgar Allan Poe and Howard Philips Lovecraft. Both struggled to see their work apprecated or published during their lives, yet both are considered literary masters today. It was never about the art, the creativity, innovation, and the excitement of literature. It was only every about the money.

I can only speak from my own point of view on the following topic. Nearly nine years ago I struggled to find a publishing model that I would be comfortable with. I didn't care for the traditional big-house publishing models (and let's be honest, I didn't, and still don't, have the resources they have). But I also abhorred the vanity publisher's predatory model.

Broken Keys Publishing & Press ended up combining a number of services and features to offer to our authors and poets. Features that profits both of us and allows them to keep their rights. Adding the multi-platform Draft-2-Digital into our toolbox as well as taking advantage of Amazon's amazing world-wide distribution, (and on a tangent, Amazon Digital Publishers are not affiliated with Amazon and have no connection to Kindle Direct Publishing - they're vanity publishers, so beware), and also adding our extensive 36-years print industry expertise and media contacts.

Now, the recent news from Draft-2-Digital should be celebrated. Hell, Pronouns, a precursor on the same path as Draft-2-Digital, was bought out by MacMillan Publishing (yes, one of the Big Five) in 2016 and closed. I don't see this happening to Draft-2-Digital. What I've seen is their acquition of more services and options. (They've acquired Smashwords in March of 2022, adding Smashwords' coupon feature) as well as introduced a beta-project of AI generated vocals for audiobooks. Again, adding more and more tools to the toolbox. Options and services the Big Five don't and never have. Why? Because they're guarding their perceived empires and, ulimately, playing gatekeeper.

Just as the retail bookstore industry is changing (see Indigo's Trials & Tribulations: The Rise of New Markets?) so too is the publishing industry. The writing is on the wall. The days of the Big Five are coming to an end. The Rise of the indie-author has long been upon us. Like the music of the '80's, we will see a much needed deluge of literature, a barrage of books, and a flood of ebooks. Some will be forgotten, some will be poor, but what definitely will arise through this is innovation and creativity. We will eventually see literature that we've never seen before. And history will remember it.


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