Opportunities for Savvy Publishers
In the 20th Century, the American book market grew to be the world’s largest (with over 33% of total books sold) because of superior titles. From Fitzgerald and Hemingway to Kerouac to Tom Peters, publishers produced new titles so compelling that readers had to have them. In the decade of the 2000s, however, more and more books were published (thanks to POD and short-run, digital printing) and quality was negatively impacted. In 2008, over 400,000 new titles were introduced—many of them were not well written or properly vetted. The same hard cover book that sold for $19.95 in 1999 cost $29.95 in 2008, yet the production value and the content were worse than 1999.
When readers rebelled in 2008 and 2009 against paying more for the same or less quality product, publishers were forced to cut costs. Publishers worldwide laid off hundreds of employees and blamed it on the recession.
On closer examination, and with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, the slow down in book purchases (which should have increased, or at least stayed flat, as people cocooned in their homes) was caused by traditional publishers inability from 1999 to 2008 to provide new, compelling titles. Small publishers poorly informed readers of exciting titles traditional publishers were not providing. And the brick and mortar retailers made the business decision to offer less shelf space to all but the top selling titles. All this forced consumers from 1999 to 2008 to spend money on an increasingly limited set of titles—driving up prices and alienating readers.
Out of chaos comes opportunity. There has never been a better time to publish compelling titles that readers want.