Saturday, November 21, 2009

A World Without Thomas Nelson

First, let me say that I’ve got nothing against Thomas Nelson. I have several of their books in my library and if they were to offer me a publishing contract, I would certainly consider it, but recently there has been some discussion about big name publishers like Thomas Nelson and Harlequin venturing off into the self-publishing business because that appears to be the wave of the future. The question came up about what the world would be like if we didn’t have publishers like Thomas Nelson and all authors self-published. It’s a very good question, so as of today, I’m announcing that Thomas Nelson is closed. I’m locking the doors and all of its employees have been laid off, permanently. All of you authors who have manuscripts ready to submit—don’t bother. The age of self-publishing has begun.

In this new age of self-publishing, everybody gets published. No more rejection letters and you can do it for as little as $0. No, that’s not a misprint. You may have to get some software you don’t currently have, but other than that, if you submit a print ready pdf to the right company, you can have your book available on for absolutely nothing.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that everyone else can get their book on for absolutely nothing. Your book is going to be buried in a stack of millions of books. To move it toward the top and to greater readership, you are going to need some stuff. You need a well written book. An editor can help you with that. You need someone to help you promote your book and get it into bookstores. You need some respectability. You need exclusivity. Before Thomas Nelson closed its doors, that's part of what they could have provided you, but not now. So how do we get those things in this new age?

Enter the new writers’ association. This isn’t a writers’ association like you’ve seen before, large organizations that hold conferences, teach people how to write and provide a means for writers to connect with publishers and agents. This writers’ association is much smaller and the dues are much higher. It is a much more exclusive group. Instead of having members that write in many different genres, the members of this association all write in the same genre. To get into this association, you have to submit a completed book and maybe more than one. If the other members don’t like you or your writing, you don’t get in. But once you are in, the association will help you with editing your book, bringing your books to print and you’ll be able to put the association’s logo on your book. That’s important because the association is going to use that logo in advertising as it promotes the books of its members to readers and buyers for bookstores. With the proper seal of approval, readers will know that when they read your book it will be good because the association you are in only produces good books. But the dues are high. Expect to pay forty percent of the retail price to the association for the expenses of the association.

Of course, you can join many associations, but you want to be a member of the best. The best associations sell more books and readers recognize them as the quality organizations that they are. But the membership of these associations doesn’t have time to look for new members all the time. They are busy writing books and selling books, they don’t know who you are and they don’t care. So they have a membership committee, but the committee members don’t have time either. If you want in one of these associations, you need someone to recommend you. It could be a member of the association, or maybe you just need an agent who will recommend you to the membership committee. If the agent is well respected, they will likely appreciate the help.

The association is going to need some workers. It could be that the authors will be willing to edit each other’s work. That would work for some associations, but the more highly respected associations will have editors on staff. They may have typesetters on staff, so the authors don’t have to do that work. There will probably be someone to do promotion. Instead of a membership committee, it might have someone on staff to do that work. Where are we going to get all these people? Since I don’t want to spend a lot of time on the hiring process, let’s just call up all those people we laid off at Thomas Nelson and ask them to come work for our association. And while we’re at it, Mike Hyatt is an author, so let’s ask him if he wants to join and vote him in as the president of our association. We’ll need a place for our workers to do their jobs. Since we closed Thomas Nelson and shut the doors, there’s a vacant building in Nashville that would be perfect for our needs. All we have to do is take down the Thomas Nelson sign and put up our own. Welcome to the brave new world of self-publishing.


Warren Baldwin said...

Very clever.

Judith Mercado said...

Intriguing. Forecasting the future is always difficult, but arguably more so during times of seismic shifts. Yours is as good a presentation of a possible future as any. What's clear to me is that the old model in unaltered form is in ICU.