Publishers Lunch pointed me to a blog post by Seth Godin, in which he gives his five big ideas about publishing.
Is this of interest? I suggest that it is. Seth Godin is the author of several big-selling books on marketing and on the transformation of business firms into commercial superstars. He is also the author of Unleashing the Ideavirus, which was apparently the biggest selling ebook of all time (so far). So perhaps he has something useful to offer.
Seth's comments apply chiefly to those who write and seek to publish non-fiction books, but to me they also sound pretty relevant to fiction writers. You need to read the whole piece to get the full benefit, but here are Seth's five basic principles, with a few added comments from me, in brackets:
1. Please understand that book publishing is an organised hobby, not a business. If you're doing it for the money you're going to be disappointed. (This definition of publishing is probably the best I have ever come across.)
2. The timeframe for the launch of books has gone from silly to unrealistic. Even today, it still takes at least a year to get the damn thing into print. (Or even longer.)
3. There is no such thing as effective book promotion by a book publisher. (This is not quite 100% true, but Seth estimates that in America perhaps 100 books a year get properly promoted. That's out of what he says is 75,000 books published each year, but I seem to remember that the true figure in the US market is nearer 175,000.)
4. Books cost money and require the user to read them for the idea to spread. And the snag is, people don't like to pay and many of them don't like to read.
5. Publishing is like venture capital, not like printing. (What Seth seems to mean here is that getting a book printed to a professional standard is the easy part. Selling the thing and making it work for you are altogether different matters.)
In general, Seth seems to take the view that books are mainly useful for spreading the news about how wonderfully expert you are in your area of expertise; they thus generate income in ways other than through royalties. But there may be, Seth suggests, quicker, simpler and more effective ways of spreading your name around the world than going to all the trouble of writing a book.
Hey, you know what? You could write a blog. Doesn't take more than about three hours a day.