No matter the issue, everyone is on the lookout for the one new thing that will make everything that preceded it obsolete and make their lives simpler and better.
The miracle pill, the new technique, the new technology, the killer-app, the new diet, plug in whatever new, shiny thing you like and life will be better because of it.
The reason we look for the one thing is the feeling that if only all the myriad of options could be eliminated and we didn’t need to make so many decisions or have so many choices, life would be better.
We yearn for a simpler day.
For example, there is still a limited market for audiocassettes and vinyl records and not just for nostalgia freaks. Some people prefer them to the newer formats.
People still take aspirin and gargle with Listerine.
You can still buy horse-drawn carriages with fringe on top.
Some simply prefer manual transmissions.
Bookstores and public libraries are still functioning.
In book publishing, we just need Facebook to promote and Amazon to sell. Simple, perfect, easy-to-manage. No problems.
Unfortunately, complete simplicity will never happen in this life, including book publishing.
If anything, the future will be more complicated, with more options and even more decisions to make every day. Whether you are a traditional or self-published author, as every day passes, life gets more complicated with more options and more things to consider.
New things rarely completely and permanently replace the old things. Every new thing simply adds more options.
MySpace still exists. So does AOL. They didn’t completely go away when Facebook and Gmail rose to prominence. They were diminished, but they didn’t disappear.
The duo of Facebook and Amazon are great if you want to keep things simple, but not everyone uses Facebook or buys from Amazon. Limited sales means limited stress, but I don’t know too many authors who think that purposely limiting the sales of their book is desirable.
What does the future look like for book publishing? A mix of everything new and everything that preceded it.
In book publishing, a mistake made by just about everyone is believing the most important party in the process is the publisher, or the author, a website, an ecommerce solution, a mobile app, an author platform, a marketing strategy, the writing quality, etc.
But the focus is misplaced.
The most important element in book publishing is the reader.
Everything else is simply the tool or the path to reach the reader. And readers want things on their own terms, in the format they like, at the price they want, when they want it, on the subject they want and obtained where they want.
If Rick Warren wrote a book titled, The Purpose-Driven Author or The Purpose-Driven Publisher, the first words would still be, “It’s not about you.”
(I am leaving out an application for The Purpose-Driven Agent because this is my blog post and I feel pretty good about myself today and didn’t want to ruin it.)
Publishers and authors alike begin a long, dangerous slide to ineffectiveness when they believe it is really all about them.
The most important skill every author, agent and publisher can develop is to understand readers who are not exactly like them. Living outside of your own limited point of view is essential for everyone. Seeing the world through the eyes of a reader is different than doing what is convenient and comfortable for you.
So, I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news if you are hoping to work towards a life filled with simplicity and control.
Publishing has never been simple or controllable and never will.