Publishing Companies have changed

Two examples how publishing has changed.

I once saw a movie called “Genius” about Thomas Wolfe and his editor Max Perkins. According to the movie, it was the publisher’s editor who made Wolfe’s novels great. Think you’d get that level of service/expertise today from a publisher?

That’s one way publishing has changed, and one I knew about. But I just saw an episode of a series about authors on PBS. This one was on Margaret Mitchell. It said that Harold Latham, an editor from MacMillan was traveling around the country looking for new authors. That’s how he found “Gone with the Wind.” Can you believe that! A publisher looking for authors.

Thing is, more and more authors are starting to find more success as a self-publisher. Rather than going with a traditional one, they are beginning to shape their own way. As such, publishers would naturally be on the decline, more along the lines of becoming less and less of worth. As technology advances, more authors are being capable of doing self-publishing, and keeping all the benefits of such.

Yes, I could be wrong about this, but I think back in the day it was the publisher’s job to market the book, not the writer’s, because how would a writer even do that back then? Now the publishers don’t do promotion at all except for the top 1% who don’t need any advertising, so publishers imho have rendered themselves redundant and obsolete. They don’t offer anything today that a writer can’t do themselves or contract from a freelancer. ¯\_(ﭢ)_/¯


I changed the thread’s subject to reflect what I meant. Not how publishing has changed, but how traditional publishing companies have changed.

I think it depends on the publisher and editor. Some companies just throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks. But there are other examples - Kings of the Wyld was one of the biggest fantasy debuts of the last few years. The book was signed with very little fanfare and a low advance. The editor helped shape the book, taking the excellent raw clay that was there and molding something new, with important new plot lines and characters. The final book is - as I understand - is much better than what was queried, and the author credits his editor with helping him greatly in finding success.

I should note, that the junior editor who championed this book and helped shape it was rewarded with a senior editor position at an even bigger publishing house.


Few editors have the TIME to spend nurturing new authors and shaping books with good bones that are nearly ready to go. That doesn’t mean they don’t WANT to do it. But publishers have trimmed their staff to the bone. They have So. Much. Business that they don’t HAVE to develop books. They leave that to agents and critique groups.


It’s a wonderful thought, but trad publishing isn’t on the decline. They have good years and bad years, but no matter how you slice it, they have more subs than they can manage, and they’re still making killer profits. (Their writers aren’t, but that’s more about contracts.)

Self publishing is definitely a viable path, and there are writers making a killing, but make no mistake: self publishing hasn’t hurt the trad publishers so far. It has simply provided a route by which more writers can enter the market.


No true. Even small books get help from publishers. They may get it only at launch, and certainly they don’t get things like the Today Show or Oprah’s Book Club, but they DO get help. It would be a complete waste for a publisher to pay to produce a book and then to kick it out the door with nothing.

Traditional publishers live and die by launch numbers, so that’s where they focus their help and their marketing money. After that, it’s up to the writer to maintain the buzz.

Don’t confuse a little help with no help. Even small trad pubbed books can sell 5000 copies, and most self pubbed are pleased with 100.


Ahh! Thanks for clearing that up! ʕ•́ᴥ•̀ʔっ

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Wonder where you’re looking, everywhere I search, it always reflects with the growth of self publishers. With the advancement of technology, it is becoming easier for them to be on par with traditional. Pushing out less books, and making the same if not more in profit.

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Oooh, my bad.

You’re not understanding what I said. I said that self publishing has not HURT the traditional publishers. Traditional publishing is NOT on a decline. There are SO MANY writers out there that self publishing can STILL be increasing and yet not hurt the traditional publishers. Growth in self publishing – even massive growth – does NOT equal a decline of traditionally published books or an impact on traditional publishing’s profits.

I am pro self publishing, and I recognize that books that are self published well can perform on par with those that are traditionally published. (Do be aware, though, that “self published well” is just 1-2% of self published books. Most still don’t sell 100 copies over their lifetime.)

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True enough, but if you’re going to state a claim such as that, then I will require evidence of some sort. While it is true that both has their pros and cons, as technology advances, and more are self-publishing, then this in itself comes with a balance of its own. If one side is tipping the scale, then the other side is falling. Both can compete yes, but as it goes on, traditional is falling. Unless you can give me irrefutable evidence, then your claim is not valid.

If you’re talking in terms of market share, then yes, a gain for one side has to be a loss for the other. But if the overall size of the market is growing, either in terms of the number of readers, or the total number of books they buy each year, or the amount of money they spend on books each year, then both self-publishing and traditional publishing can gain at the same time.

Even if the size of the market is fixed, a gain for one side doesn’t necessarily represent an equal loss for the other. Self-published books tend to be cheaper than traditionally-published ones, and the author usually keeps more of the revenue, so self-published authors benefit more from a given amount of money being spent than traditionally-published ones.

(If revenue is going up but market share is going down, that probably means the organisation has some serious problems, but they’re being masked by good trading conditions, and the management is either unaware of the problems or isn’t willing to make the tough decisions needed to fix them.)


Right, I believe this about sums it up. They can gain at the same time, this remains true. It also does not equate to equal gain or equal loss. This in itself is reliant on a number of factors. Including how well sales are. However, as technology improves, this is putting self-publishing more on an equal ground. I am not saying one is better than the other. That is far from it. I am saying that with how things are going, there will undoubtedly be more willing to self-publish, and keep all the benefits of so, than the traditional route. Take note that this applies only if they find success.

Marketing is key for a self-publisher, which they will have to put in possibly countless hours into marketing unless they already have a massive base on hand.

While not a zero-sum game, I would agree that the rise of self-publishing has almost certainly impacted the bottom line of trad publishers. In many genres self-published books are now 30-50% of the total number sold. We know that mid-list and debut authors are having trouble getting traction, even if the huge trad bestsellers are still trundling along making bank. I’d bet the rise of self publishing and the reduced sales for trad debuts / mid-list are likely connected.

The Traditional Publishing houses have serious problems to contend with, self-publishing like never before allows writers who would normally be turned down by Publishers to in many instances make a living without them, as it is now entirely possible for an author to cultivate their own audiences and market to them directly.

This hurts their ability to essentially treat lower tier writers like cash cows who they can force into exploitative contracts whilst paying to promote the works they want the public to buy because the marketing department matters. This forces the Publishers to seek only the content they believe is going to shift enough units to offset the losses from having lower tier authors move across to self-publishing.

This will also reduce the available breadth of content, as niche or fringe writers bypass Publishers and go straight to direct publishing through Amazon. This will lead to an ever smaller pool of potential customers as Publishers become ever more focused on known quantity trends.

If you want to see how that can play out, just have a look at what happened to Comics in the US Market, where filtering down the fan base to a certain demographic has led to the end of that industry and the rise Manga and so on to take its place.

People will always buy books, if you write the right ones and put it in front of them.

I’d say the real issue is not writers choosing to self-publish when they otherwise might have been trad (I’m sure they’re still swamped with submissions), but rather that trad’s model is predicated on getting readers to spend 9.99+ on a new release ebook and 25.99+ on a new release hardcover, and that becomes a much harder sell with debuts. I’ve noticed (in fantasy) far fewer new writers emerging in trad in the last few years - yeah, Sanderson and Martin still sell a metric ton of books each year, but where is the next generation of writers? New trad debuts can’t get the traction they used to (everyone used to read the new hyped trad debut, like Name of the Wind or Lies of Locke Lamora, because there were no other options), but now why would a reader drop 14.99 on an ebook of someone they don’t know when they could buy 3-5 self-published ebooks, many of which are quite good and at the same level of trad in production values.

This is adult fantasy, by the way. YA fantasy is still very beholden to the trad hype machine.

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I have no insight whatsoever really, just a gut feeling, but for what it’s worth I think the real threat to trad publishing is Amazon kindle daily deals and Bookbub. Why pay $9.99 for a bestseller when you can get that same book a few years later for the price of a self-published book? I bought The Goldfinch, The Kite Runner and a number of other popular books that way.

Well, I assume trad has crunched the math and decided that makes more profit. They enter into those daily deals and Bookbubs willingly, and they never put new releases in unless they’ve already flopped.

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True, but it kind of reduces trad pubbed authors to the level of indies and makes me wonder why I should ever pay full price for a book, and I wonder if other readers are starting to feel the same way. I mean, The Goldfinch was awesome and I haven’t read The Kite Runner yet, but there were a lot of others that made me glad I didn’t pay more than $2.99 for the book. So it’s leveling the playing field and makes me lose respect for trad publishing while changing my mind about indies. I used to think self-published meant crappy, poorly written drivel, while trad pubbed meant upmarket, well-vetted and well-crafted. But I’ve read quite a few self-published books now that are truly genius, like Raymond St. Elmo’s work and Rob Gregson’s, while a lot of tradpubbed isn’t worth more than a self-published price. I wonder if a lot of other readers feel the same way, and if that will change things in the future…?


I never read self-published books until I decided to self publish, and then I was honestly shocked at the quality at the high end. Some of my favorite fantasy of the last few years was self published - Will Wight’s Cradle, Mike Shel’s Aching God, Dyrk Ashton’s Paternus . . . and trad publishers are republishing some of them and all of a sudden when they’re trad published the literati sit up and take note and put them on ‘best of the year’ lists, like Senlin Ascends, The Gray Bastards, Rage of Dragons. The top tier of self published books is just as good as anything coming out of the trad fantasy houses.

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