Disruptive Change for Publishing Status Quo

I chat with June and Robin, my publicists, about the future of the publishing business.  [I had several books already published. Yet, I needed a book contract from an established commercial publisher if I wanted to be respected in academia.  Academia prefers the traditional publishing route.   This reality placed me on a journey to receive many rejection letters.  I had written a book manuscript as part of my doctorate requirements in 2008.  In 2009, I still didn’t have a commercial publisher.  June and Robin were now providing new insight.]  After attending a publishing conference on emerging trends, my publicists inform me that major publishers were telling emerging authors to self-publish or work with smaller publishers.  The ladies now tell me I am moving in the right direction. I am shocked!

Traditional publishing is a business with established processes.  Robert Jacobs, Richard Chase, and Nicholas Aquilano, authors of Operations & Supply Management, define a process as any part of an organization that takes inputs and transforms them into outputs of great value. This means turning an idea into a concrete product (a book).  This process isn’t easy! The major publishers
(aka commercial or traditional publisher) continue to lose money. Yet, the major purpose for traditional publishers is to turn a profit. Therefore, large publishing houses prefer to publish: (a) proven, established writers, (b) celebrities, (c) marquee names, and (b) authors with a large, established following.  Traditional publishers normally launch 20 or more books at the same time with the hope of one hitting. The three basic elements for publishing a book are planning, promotion, and distribution.  Planning covers the entire process from the initial book idea to printing, marketing, and distribution.

In the traditional process,  an individual normally needs to develop a book proposal and find a literary agent to pitch a book to a major publisher.  However, there are gatekeepers (literary agents and editors) that often keep most new writers from publication. In fact, getting a literary agent is just as tough as getting a book deal.  For some individuals, it takes years to obtain a book deal—for some people it’s never.

 When getting Impending Danger published, I found a commercial publisher. It took over two years from concept to a published book. This meant the publisher would take care of the publishing details and provide me with a royalty. Yet, I lost  the control of dictating the specifics such as the book cover design or the marketing of the book.

The publishing industry has already been reshaped by disruptive change, including Print-on-Demand (POD) Publishing,
the Internet, and more entrepreneurial writers. Mergers of the major publishers, the advent of the large booksellers such as Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com, and niche marketing of small, independent publishers continue to reshape the industry standards. There are over 60,000 books being published yearly. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of books (over 53%) are
purchased outside of traditional bookstores.

When publishing Job Strategies for the 21st Century, I was able to get the book out into the market within a few months
and obtain royalties on a monthly basis.  Under this new publishing model, most books can be published within a
month or two, making it timelier than the traditional method.

The new publishing paradigm for traditional publishers is to monitor the small publishers and self-publishers until an author achieves a high level of success in the marketplace, and then sign them to a book deal.  The Internet, while a friend of most savvy
authors, has created an appetite for free content. This reality has sent shockwaves through the traditional publishing process which has caused many bookstores, publishers, and other support services to go out of business.

Being a published author can change an individual’s life.  Dan Poynter, considered the Godfather of Self-Publishing, notes: “The prestige enjoyed by the published author is unparalleled in our society.” A person can use a book to obtain royalties, get new business, and promote other products. Under the new publishing model, the sky is the limit.

What will the publishing process look like in the next five years with a continual onslaught of disruptive change? 

How do emerging writers overcome the destabilizing nature of the Internet (Free) when offering products directly to readers?

© 2011 by Daryl D. Green


A Process Mindset

If you want to research how to be a successful NBA franchise, you need to review the history of the Los Angeles Lakers. Yet, it is the run in the 1980s that is most intriguing to me as an organization.  With the retirement of Jerry West and Wilt Chambertain  in the 1970s, many people probably wrote them off.  Even with acquiring 7 footer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Lakers couldn’t duplicate their past success.

However, the Lakers started building the framework for a future success. This process included selecting a young 6-9 point guard from Michigan State named Earvin “Magic” Johnson in the NBA draft.  With visionary coach Pat Riley, the franchise surrounded their 7 footer with much talent, including James Worthy, Spencer Haywood, Michael Cooper, and Jamaal Wilkes.

However, winning required All Star talent to become role players and swallow their egos so that they could win as a team, instead of individuals. This process thinking was successful. The 1980s Lakers, known as ‘Showtime” due to their electrifying performances, won five championships in a nine year span, including beating their rivals, the Celtics, several times in key games. Like the Lakers, organizations need a process for success.

If I could be a fly on the wall during student evaluations, I know my students would note that Professor Green is overly obsessed with process thinking. In fact, I even have a process for naming files for submission.  In a world that often promotes free thinking and spontaneity, some folks may believe that process thinking is too rigid to be used in an uncertain future.  On the contrary, having a process-oriented mindset will help organizations navigate the future. In this discussion, we will explore how a process mindset provides a competitive advantage during this economic crisis.

Being  process-orient is important in today hypercompetitive environment. High performance organizations in America understand that excellence does not happen by chance. Understanding one’s processes is vital. A process can be defined as “any activity or group of activities that takes an input, adds values to it, and provides to an internal or external customer.  Some of America’s shine across the globe has been taken for granted the small things in operations. 

H. James Harrington, author of Process Improvement notes, “We have taken a fine worldwide reputation and destroyed….We lost the important customer advantage, and each day our reputation worsens because our competition is improving more rapidly than we are.”  J. Davidson Frame, author of the New Project Management, further argues that organizations must evolve their processes. Frame notes, “Thus models contribute to the management of complexity by reducing the requirement for understanding a process in all of its details. They permit people to focus on the consequences of actions without having to understand their intricacies.”  Therefore, having a process mindset will have a greater impact on an organization’s effectiveness in the near future.

How can organizations more effectively utilize a process-oriented mindset in order to better compete in the future?

© 2011 by Daryl D. Green