Traditional publishers were shocked, awed and dismayed by the invasion of Print on Demand and other digital production and delivery technologies. Almost overnight, “automobiles had replaced horses and buggies.”

Suddenly the playing field was leveled. Independent boutique publishers could stand beside the corporate-owned behemoths. Just as important: the barriers had been lifted. Now everyone could get their works published.

Handwriting on the Wall

Has anyone ever been able to hold back progress? Predictably, as with any innovative product and service, the first response of the traditional publishers was denial. CEOs reassured their corporate boards that digital publishing was just a fad that would soon go away.

Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and other book industry startups knew better, and so did the board members of Random House, Simon & Schuster, Harper/Collins, etc. They were well aware of their companies’ shortcomings: antiquated equipment and data bases that had not yet been computerized.

“Why should we create a website?” shouted the nay-sayers. “And as for online retailing--no one is ever going to be able to make money selling books!”

Traditional publishers were also dealing with an albatross: the intermediaries. These wholesalers and distributors had not only made themselves indispensable; they had also managed to capture 60% of the retail price of every book that was sold, and maintain complete control of a publisher’s inventory and sales sheets.

Every independent publisher already knew these intermediaries navigated leaky ships that included everything from warehouse fires with no available damage reports, to unreliable or ambiguous methods for tracking sales and returns.

On Demand technologies eliminated the need for intermediaries. Far more important to the book industry: a higher unit price for these digitally printed products ate up the generous profit margin that could only be obtained from high volume print runs.

Fighting Back

Digital On Demand publishing companies sprang up on the internet faster than Dandelions in the springtime. Hence the name of my own company, Dandelion Books, when we opened our doors in 2000 as one of the first hybrids. Dandelion described itself as "a boutique publishing company that used the latest digital production and delivery technologies yet paid all pre-press costs and signed traditional royalty contracts with its authors."

The other online publishing model was the “fast food” self-publishing company that required authors to pay pre-press, or production costs (manuscript setup and digital printing). Essentially, these were merely glorified quick-print service providers.

New York corporate-owned publishers lumped together all of the onliine publishers and labeled their products “non-books.”

“These non-books are written by amateurs,” declared the traditional book industry. “Therefore they don’t deserve to be reviewed by mainstream media or shelved in brick and mortar bookstores.” And in the mainstream book industry, their judgment became law.

'Talk to the hand!'

Then it started to happen. Even established authors started to break their contracts with traditional publishers and form their own publishing companies. By now, a large percentage of the digitally published books not only matched traditionally published offset printed books in appearance; they were equal to and often superior in quality.

In addition, these books were professionally written, edited and proofed.

“We need to have equal shelf space in brick and mortar stores,” argued boutique independent publishers and professional self-publishing authors. “We need to get mainstream media exposure. Lift the barriers!”

‘The Messiah will come when she is no longer necessary’

“All’s fair in love and war,” chortled traditional publishers.

But not for long. Another crop of “Dandelions” was starting to pop up: flikr, Facebook, spacebook, my space, linked in, twitter, xing, xanga, ning etc., etc. … blogs and social networks of every name and variety.

Professional writers and boutique publishers were discovering they really didn’t need the large chain brick and mortar bookstores, supermarkets and discount department stores to market and sell their books.

They didn’t even need print, radio and TV media; in fact, all of these offline media companies were now building their own online empires!

Gas prices were on the rise and families with both parents working had little time for shopping excursions outside of purchasing essentials. Now almost everyone could own a computer, start a home business and grow an affiliate network by selling other people’s products and services. Online bookstores like Amazon made it fun, easy and inexpensive to shop online. When free shipping was added to all the other conveniences, the battle was won.

More important than all of this was the fact that now the book buyers, not the sellers, were driving the bus. Readers determined which books they wanted to buy, and they didn’t hesitate to voice their opinions on the internet. Tastemakers no longer sat behind boat-size Madison Avenue desks, confident they could pay their way into the minds and pocketbooks of potential customers.

In the midst of this major book industry shakeup, the inevitable had already started to happen. As they say: if you can’t fight ’em, join ’em. All the traditional corporate-owned publishers had already started to open their own “non-book” fast food print on demand online companies!

Sorting it all out

If you are a new author, do you want to publish a fast food quick print book for Aunt Sadie and Uncle Roger to proudly place on their bookshelf along with a couple of other unread books—or do you want to publish with a team of savvy online professionals who will treat you like a professional?

Do you want to work with a team of online marketing experts who will provide you with the best marketing and promotion opportunities on the internet?

Do you want to be proud of your book, your publisher, and yourself?

Choose wisely. Check out my other articles about publishing on and on my website, Write to Publish for Profit to learn more about the latest book publishing and marketing opportunities.

Author's Bio: 

Carol Adler, MFA’s first ghost-written book listing her name as co-editor, Why Am I Still Addicted? A Holistic Approach to Recovery, was endorsed by Deepak Chopra, M.D., and published by McGraw-Hill. Other publications include three novels, four books of poetry, and well over 200 poems in literary journals. She has ghostwritten over 40 non-fiction and fiction works for a number of professionals in the education, health care and human potential industries.

Carol is President of Dandelion Books, LLC of Tempe, Arizona; a full service publishing company. She is also President and CEO of Dandelion Enterprises, Inc., Write to Publish for Profit and President of the International Arts & Media Foundation, a non-profit subsidiary of Dandelion Enterprises, Inc.

Her business experience includes co-ownership of a Palm Beach, FL public relations company and executive management positions in two U.S. rejuvenation and mind/body wellness corporations, for which she founded publishing divisions.

Carol has served as editor of several poetry and literary magazines. Her career experience includes extensive teaching of college-level creative and business writing, and conducting of writing workshops in prisons, libraries, elementary, junior and high schools, and senior citizen centers.

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