The New Intermediation in Publishing

This week, I attended the O’Reilly Media Tools of Change for Publishing conference in NYC (well, specifically, the Author [R]evolution Day on Tuesday). It was well-attended and the buzz was palpable.

Clearly, the industry is being thoroughly disrupted by technology. Publishing is undergoing rapid disintermediation, AND rapid new intermediation. <—(click to tweet this)

ARday tweets

Self-publishing, and assisted publishing without the help of traditional publishers, is flourishing, and we’re in the anarchy phase of it – a ferment of new ideas, platforms, and approaches, with old standards and procedures falling by the wayside while new rules are being written on the fly. It’s exhilarating and confusing.

As a relative outsider to the industry, but someone who is committed this year to pursuing long-form (book) writing, I came to the conference to see what the various options are. What I came away with was a resounding reinforcement of my message about the new intermediation.

In an introductory post on the topic I opened up the idea of the many potential business opportunities that exist by thinking about The New Intermediation. My Ugly Graphic below depicts how this works:

Intermediary1

In a second post, we discussed the opportunity of Curation (filtering and delivering information) in the networked world; and then we also glanced at another manifestation of the new intermediation: Matchmaking. Those are general opportunities; now let’s turn to see how this is working in the specific sector of authoring and publishing. Instead of being forced to take the traditional route of the legacy gatekeepers (publishing houses), there is a flourishing new set of alternatives evolving:

  • Assisted, rapid self-publishing: SlimBooks has an interesting approach to this.
  • A la carte, author-controlled selection of services and revenue-sharing: The crew at NetMinds (including the dynamic Tim Sanders) is doing a fabulous job pioneering this approach.
  • Re-defining the role of the agent into a publishing sherpa: We heard a great talk by Jason Ashlock on this subject. He even used the term “radical intermediator”!
  • Iterative, progressive writing: I really like what Peter Armstrong and the Lean Pub team has come up with, and am strongly considering using this platform (I am a big fan of iterative thought development).
  • Crowdfunding emerging authors: some have used the Kickstarter platform for this, but Pubslush is a focused platform for authors.
  • On-line story sharing: Wattpad gets 14 million visitors every month.
  • Analytics that authors can tap: Bookigee, led by Kristen McLean, is breaking new ground.

So, let’s take the drawing above and adapt it for one instance –  an author looking into alternative ways to get a book to market:

Intermediary Publishing

(the above is not an either-or intermediary approach – could easily be both-and). I’m sure you can see other examples – for instance, intermediaries between authors and Big Data (Bookigee); between readers and authors (Wattpad), etc.

Amazon has been the classic case study of a disintermediating technology/business force, but many others are evolving. These are exciting days, with loads of new opportunities for both authors and new intermediaries. What other entrepreneurial services can you envision that would serve this community? And what tools/platforms/approaches do you recommend for others to consider?

Additional resources:

O’Reilly Media’s Best of Tools of Change collection of articles (free download)

NetMinds’ article on Choosing Between Traditional and Alternative Publishing

Guy Kawasaki’s new book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book (Amazon affiliate link)

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Recently on Connection Agent blog:

De-fogging Your Business (or Career)

Claim Your Market[place]

Publishing on a Diet – SlimBooks

I don’t know how many times I’ve thought (and said), “Most business books are 30-50% too long.

It’s not that there isn’t value in the content. It’s just that the reader has a lot of work to do in order to distill it. Can’t we buy 100-proof books instead?

This appears to be the approach of SlimBooks. So, when Sarah Evans announced that her new book, [Re]Frame, was available through SlimBooks, I had to check it out. Not only because I think highly of Sarah, but also because of the SlimBooks format.

I like what I’m seeing.

The era of quick and simple electronic publishing is well underway; traditional publishing is being thoroughly disrupted. With ventures like Seth Godin‘s Domino Project and Tim SandersNet Minds, we’ll continue to see innovative new way to introduce voices into the marketplace. SlimBooks looks like a great addition to the mix – it seems to me like a perfect format for at least two types of books:

  1. Nugget collections
  2. Distilled, focused content (without all the fluff)

Sarah’s book falls into the first category. It is a series of brief thoughts, drawn from her life and business experience. It’s the kind of book designed for a quick pep talk each morning, helping you “re-frame” how you look at challenges and opportunities. It’s folksy, practical, personal, and to the point. And, importantly, it’s Sarah – not some unrecognizable version of Sarah fitting into a pre-baked business book format.

Worth $4.95? Sure. [Re]Frame will probably provide greater value to those earlier on in their career arc, but I already found myself musing a new blog post based on the idea contained in the chapter, Be An Owner (a “chapter” in this book being, typically, 1.5 pages!)

As someone for whom distillation of content and ideas seems to be a DNA-level blessing/curse, the potential for the second type of book fascinates me. Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I think traditional books don’t refine the gold very well, and leave us with far too much ore. I suspect that there are many potential authors out there, who have valuable ideas but for whom the traditional publishing format (both writing and business) is a mismatch. It will be interesting to see new voices liberated through the availability of a platform that approaches content in a different manner.

Will we see a spate of new “diet” books? I hope so – as long as the content is nutritious and the extra calories are left out!

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