Digital publishing isn’t going anywhere. Traditional publishing isn’t going anywhere. The best thing both sides can do is kiss and make up.
- The author is the asset—not the publishing channel. Do what’s best for the author and his or her career. Don’t just try to protect your turf.
- Both have something they can learn from each other. I like to see things in a “both—and” scenario. An author or publisher shouldn’t feel the need to choose between the two. This is not a debate between speed and quality. Both are viable, legitimate publishing options.
- Digital publishing compliments traditional publishing. People want to engage with authors/writers they enjoy reading more than every 18-24 months. The best way to do this is to provide shorter digital pieces in between the larger traditional pieces. What authors will stumble into is “the long tail.”
- Content consumption habits are diverse. Publishing habits should be, too. It’s too easy to shove everything into established processes that are comfortable. “Beginning with the end in mind”—in a publishing context—shouldn’t be a function of production but of sales and marketing. The key question is: What are the content consumption habits of the native audience? That’s where we begin. The reality is the target will be broad enough to allow for multiple publishing options.
What do digital and traditional publishing have to offer each other?
- Digital publishig offers the opportunity to publish more people. Traditional publishers should use this to their advantage to discover potential rock stars that are hard to sort through when the stack of manuscripts are falling off the acquisiton editor’s desk. Publishing has always been a numbers game. The more people a publisher can produce, the more likely they will tap into success.
- Digital publishing allows an author to begin building interest in a topic or extend the interest in an already published book by providing new content. This lengthens the sales cycle of existing content and diversifies the forms in which that content appears.
- Digital publishing allows traditional publishers to produce more content without exponentially increasing costs. There are countless great ideas passed on by traditional publishers because they don’t meet basic criteria. Sometimes you don’t need 50,000 words to say something significant and meaningful. What if you only need 15,000 or 5,000 words? We can’t let our obsession with a defined distribution channel (the traditional book) cloud our creativity around connecting with a core audience.
- Traditional publishing affords authors a more permanent and lasting content piece. The digital world doesn’t value permanence because the assumption is that everything is evolving. The end result is that change is constant. If you’re going to create something that lasts, why not test the ideas in the digital space in advance?
If digital publishing and traditional publishing saw each other as equals, then perhaps they could both come to the table of discussion and recognize the opportunity to learn from each other. When traditional and digital publishers collaborate and co-create around a new world of publishing, everyone wins—the publisher, the author, and the reader.
Can digital and traditional publishing co-exist? What do you think?
Ben Stroup is a content activist in a post-paragraph world. He is chief broker of opportunity at Ben Stroup Enterprises. Connect with Ben via email, Twitter, and Google+. Subscribe via email to learn how to use content to move people to action.