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The single biggest change in book publishing is this:
The industry was built around finding readers for its writers.
And new technologies and business models now mean that the most successful publishers and authors find writers for their readers instead.
Traditionally, a book is signed, written, edited, designed, printed and distributed and THEN the publisher runs around like crazy trying to alert people about the book, get shelf space and media attention and reviews… all a way of finding readers for the writing that was published.
In the era of permission marketing, the writer already knows her readers, the writer already has the ability to contact those readers. If not the writer, than the publisher or the bookstore.
And that connection is an asset, a valuable one. It means that the attention is already there but must be re-earned regularly. So someone like John Scalzi or Cory Doctorow wakes up in the morning thinking about what he can write for his readers, not how to get more readers for what he’s already written.
[Think about a successful conference. They can invite high profile speakers because they already have an audience. Or think about being asked about appearing on a talk show. You go for free because the talk show already has an audience. This isn't new, it's merely new to publishing.]
And thus, everything changes. The risk. The timing. The deals. The personalities. The books themselves.
The losers at the end of this round are obvious: entities that haven’t bothered to build a direct connection with readers. Everything else is commentary.