A note to Publishers

Dear Publishers,

We’re friends, right? And when you’re friends with someone, you can be honest. So I’m going to be honest with you today, Publishers. I think you have a problem. You’re addicted to blogs. You can’t help yourself, I know. They’re funny! Everyone is talking about them, and all of your Facebook friends are totally on board. So you snatch them all up and turn all of them into books. But here’s how I know you have a problem, Publishers: you don’t really seem to notice or care about how good they are or how well they might adapt to a book. Yeah, there are some good blogs out there, and some of them might translate well to the page. But what don’t you  need? A book based on every single one of them, especially when most of these books go nowhere.

Yes, I realize that a majority of books fail, and publishing is always a bit of a crapshoot. But one of the issues you have, Publishers, is the failure to learn from mistakes. For every I Can Has Cheezburger, there are 20 This is Why You’re Fat, which, while it was a cute Tumblr account with a big following, was not a popular book. An internet meme does not a book make. And I also realize that if you check out my sales history, you’ll find a few blog-to-book deals. But I’ve tried to choose ideas that I think have immediate appeal and staying power. Books that will not be on the remainder table a month after their release. And Publishers, I think you’d be wise to think about the same things. Don’t get caught up in the excitement about a site that got popular in five minutes and will fade just as quickly. Books are supposed to last longer than fresh milk.

But if you’re so insistent on trying to turn a profit on something that would be otherwise free, maybe there’s an electronic path to take. Recently, one of my favorite sites, Ars Technica, released an e-book version of their Mac OS X Lion review. While the review is free to anyone who wishes to read it on the web, Ars made a downloadable copy available through e-book retailers for $4.99.  According to reports, they sold 3,000 copies of the review in the first 24 hours. Might there be a way to more quickly capitalize on the fleeting popularity of these internet phenomena? As the media landscape changes around you, Publishers, you need new solutions to old problems. Time to get creative.



5 Responses to A note to Publishers

  1. Sarah says:

    Absolutely this. Fantastic idea too!

  2. Jennifer says:

    Fabulous! I am sicken by the over abundance of life stories of the famous. People need to have a reason to read, by offering new writers and new stories. Publishers please do give more writers a chance.

  3. Molly says:

    The thing I always wonder about is this: When something like White Whine or Humblebrag–both of which are basically just repeating other people’s tweets or Facebook posts–gets a book deal, do the people who have unintentionally (and often unknowingly) contributed get credit? I suppose fair use applies because no one entry constitutes enough of the entire work to matter, but I still think it’s wrong. Not to mention lazy. If you want to write a book, write a book. If you want to edit an anthology, solicit contributions and edit them. If you want to make a quick buck off a desperate publisher, come up with an appropriately snarky idea and then hit the “retweet” button repeatedly.

  4. Lisa Marie says:

    Michael? You so rock. You really do.

    I would love to see far fewer of these “flavor-of-the month” books and more with substantive value. (And this includes commercial diet books, too.)

  5. Donna Hole says:

    Someone had to say it :)


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