Turnkey Publishing

I've written several posts about the challenges facing the publishing industry and how their continued existence—at least in their current form—is looking increasingly tenuous. Just today Charlie Stross described the Internet as a “communication tool that tends to disintermediate supply and demand” and, sadly, disintermediation is biggest threat to publishers.

Jason Crawford has a provocative post entitled Startup idea: Turnkey self-publishing service for authors. In it he tells the story of a friend who self published a book and the things he had to do as his own publisher. Then Crawford throws out a startup idea: Provide a turnkey, fee-for-service publishing service. It would be pretty much like a typical publisher except that the author would pay an up front fee and then keep all the profits from the book.

Yes, there are problems to be solved with this idea but it's probably not as hard as you might imagine. In the first place, almost everything a publisher does is farmed out: copy editors, technical editors, typesetting, printing, and so on. These people are already free-lance and would, I'm sure, be just as happy to work for a service such as this as they are to work for traditional publishers.

This idea, even if it comes to fruition, isn't, by itself, a lethal threat to publishers but when you add in all the other threats that I've written about before, the threat seems more immediate.

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  • I read the post by Jason Crawford and it seems to make a lot of sense as most authors can afford the publishing cost and there is no need of investment by the publisher and all that is required of him are his services.

    On the other hand, there is more to business than just cost sharing and here the issue of minimizing risk comes into play. I think some authors who are not very sure of how the book will perform in terms of sales will see as more ideal to partner with the publisher to minimize the risk involved.