BTB #236: The Great Debate: Are Publishers Irrelevant?

IBPA LogoFirst introduced at the 2011 London Book Fair, the “Great Debate” made its North American debut earlier today at the 27th Annual IBPA Publishing University! Four leading industry pundits argued for and against the resolution: “Authors and readers are all that matter. Publishers will soon be irrelevant.

Taking their sides were Rudy Shur, Publisher of Square One; Richard Nash, founder of Cursor, and named by Utne Reader as one of 50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World; Daphne Kis of, longtime publisher and new media advisor; and Mark Coker, founder and CEO of Smashwords, and named by the Wall Street Journal as one of “Eight Stars of Self-Publishing”

Moderators were Susan Danziger, CEO of DailyLit, and Michael Healy, Executive Director of the Google Book Rights Registry.

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12 Responses to “BTB #236: The Great Debate: Are Publishers Irrelevant?”

  1. Jean May 22, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

    The debate will continue, but what becomes clearer ever day is that great opportunities for independent publishers continue to unfold.

  2. Jacob Drake May 23, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    I agree with all you said, Mark, as well as the above comment that great opportunities continue to unfold, but not only for independent publishers. I believe those opportunities are here for all of us indies. So far from being on the Smashwords FB pages I’ve met plenty of other indie authors as well as non-indies. One of the latter (From the UK) is now having me proof his stories for release in the USA. On my second one now and enjoying it.

  3. John O'Keefe May 23, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    The last great publishers left thirty years ago.
    Like many ‘modern’ business they have farmed out or dropped various aspects that were crucial to publishing. That made publishers, publishers. today’s publishers are more like vultures. Waiting for that independent, Author/publisher to find or be a winner then they flock in to steal that author.
    Let’s be honest I have never and I know no one who has said to me ‘Gee John I think I will go out and get me a ‘Random House’ book. They will name authors or titles of books and could care less who published it.
    John O’Keefe

  4. Joseph Radosti May 23, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    There will be less demand for large publishers because “do it yourself” is so much easier and broadband access gives everyone a market.

  5. Mardou Case May 23, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    I’m pretty sure the author that I work with would say that publishers are indeed relevant. Not every author has the time, energy, skills or drive necessary to perform the publishing and marketing tasks.

  6. Michael Gray May 24, 2011 at 1:25 am #

    Like other aspects of contemporary living, book publishing is having to adapt to the changes that digitisation is creating. Personally, I consider this long overdue in book publishing, which has become self indulgent and corrupt by its focus on profit. The shear number of e-books being published indicates the market they ignored, accepting that by no stretch of the imagination, are all of them publishable.

    Their classic preoccupation with doting the i’s and crossing the t’s is maybe something we can live without along with the downgrading of language through speech, which I personally regret. We can certainly live without the significant percentage of our earnings they take.

  7. Brian Lawrenson May 24, 2011 at 1:56 am #

    Great, if a one-sided, debate. However it seems to me that Smashwords authors who really arn’t interested in “being published” should take the inniative and move the debate onto more forward-looking ground. How about “”What can Indie authors do to ensure the contents of the eBook are well crafted?” I for one would be prepared to pay x cents per word to have my work vetted by a professional editor (one way all those editors laid off by the traditional publishers can earn an income). A “Edited” stamp of approval would give the reader greater confidence when making a purchase.

    Coupled with this, I’d like to see restrictions on the minimum size of of eBooks, perhaps with poetry an exception. It surprises me to see works with less than 3,000 words. Below this, the story is more of an article. What do others think?

  8. proofnedit May 24, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    Very interesting. Enjoyed listening to everyone b/especially Mark Coker of course. Indie Authors will rise to the top!

  9. Roberta Kalechofsky May 24, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    By publisher, I assume you mean someone other than the writer or self-published writer. Beyond that I do think publishers are irrelevant, unless they undertook the exhausting tasks of marketing ad publicity. Publicists seem to be the most relevant, beside the writer; people who know how to get your book known.

  10. Roberta Kalechofsky May 24, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    Beyond the writer who may be a self published writer, other publishers are irrelevant unless they also did the publicity and the marketing. The most important thing, after the book is written, is to make the book known. So I suggest that a good publicity is more important than the publisher

  11. Laura May 25, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    It’s a good argument and makes perfect sense. Publishers have not been on their toes in a long time. If you go back and read autobiographies or personal essays from writers, even as far back as Edgar Allan Poe, it’s easy to see many of the problems within professional publishing were around even then. As both a reader and a writer, I believe it is so exciting to think that new and innovative authors will not be tossed aside and forgotten. All authors have a voice and all readers can enjoy material that is literally not-found-elsewhere. Professional publishing from major houses has revolved around meeting the bottom line far more than discovering new material for their readers or expanding their readership. I can’t count the indie authors I’ve had the privilege of reading and they’re simply amazing. It’s a good time to be a writer, but perhaps an even better time to be a reader.


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