David Byrne’s article in Wired about musicians’ options has parallels for authors

Hey, thanks everyone for caring about the future of publishing — and how that will impact creators and publishing houses.

I suggest that you check out a new article in Wired magazine by David Byrne. He lays out a continuum of choices for musicians that is very similar to what is developing in the book publishing business. Byrne describes 6 options, ranging from signing a deal that gives the music label total control of your “brand” at one extreme, to complete DIY at the other extreme.


What do you think would be the matching 6 options in book publishing? We certainly have the equivalent to what Byrne calls the “360 equity” deal in the blockbuster contracts from the big 6 publishing houses. And there is the extreme Do It Yourself version using Lulu, CafePress, Blurb and CreateSpace. Book publishing’s equivalent to music’s M & D (manufacturing and distributing) is the “author services” companies, such as Trafford, AuthorHouse and Xlibris. The “Profit Sharing” model is what our own Agio Publishing House uses and what Robert Miller is setting up at HarperCollins. I predict that we’ll see more businesses launched to allow creators and smaller publishing houses to collaborate and cooperately manage some aspects of publishing: cooperative distribution (with  larger margins for the creators and publisher, and no returns) being the most obvious need.

In Byrne’s article is a clever illustration to show the transition over time away from vinyl records to cassettes to CDs to downloads. That’s happening in the book world too — as we’re starting to see the move to reading books on cell phones and other devices, and listening to talking books on iPods and cell phones. Sales in bookstores has already eroded for sales online of the printed book, which in turn is being eroded by sales via download of purely digital books.

As Byrne points out, the creators will have more choice and opportunity as the business situation evolves.

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