As The World Gets Smaller, Authors’ Jobs Get Bigger

Image - Porter Anderson: Naviglio Grande, Milano
Image – Porter Anderson: Naviglio Grande, Milano

‘An Entire Chain Of Questions That You Have To Ask’

We have a very difficult debate about subscription models or flat rate models because some publishers are afraid that they rather ruin their traditional way of making money. So very quickly you end up in an entire chain of questions that you have to ask.

That’s not a publishing person in the United States — where ebook subscription services such as Scribd, Oyster, and Kindle Unlimited have long been a point of concerned discussion for many in the industry.


No, that’s Dr. Rüdiger Wischenbart, who produces the influential Global eBook report. He also is directing thePublishers’ Forum in Berlin for the first time this year (April 27-28), following years of solid programming by Helmut von Berg.

Dr. Rüdiger Wischenbart
Dr. Rüdiger Wischenbart

Presented by Klopotek AG, the conference is hashtagged #pf15 and is notable as one of the new season’s events focused on a national industry that is richly positioned  in the context of its international significance. The German market is one of the most important bellwethers of the expanding global industry and hosts the pivotal Frankfurt Book Fair each year, of course, as the world’s largest publishing trade show.

But as Wischenbart speaks in a Beyond the Book podcast this month with Christopher Kenneally of the Copyright Clearance Center, what comes across most strongly is how many similarities there are in the challenges facing publishing people in different parts of the world.


For example, the new imperative for digital-era publishers to develop “D2C” or direct-do-consumer relationships with readers is so pressing today that the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) Digital Book conference that opensBookExpo America in New York City (May 27-28) has made “Putting Readers First” its over-arching theme.

Christopher Kenneally
Christopher Kenneally

I’m program director for “IDPF,” as most people refer informally to the conference, which is led by the organization’s Bill McCoy and Wendy Erman Wels. And as we’ve worked on various reflections and approaches to the digital opportunity — and requirement — of “putting readers first,” the kind of comment we hear from Wischenbart could be precisely what we’ll hear on the conference stage at the Javits Center in May.

Wischenbart tells Kenneally that the initial reaction to the idea of going directly to readers instead of to distributors and buyers was, frankly, fear:

For many publishers – traditional publishers – it seemed, at first, to be a threat. “Oh, my God, I have to somehow get in touch with my end consumer. How can I do that?” That kind of question.

[Now], we see new companies coming into the German market saying, “OK, we provide these data that you need to have.” So then the next question is, with a limited amount of resources, particularly among medium-sized to smaller companies, how can I digest all these data and what do I do about it?

And number three, we see…from the early stages and the experiences of flat rate services that the user habits of readers are, indeed, changing. So we need to track and ask ourselves, “What does this change in the user’s reading behavior bring for the publisher, in terms of opportunities, but also in terms of concerns?”

At Berlin's Publishers Forum 2014 in Berlin. Photo courtesy Klopotek AG
At Berlin’s Publishers Forum 2014 in Berlin. Photo courtesy Klopotek AG

In short, Wischenbart is describing the same stages of resistance, then experimentation, then analysis and strategy that US publishers have gone through, that UK publishers have gone through, and that authors, both independent and traditionally publishing, are facing, themselves, as they develop — in many parts of the world — their best approaches to strong community-based followers.

Readership bonds may cross borders better than commercial appeals do.

And it’s in the appeal of the material, the literature and its creators, that publishers may yet find their best outreach to consumers.

At the Berlin conference, I’ll be moderating a panel that illustrates just this point. It’s called Fostering Fandom, Not Just Readers: How Passion And Community Can Drive Sales. My panelists are:

And what we’ll be exploring — our group representing the UK, Denmark, Germany, Austria, and the US — is how publishing today now crosses formats and platforms in a sort of transmedial search for audience, new target audiences, “fans” instead of readers. Marketing may drive the attack more readily than classic content does.

If it’s a small world, it’s a big job. And authors are being asked to get their heads around it just as persistently as are publishers.

Read More

There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son

Writing on the Ether: As The World Gets Smaller, Authors’ Jobs Get Bigger

Originally published by Thought Catalog at



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