Intelligence Report: The 2011 Publisher’s Survey

They're not dunce caps if you believe in the magical world of gnomes.

You guys remember when I said the HeyPublisher blog was so interesting that I was going to cover it in a later installment of the Intelligence Report?  The first and foremost reason for that is their 2011 Publisher’s Survey.  I have a business degree, so when someone talks about the business end of writing, my ears perk up.  And this survey is so very very juicy. 

I often wonder what the wizards behind the curtain are doing when they’re not showing their hand just to give me a rejection slip.  What’s going on in the Willy Wonka Word Factory?  More to the point, what the hell are they thinking?

I know what I’m thinking.  I’m thinking lovers of great fiction don’t necessarily make for great managers of business.  There appears to be a level of disconnect in the publishing community that is so epic it’s grandiose.

First let’s take look at the death toll.  Survey says “The average lifespan of a new online publication appears to be less than 6 months.”  That means whenever you’re browsing the “What’s New?” section over at Duotrope, most of those fresh fish have a half year shelf life.

Then we have the section of what publishers think writers do versus what writers actually do.  Ranking at number one, publishers think 85% of their writer base finds them through word of mouth.  As in, “have you heard of The New Yorker?  The pay for stories, bro!!”  In actuality, writers report that word of mouth is number 6 and that online databases such as Duotrope leave word of mouth with dust in its mouth. 

Then there’s the social media section.  This is where 60% of publishers believe social media outlets to be important but 53% report that they believe their social media marketing efforts suck.  The folks running the survey said this:  “Though most publishers have some social media presence, a full 33% of those surveyed still do not have a Facebook fan page.  Given that roughly 43% of the US population has a Facebook login, the fact that a third of online publishers are not engaging with their readers on the very platform where their readers are hanging out seems to us to be an inexcusable oversight.”

So let me get this straight.  You’re lucky to celebrate a one year anniversary and if you fail, you’ll likely attribute your lack of good stories to writer’s not spreading the word and your lack of readership on the shortcomings of a Facebook page that failed to create itself?

I know this is the Intelligence Report, but I don’t think I have any intelligent life to report.

Here’s a tip, publisher, writers know who you are.  But if your submission  guidelines sound like everyone else’s, only they’re offering the same pay or better, guess who we’re going to sub to first?  Good luck sorting through the carrion carcass of what the other guys left behind.  Besides, most of you guys work the same way:  if your slush workers weren’t so busy dissing stories before getting through the second paragraph, you may find some awesome gems.

If you want readership, give people something they can’t get anywhere else.  That means content of value, whether its free to enjoy or subscriptions that come with perks.  That means stories that are great but can’t find a home at other places because of their editor’s notions of what their public wants precludes them from buying it.  Try a little something called web design.  Pay for artwork… ever hear the term starving artist?  They work for cheap!

If you don’t know how to advertise, hire someone who does.  Just like a writer may have to align themselves with an agent… get with the program, publisher.  You too young to die.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Intelligence Report: The 2011 Publisher’s Survey

  1. Fantastic post! Thanks for helping to spread the word.

    It is unfortunate that the disconnect between writers and publishers is so dramatic. Publishers need writers more than they want to admit. As Margaret Atwood once said (and I’m paraphrasing): “Writers are the carrion upon which the entire publishing industry feeds.” Without writers, there is no publishing industry.

    Unfortunately, readers are the ones who ultimately suffer.

    Hopefully our 2012 Publisher Survey sees some improvements in the industry ….. (one can hope 🙂

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