Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tip O'Day #269 - Traditional Publishing

Guest blogger Jonnie Comet (from a Q&A pamphlet prepared when his novel Deirdre, the Wanderer was being marketed).

The current model of publishing, espoused by all the major publishers, retailers and, unfortunately, most authors is to have an expensive, premier agent in Manhattan approve your book, send it to a large, famous and well-established publisher as well as to his friends at the New York Times, have Ingrams distribute it to Barnes and Noble, and then sit back and wait for the Today show to schedule your TV interviews and the filmmakers to call. Though a precious few do find success this way, what I call the ‘B&N model’ is inherently flawed in numerous ways.

Conspicuously, it gives voice to only a very elite few. If the agent has never heard of you, he will regard your voice as unimportant to the market and unlikely to earn him any money, since if you were any good he would have heard of you. Notice that, besides being circular logic, this attitude cements the agent(s) as the chief arbiter between what gets said by whom to whom, the gatekeeper of free speech in a free market.

And just because something is not out in the market now doesn’t mean it wouldn’t do well in the market if some industrious marketer got off his bottom and set to work. To me, the very fact that it’s not there suggests an opportunity. A marketer should want to be the first and only one to discover new talent and to reap the benefits. But to the average publisher or agent, the fact that it’s not there, for whatever reason, suggests that it has no right to be. He’d rather take an easy 15% from a sure thing.

This model of publishing has existed since at least the 1920s and remains the default which many people think is the only sensible way to publish and market books. It’s flawed ethically and economically. I’ve tried for years to figure out why it persists; and I can only imagine that it’s centred in ego or establishmentism, something more having to do with the personalities in question than with logic, common sense or marketing savvy.

You can learn more about this author at Jonnie’s blog.


  1. Sadly this is still the model, but it is changing...slowly. I totally agree that publishers, even the small publishing houses, need to get busy and promote their authors. There are many great books out there that are not published by a major house and therefore languish on the shelves or internet.

    Sofia Diana Gabel, Author

  2. I would like to know who decides the rules and regulations for the publishers or agents. There are some that would like to blame the rules on why they can not accept your work even though they think you have a brilliant talent.