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Along the same vein as Sara Loyd’s musings on “book as artefact”, Booksquare is asking the question “what does a publisher do?”

The idea of “publishing” is no longer a print book based model. As I noted above, the way consumers read is vastly different than it was even a decade ago, and if you’re paying attention to your Twitter account, it’s change, change, change, all the time. With this change comes new business models and relationships with authors.

If authors don’t view this first (okay second) salvo as a wake-up call from the future, they’re going to lose. Lose like the Writer’s Guild did in 1982. And again with every contract thereafter (including, if you want my opinion, with the current contract; SAG — the Screen Actors Guild — is trying to fight for more, we’ll see how that goes). Because if you believe that “publishing” begins and ends with a (print, bound) book, then you’re going to be one of those cars sitting on the side track while the big trains whoosh by.

Sometimes you might get to take a little ride, but mostly you’re just hoping to be noticed.

I’ve had a lot of conversations recently with industry types – publishers, agents and authors – about the changes that are coming, and the changes that are already here. Provided they can recognise it and adapt, authors have some wonderful opportunities before them. It’s kind of my job at Queensland Writers Centre to help them understand and adapt. I wonder who is helping publishers do the same?

I’ve been reading about Destra. I hadn’t really known much about them until recently but as Australia’s largest (and fastest growing) independent media company there’s plenty about which to be impressed.

On their About page, they describe their business model, which is essentially

  1. Create, represent and acquire IP
  2. Build communities to consume entertainment content
  3. Monetise via these services

It occurs to me that traditional media companies, especially publishers, have always done steps 1 and 3. That’s their model. The market for the content is assumed and the books are monetised via well-worn retail distribution channels.

What’s relatively recent and increasingly important is step 2 – building communities to consume entertainment content.

Amid increasing noise in the distribution channels – both physical and digital – building loyal and active communities is a good way to ensure there’s an audience for your products.

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