Today I read a press release about Gordon Crovitz, former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, joining the board of directors for the self-publishing company, Blurb. Actually, I didn't read past the second paragraph. It gave me too much to think about.
Blurb was started in 2005. In 2007 they reached annual revenue of $10 million with 90,000 titles. (And that's just one self-publishing outfit. I'm scared to look up the numbers for Lulu, Author House, and Amazon's Booksurge, just to name a few others. Is it any wonder that R. R. Bowker reported over 400,000 new titles were published in 2007?) 90,000 titles in two years! I calculate that Blurb is producing a new title every 2.8 minutes. Compare that to the fifty new titles Cumberland House will release this year and the time and other resources we will invest in developing those books.
As a publisher, I have celebrated the increased sharing of ideas and lamented the glut of books and the oxygen they choke out of the market, but today I made room for another thought: maybe a book deal with a traditional publisher means more today than ever before. There is something to be said for the collaborative development of a book. As Clay Shirky, author of the book Here Comes Everybody, wrote in Publishers Weekly last month, "A book isn't just a collection of 80,000 words on paper. A blogger can build that up in a few months. A book is a collection of words that have been obsessed over by people other than the writer. That's what a publisher does, and that process helps a book become a focal point for a conversation or an argument."
Becoming a "published author" has never been easier (or cheaper), but with the rush of self-published content pouring into the community of ideas, perhaps it has never been a greater privilege to collaborate with others who have spent their career developing books and bringing them to market. Perhaps getting a professional publisher to invest in your idea is to be esteemed, valued, respected, and admired more today than ever before.
So congratulations, Cumberland House authors. We are happy to be your publishing partner.