Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Future of Book Publishing, Part 2

Part 2 of my discussion with business guru David Maister about the future of book publishing, reproduced with his permission. Part 1 of this exchange may be found here. [Full disclosure: David Maister is a client of my employer, stresslimitdesign.]

The following article by David Maister, entitled Writers and Performers, originally appeared on his blog on July 18, 2006.

Shaula Evans, part of my tech team, spotted an interesting discussion with John Updike, which raised some concerns about the future of publishing. Since we discussed the future of writing books in this blog back in February, she thought we all might be interested.

Apologizing for her rephrasing [of Heather Greene's recap at Business Week Online’s Blogspotting], Shaula says

In short, much of the advice to (published and aspiring) authors in the digital age boils down to: "Don't worry about monitizing books. Give books away, and make money through collateral revenue streams."

To which Updike responds that authors are writers, not performers, and not likely to succeed as entertainers.

Of course, you (David) have already addressed in your post the reality that those of us who are not already John Updike are not likely to make money through the conventional book publishing and promotion model, either.

It makes me wonder if the middlemen (Amazon, speaker's bureaus, promoters) are the only ones making money here...

Shaula, I would also relate your comments to the recent stories (New York Times July 17, 2006) about film director M. Night Shyamalan's superior ability at self-promotion. Do film makers need to turn themselves into a "brand" to get their films into blockbuster status? Should we all be taking lessons from Madonna on how to create and market (constantly evolving) personas in order to draw attention to ourselves?

Do these challenges apply also to those of us trying to practice so-called "professions?" Do we consultants, lawyers, accountants, engineers and others have to take note of all this?

I do believe that there is such a thing as marketing with greater or lesser taste, but as much as I want to sympathize with Updike, I think we live increasingly in a pop-culture world where performing and entertaining ARE indeed where the money lies.

And, Shaula, if the writer doesn't want to take control of the marketing, the performing, the persona creation, then, as has always been true in the music business, the intermediaries will write the contracts and make the most money.

Material reprinted from
© Copyright 2001-2006 by David Maister

About the author
David Maister is widely acknowledged as one of the world's leading authorities on the management of professional service firms. For two decades he has acted as a consultant to prominent professional firms around the world, on a wide variety of strategic and managerial issues. In 2002, he was named as one of the top 40 business thinkers in the world (Business Minds, by Tom Brown, PrenticeHall/Financial Times). He is the author of five best-selling management books: "True Professionalism," "The Trusted Advisor," "Practice What You Preach," "First Among Equals; How to Manage a Group of Professionals," and the canonical management textbook "Managing the Professional Service Firm." These books have been translated into 14 languages. For seven years, he served as a professor on the faculty of the Harvard Business School (1979-85), prior to launching his consulting practice. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.  He is also the author of a blog, Passion, People and Principles, and the Business Masterclass podcast series, which along with a (free) subscription-service to his articles are available through his website,

The Complete Future of Book Publishing Series

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3