Tuesday, November 13, 2007

On the Demise of the Tardy Birds--Elizabeth Burton

In many, if not most, instances, ebook publishers are small operations where their continued existence depends on the (often unpaid) work of one or two people. These people provide crucial services that the company's profit margin may not be sufficient to allow them to pay someone to replace. At least, not and get the same level of productivity.

When those key people can no longer do their job--whether it be a health problem or family issues or if they simply no longer feel they want to be a part of the organization--the company may no longer be able to function.

In cases where the company owners just didn't have an adequate business plan and budget, getting advice from others might make the difference, but rarely if it's done when they're already in trouble. Usually, the only "cure" by that point is a large investment of money to pay off debt and provide operating revenues.

The biggest problem is that too many aspiring ebook publishers see the "exterior" of the business and think it's easy. They enter it without either the aforementioned business plan or budget, overestimate their potential revenue, make one or more bad decisions with regard to cashflow and the result is they run out of money and start paying Peter at Paul's expense.

I have no hard evidence to support it, so it's just my opinion, but it seems to me the popularity of erotica and erotic romance has exacerbated this, because it misleads people into believing they can be the next Ellora's Cave. They either don't know or forget that EC had that market essentially all to themselves for nearly five years, which gave them time to build a solid market of faithful customers. When there are, instead, twenty companies selling that genre, and their market is finite, the chance of any one of those twenty achieving the status of that one who had the market all to themselves is slim to none.

That doesn't mean their product isn't as good. It simply means they have more competition. Print book publishers have the same problem--with nearly 300,000 new books published in 2006, and another 2-3 million still in print, you'd have a better chance winning the Mega-Millions than making a huge amount of money as a publisher (or, sadly, an author).

In a sense, it's that old cliche about early birds and worms. Fortunately, many of those now entering the business ARE taking the time to BE a business before they open their doors, which should go a long way toward preventing disaster unless they overextend.

Elizabeth Burton is the executive editor for Zumaya Publications LLC, and has been part of the independent ebook publishing industry since '99.

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