What Can Digital Publishers Learn from Traditional Publishing’s Long Lead Times?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

In today’s feature article, Margot Atwell of Beaufort Books discusses what it takes to crash a title. Too often in these digital days, impatience is the norm. Digital publishing enables almost instantaneous publication and has made speed-to-market a priority for many, particularly DIY publishers, who are anxious to get their work in front of readers as soon as possible. That’s the pay off for all their hard work, after all. But as Atwell explains, there are also several good reasons not to be so anxious to publish: the need to produce and execute thoughtful marketing and publicity plans, as well as prep buyers at bookstores and other retail outlets, among them.

Digital publishing would seem to make much of this moot — after all, Twitter and Facebook and the Web all provide a means to market and publicize a work, virtually instantaneously, and when you’re going direct to consumer, as many digital publishers do, there’s no need to seduce a buyer to “stock” a book, when it’s instantaneously available via upload. That said, there are lessons to be learned from the long lead times publishers maintain, not the least of which is the need to carefully edit and design the book, prepare media campaigns with traditional — and I might add — still highly effective media outlets, as well as — this shouldn’t be forgotten — making an effort to preemptively sell foreign rights (if the book is good enough, there will be interest) if only to recoup some of the underlying costs of publication.

Or am I mistaken? Does digital in fact play by entirely different rules? Or are there, indeed, important lessons to be learned from traditional publishing’s long lead times.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.