Skip to main content
Publish date:

Who Exactly Are the Middlemen in Publishing? Can They All Disappear?

Image placeholder title

There have been a number of thought-provoking articles lately on:

you take these opinions to their logical extreme, then eventually we'll end up with
just the authors and their readers—without any publishers, agents, or
booksellers around to interfere or steal away profit.

Do these middlemen interfere? (And/or steal?)

Or do these middlemen provide a service, contribute value, and/or offer quality curation for particular audiences?

Certainly there are many types of middlemen. The question for me is: Which will survive and why? The ones who contribute the most value?

Also consider:

  • Do booksellers really want to take on the responsibilities of
    publishers—which involves fielding the needs, wants, and desires of
    thousands of authors? (And are authors ready to give up relationships
    with established and talented editors?)
  • Do authors really want to take on the
    responsibility of agents, which involves scrutinizing contracts and
    financial statements from publishers, and knowing the business so well
    you can smell when something's wrong—and fight like a bulldog for the best outcome?

As far as the role of
booksellers, that seems a little more in question. Publishers already
have the means and ability to sell direct to readers. So do authors.
What qualities do booksellers need to cultivate to remain relevant in
their middleman position?

Consider this from the current issue
(July-August 2009) of Poets & Writers, where Jofie Ferrari-Adler speaks with Jonathan Galassi,
president and publisher of Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

Actually, at our sales conference … some of the salesmen were
saying that neighborhood bookstores are doing better in the economic
crisis because people are more interested in buying locally and
supporting small businesses. … It's not just more, more, more. But I think all of the
traditional bookstore chains are in trouble. Amazon is very, very
effective. But I think Amazon is a potential … frenemy. It's
not just interested in being a bookstore. So I think we have to sell
our own books to people. … bookstores are the weakest link in the chain. … There are always going to be bookstores, but I don't think that's
where the future of bookselling is.

As a final note, read this especially fine and
thought-provoking post by my colleague Guy Gonzalez, who discusses ways
in which gatekeepers (or curators of great content) will survive
alongside the crowds

What do you think? Post in the comments.

Photo credit: Dreamer 7112

How To Find the Right Professional Editor for Your Writing

How To Find the Right Professional Editor for Your Writing

It's not enough to know when your manuscript is ready for a professional edit—it's knowing who is the right fit to do the editing. Here, Tiffany Yates Martin discusses how to find the right professional editor for your writing.

From Script

Understanding the Writer and Agent Relationship (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, read an intimate interview with Verve Literary Agent and Partner David Boxerbaum about the state of the spec market, the relationship between a writer and agent, and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Ending Your Story Too Soon

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Ending Your Story Too Soon

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is ending your story too soon.

FightWrite™: Fight Scenes with Magic

FightWrite™: Fight Scenes With Magic

In this post, trained fighter and author Carla Hoch explores the process of writing fight scenes with magic—how to make the unbelievable believable, how limitations bring us closer to our characters, and more.

Invoice Template for Freelance Writers

Invoice Template for Freelance Writers

If you're a freelance writer who is able to secure assignments, an essential tool you'll need is an invoice. In this post, Writer's Digest Senior Editor Robert Lee Brewer shares a very basic and easy invoice template for freelance writers to get the job done (and get paid).

3 Things Being a Broadway Wig Master Taught Me About Storytelling

3 Things Being a Broadway Wig Master Taught Me About Storytelling

A career behind the curtain helped Amy Neswald in creating her own stories. Here, the author shares 3 things being a broadway wig master taught her about storytelling.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Out of Control

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Out of Control

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let things get a little out of control.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 14th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.

NaNoWriMo’s Over … Now What?

NaNoWriMo’s Over … Now What?

After an intense writing challenge, you might feel a little lost. Here are some tips from Managing Editor and fellow Wrimo Moriah Richard for capitalizing on your momentum.