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Publishers Creeping Into Digital

They should have done it a long, long time ago, but finally some publishers are selling directly to consumers, and also taking advantage of the surging self-publishing market.

Random House, for example, has launched an online cookbook store, TasteBook, which is dedicated to cookbooks and books about food.

And Atria, a division of Simon & Schuster (which already has a self-publishing imprint for those who need help with editing, marketing and as well as uploading to Amazon and other sites) has teamed up with United Talent Agency to launch Keywords Press which, according to an article on the publishing site GalleyCat, “will publish books by ‘digital influencers.”

Random House is building on the cooking community that has a strong online presence, and Atria and United Talent Agency on those writers who already have a strong online following.

This is natural – why not go where there are obvious customers and built-in platforms? But it’s also an indication that publishers are finally beginning to utilize the online world in a way they’ve rather ignored in the past, apart from signing those self-published authors who’ve managed to become bestselling authors without the aid of traditional publishing houses.

Publishers should have long ago become retailers, and they could have done this before Amazon became the powerhouse it is. Publishers could have long ago looked to find new talent among digital writers who’d eschewed (or been ignored by) traditional media outlets. That a publisher has teamed with an agency to find voices in this way speaks also to the agency realization that not everyone is going to come to literary agents through the old-fashioned submission-letter/manuscript means.

It might be too late to affect the rise of self-publishing (which traditional publishers still look on to some extent as a vanity project, ignoring or not believing the sales figures for many self-published books). But publishers really have no choice. They’ve been left behind and need to catch up somehow.

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