Monday, June 23, 2014

Finding Money In Publishing

Thieves generally gravitate towards that which will bring them money, or why else would you risk your freedom in taking something that doesn't belong to you?

Steal on a massive scale for the thrills?

Not likely. You still have to put food on the table and a roof overhead. If it was a question of thrill alone you'd become a commodities trader or a stockbroker. You know, professional gambler-type occupations that keep you on the edge of your seat because you never know when your bet will come up a loser.

So we're talking about theft as a money-making scheme. Steal something, pawn it or sell it at a flea market, and pocket the cash. But how could any respectable thief expect to turn a tidy profit in publishing?
The illegal library

Spanish police report the disruption of a massive fraud ring that centered on a criminal publishing enterprise, proving that there must be money in publishing if done right.

According to reports, the three would-be publishers skipped past the whole process of acquisitions via slush pile or literary agent representation and selected only blockbuster books. Isn't that what every publisher is after? Wouldn't it be a highly profitable business if every book that was selected was a sensation that sold through?

The books that the thieves chose to print had already been thoroughly edited for content and typos, so there again they saved money on hiring an editor to whip the manuscript into shape. Of course, the major publishers are already doing this to a large extent, being interested only in polished manuscripts that won't require much work. Hence the plethora of MFA holders getting published. They know how to structure a manuscript and so they represent a cost savings for the publisher.

Using modern technology, which must have been a bit expensive unless the equipment was also stolen, the copyright infringement gang scanned and then printed well over 1,000 books. There were hard drives filled with more texts, all from prominent authors who could command some comfortable royalties from their works, except of course that these are thieves here and they don't pay royalties. Again, if legitimate publishers could get away with it, they would. Why spend more when there's not much coming in?

Although the police haven't given out much by way of details, they have mentioned that this arrest was part of an investigation into Asian criminal gangs. But where were these books being sold, and were they in Spanish or English or was there an international library of best-sellers ready to be shipped and sold on the black market?

So there is money in publishing, but it comes after a book has been promoted into wide-ranging public notice and acclaim.

The problem for publishers is that someone, namely the publisher, has to pay for the creation of the book. Little wonder that they are so keen to see governments put some effort into ensuring that copyright laws are not violated. Considering the huge scale of this recently rumbled operation, you have to wonder if a considerable amount of publishing's profits is being siphoned off by thieves who know where the money is.

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