Friday, October 26, 2012

Part 5: Everyone is becoming a “hyphenate”

The silos between creative professionals are breaking down, just as the silos between types of media are breaking down. In established media, everyone has their own, well-defined role: Writers, editors, designers, artists, musicians, composers, singers, producers, directors, actors, etc. Each role is further defined by media, so, for example, there are writers for books, plays, movies and television. Historically, there have been “hyphenates”—people who perform multiple roles, such as the singer/songwriter or the writer/director, but they’ve been fairly rare.

Today, hyphenates are quickly becoming the rule rather than the exception, at least for Internet-based media. It’s not uncommon to find one person performing multiple roles. It saves time and money, and gives them more creative control. One person can be a composer, musician, producer and audio engineer. Another can be a screenwriter, director, producer and actor. Yet another can be an author, editor and book designer.

At the same time that creators are doing more, publishers should be doing less. The typical model for book publishers, especially those doing non-fiction, is to find writers, assign them subjects, provide editorial direction, do copy editing and fact checking, design the books' covers and layouts, do the typesetting, put together marketing plans, and sell the books to retailers and distributors. Most publishers don't start farming out work until it's time to actually print and bind books, or convert book files into retailers' eBook formats.

The job of publishers in the future is going to be facilitating, not performing, the work of creators. Publishers will become a member of the creative team instead of the driving force—part angel investor, part project manager and part marketer. The publisher’s underlying goal will continue to be to make money, because that’s how profits can be plowed back into underwriting more creation. However, they’ll do that by supporting their creators, not making creative decisions for them.

And that brings us to the end of this series. Here's a summary:
  1. The role of publishers is being transformed by the Internet, mobile devices and wireless broadband.
  2. Publishers are in the business of entertainment, information or education, not creating and selling print books and eBooks.
  3. Being successful as a 21st Century publisher requires going “all in” on all types of media.
  4. As a practical matter, there are no more financial or technical barriers to entry.
  5. Everyone is performing tasks that used to be done by multiple creators, and publishers are becoming facilitators and supporters of creative teams.
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