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Streaming: Wall Street Journal's The Future of Publishing

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was a panelist on the Wall Street Journal May 18, 2022 event "The Future of Publishing. He gave an excellent presentation, and representation for #readingblack.com. So much of what the panel said resonates with what we tackle here on Readingblack.com. It also resonates within the independent and traditional black publishing world. One part that struck me as tone-deaf was the panel's talk of more mergers in traditional Big 5 publishing due to its valuable "back list." So you probably know, I cheered when Troy pointed to the richness of our "black book backlist that is selling handily, 20 years or more after its debut. The "BLACK LIST" seems like an opportunity for some authors to republish their out-of-print books. I recently bought an out-of-print book published on September 11, 2001. Sympathy for the Devil is timeless, and its subject matter is still relevant. Troy mentioned Discoverability was a pain point for publishers, authors, and readers. Well, I first heard about this book on Twitter in 2021. The thread I followed came from another black author "Victor LaValle ("The Devil in Silver.") The Topic: "Worse day for a book release." The Discoverability of this title didn't come from a pitch but rather from an exciting topic. 


Since this panel discussion is beyond a paywall, I'll share some notable points raised during the panel. 


  • As Troy mentioned, Discoverability is the first challenge in the publishing world. Frontlist books (new releases) have a hard time gaining attention. The less time and money you have to promote your book, the worse your chances for discovery. 
  • Book packaging/platform. Readers consume books in different ways, including accessibility (braille, audio, digital, paper, etc.) Most publishers start with digital, but It is important to know your audience before spending money on packaging/platform. 
  • Word of mouth /trusted voices promotion. For example, it's difficult for some books to get mainstream reviews or be short-listed for awards. 
  • Shortage of hand-selling booksellers who can get the right book into the right hands. If your book gets shelf space - it will stay put if the bookseller doesn't know how or who needs a recommendation. 


The moderator wanted a solution for getting Black-authored books into the booksphere. Troy's suggestion of a hybrid approach to bookselling, "take advantage of the data but infuse that with a personal touch," will help readers discover new books. 


The bottom line: The future of publishing depends on Building awareness and making the book available to those who need to read it.

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