The newest brand in consumer markets: Authors

There are over 500,000 books being published each year from traditional publishing houses such as Knopf to small Indie presses like Titan. A growing amount of books are being self-published from various platforms. This is a consumers and book lovers paradise with endless books but this same utopia can be an author’s downfall. Authors are becoming a dying breed. Yes more books are being published but not many books are selling. In 2013 authors in the United Kingdom were not even making enough money for the minimum standard of living according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (Flood, 2014) Authors may publish their books hoping to become the next James Patterson or J.K. Rowling but due to a saturated market cannot even afford rent. The digital market of eBooks and self-publication may have hindered author’s abilities to profit in their profession rather than help them. However the digital realm can also help authors. Authors have to now be more than storytellers they have to evolve and become a brand.

In a traditional publishing business model the story will carry the book and marketing teams and publishers will sell the book. The author’s platform can help but may not always be needed. Some authors prefer to not be in the spotlight. Now the author is a full brand and their book is the commodity. Self-publishing is the path most new authors will tread on due to the lack of editorial gatekeeping and the majority of the profit is given to the author not split between the publishing house and the agent. Amazon’s kindle has a direct publishing platform so authors can publish directly to the Amazonian marketplace (Collins, 2013)Within the Kindle direct publishing there are several tools for authors for them to get their books noticed among the myriad of books already available in the marketplace. One way authors can do this is by “selling” their books for free.  Although this seems a completely backwards strategy, how can authors make money if they give their content away for free?

Books published through Kindle’s direct publishing can be a part of their free book promotions for a limited number of days. The program is “seeking to sell at high volumes rather than high margins” (Collins, 2013)This is all to encourage word of mouth marketing thus selling greater volumes of books after the promotion is over. The Kindle Direct is just one platform, Smashwords Bookbub and Story Cartel are a few other websites that provide books for free or little cost. Story cartel gives readers free copies of books in exchange for honest reviews. Their goal is to create buzz and hype around a book through good reviews so other consumers will purchase the items. Story Cartel also helps authors create a community and relationship with its readers. They help create an author’s brand so readers will purchase future books from the author.  Authors are now also sending free eBooks to ‘big mouths’ in their community to generate more recognition. Thompson (2012) refers to ‘big mouths’ as “anyone they can think of who has some position of influence, whether they are review editors or agents or opinion leaders” (pg. 248). In the age of the internet bloggers are key ‘big mouths’ and authors can target them to help promote their book and also themselves by being featured on blogs and podcast.

The business model of free is something Chris Anderson is a strong advocate for. He explains, “how most free books are based on freemium” (Anderson, 2009, pg. 158). In his Ted Talk he quotes how “free is abundance not a scarcity” (Anderson, 2004). It can be a free chapter or the whole book but it draws readers in and it helps spread the author’s brand. In this model authors have to give away some or all of their content to build a relationship and community with their audience. If books are free they are also less likely to become pirated and posted on the web by random users. Instead a free book directly from the author promotes the author’s name and his other products as well. Tim O’Reilly a publisher notes, “the enemy of the author is not piracy but obscurity” (in Anderson, 2009, pg. 161). Giving out the books for free helps authors to not become another nameless book in the sea of books being published.

There are limitations on the free business model and a major one is not having a brand or a platform. Once an author has an established brand then the price of the content will not matter to readers they will pay to read the next book written by their beloved brand named author. J.K. Rowling is a prime example of how a brand affects sales. She published her second adult novel The Cuckoo’s’ Calling under the name Robert Galbraith. Originally the book sold approximately 13,000 worldwide (Stewart, 2013). After Rowling was ‘unmasked’ the book sold up to 1.1 million copies and was at the top of best seller list (Stewart, 2013).


According to Forbes the strongest brand in publishing is Jack Reacher created by Lee Child (Vinjamuri, 2014). According to Codex Group data, people are willing to pay a significant premium for their brand authors (Vinjamuri, 2014).

It is not all about the platform but the brand, Vinjamuri (2013) argues, “before a book can possibly be a bestseller, it needs to reach critical mass.” New authors need to establish a brand to become noticeable amongst the plethora of books but this does have major implications for the publishing industry.

Writers who achieve a brand status will profit greatly even if they give away one of their books for free. The readers will most likely purchase other items from the author. This model works well if an author is writing a series versus stand-alone titles (Sargent, 2014). Authors must join the rest of the creative industries and face the reality of the digital world. The fashion industry has knock offs and cheap imitations but it does not stop fashion houses and brands from growing. Johanna Blakely(2010) discusses how copyright and piracy do not affect the fashion world because they have a culture of copying.  She argues that even with no copyrights and knock offs, brands will still continue to profit because their customers are not going to purchase knock offs. They want to purchase the brand (2010). 

The implication for authors as a profession is quite drastic. Authors will now have to write but may not get big advance checks especially if they take the self-publishing route. Most authors in the current market are already living the reality of not having any advance checks or having drastically smaller ones from publishing houses. Writing is now just one aspect of the profession. Previously an author could avoid the limelight and just sit at home and write books and if the story is captivating and publishing house is promoting it then will sell. Now there are hundreds of stories being published some have the power of the big publishing houses but most are just being typed up on computers then being published almost instantly. Authors must now have a relationship with their readers and start to build a community. Authors can gather email addresses of readers in exchange for a few free chapters or sometimes the whole book. This allows the authors to generate mailing list so they can target their audience directly (Collins, 2013).  

There are some criticisms to this new direction that authors are going towards. Just how publishers though that Amazon will and has devalued the price of the book, when authors give their books away they are devaluing their profession (Anderson, 2015).This argument is valid it may decrease the worth but consumers ultimately have to purchase the goods. They are a key factor in the market and can change the market as well. There are some authors who do see the changes of the industry and are embracing the new direction. Lawrence Lessig gave away thousands of copies of two of his books one that was previously published and a new one and he states it “that the openness has extended the long tail of my book” (Hilton & Wiley, 2010). Being open helps authors gain other opportunities such as film production, writing in magazine and teaching and speaking fees (Hilton & Wiley, 2010).

Publishing houses are already going through changes with the new technologies such as Ebooks and self-publishing platforms. With authors putting up their content for free publishers can now look at the stories and authors with out doing any work. Editors no longer have to look through manuscripts they can look though the various free books and see which books are creating the most buzz and have a following. With this route publishers would be finding books that already have an audience and sell bestsellers. Hypothetically the guesswork for finding bestsellers would be erased. This does not mean that traditional publishing houses will cease to exist. Even with authors going self-publishing routes, Ewan Morrison states how authors will jump to a “proper publishing deal as soon as they are able” (Barber, 2012). A classic example of this is Fifty Shades of Grey that was once as on a fan website for Twilight for free then was ‘picked up’ by Vintage House to follow a more traditional publishing route.

The publishing industry as a whole is affected by the changes in the author’s profession. The traditional elite author is not sustainable anymore neither is elite publishing. The days of editors and publishers being gatekeepers are fading. Authors are now letting their works be seen by the masses for free and in exchange gaining recognition and developing a brand.

Work Cited

Anderson, C. (2009). Free: The future of a radical price. New York: Hyperion.

Anderson, C. (2014, February) Technology’s long tail. Retrieved November 1, 2015 

Anderson, P. (2015, January 28). ‘Who Decided Our Worth?’ Do Free Books Give Away Authors’ Value? Retrieved November 7, 2015, from 

Barber, J. (2012, Jul 26). ‘There will be no more professional writers in the future’. The Globe and Mail Retrieved from 

Blakley, J. (2012, April 1). Lessons from fashion’s free culture. Retrieved October 1, 2015.

Collins, S. (2013, October 17). Why Successful Authors Are Giving Their Books Away for Free. Retrieved November 9, 2015, from 

Flood, A. (2014, July 8). Authors’ income collapse to ‘abject levels’ Retrieved November 7, 2015, from

Hilton III, J., & Wiley, D. (2010). Free: Why Authors are Giving Books Away on the Internet. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning54(2), 43-48.

Sargent, B. (2014, May 27). Are Book Giveaways Still Worth It for Indie Authors? Retrieved November 5, 2015, from 

Stewart, J. (2013, August 30). Long Odds for Authors Newly Published. Retrieved November 6, 2015, from

Thompson, J. (2012). Merchants of culture: The publishing business in the twenty-first century (Second ed.). New York, New York: Plume.

Vinjamuri, D. (n.d.). The Strongest Brand in Publishing is. Retrieved November 6, 2015, from 

How Technology has Shifted the Fashion and Publishing Industry

New technologies have been morphing the creative industries. The publishing industry has gained new tools and faced new players due to advances in technology. The fashion industry has similarly faced new challenges. These industries share some common woes such as the decline of physical stores and the increase in online shopping. Technology has created power shifts in both industries from creators to consumers and vice versa. The Publishing and fashion industry are adapting to the new technologies. With all the new software and hardware, technology looks like it is driving both industries to its roots.

Technology has changed the way the creators of both industries work. Fashion designers are sharing their designs on social media. Brands such as Saks Fifth Avenue are using the data gathered by social media to help with their inventory. Cowen (2012) shares in The Guardian how “Carla Dunham of Saks Fifth Avenue talked about how social media is helping to shape their retail lines. For instance, they might post a new designer shoe to their Facebook Page and, based on the response, they would know whether to boost stock levels in preparation”. Social media is becoming a tool that the fashion industry is embracing more than the publishing industry. From New York to Milan to London annual fashion weeks were events that were highly exclusive. With the rise of new platforms like Twitter and Instagram these elite events are now being opened to the masses. Brands are even experimenting with ‘one click’ buy buttons for pieces that are coming down the catwalk. There are several new companies that have started up due to the synergy of technology and fashion. Decoded Fashion is a company that host events that bring together top fashion industry experts and technology experts. Following the styles of fashion week, Decoded occurs yearly in different fashion hubs around the world. Their London 2015 Summit highlighted how the potential for personalization for brands is growing progressively. The more recent Tokyo Summit explored consumer-creator evolution and fan content.

Writers can now interact with their audiences via social media programs such as Facebook and Twitter. Authors can also gain feedback about ongoing work. The definition of an author is also being blurred by new technology and self published works are on the rise. Fanfiction sites such as Fan Fiction or WattPad allows anyone to put their own spin on popular titles. The concept of fan fiction and self-publishing is not new but has accelerated with the growth and spread of the Internet.

The creation of self-publishing could pose a threat to large publishing houses, but this has not been the case. Big publishers are using the websites as channels to find authors and new titles. These authors already have a fan base and so the marketing and promotion budget can be low. The fashion industry may not go scouting for new designers online but designers can gather inspiration on the Internet.

Sharing and connecting worldwide is not just a click away. Both industries have been subjected to piracy and copyright infringement before but each industry has different views and methods. The fashion industry is a more open industry and some view the copying as challenges to create something brand new. Johanna Blakley explains in her talk 2010 TedxUSC talk how fashion does not worry about copyright and piracy as much as other creative industries such as music and film. A key point that she makes is that counterfeit and knock off designs will not affect brands, because they are not the market that buys pricey luxury goods.

Fast fashion has emerged from the trend of ‘copying’ and ‘borrowing’ designs. These retailers such as Zara and H&M take runway fashion and make it cheaper and more affordable by outsourcing the manufacturing and other technologies to create product when there is demand. This type of fashion is growing exponentially. New technologies are allowing this part of the fashion industry to thrive.

The publishing industry has not welcomed the ease of sharing with open arms. Copyright and plagiarism has been a battle that publishers have been fighting for decades. However with new technologies of e-book and digital files it is easier to copy and distribute works. Thompson (2012) explains how publishers have three ways to protect themselves: security, policing and proactive supplying to the market. Security involves the use of DRM (Digital Rights Management) for electronic works. Policing is a bit harder to achieve due to the prolific websites, blogs and forums. Thompson (2012) also notes how publishers have to be flexible with formats. He states “nothing would do more to stimulate illegal trade in electronic files than an inability…[to adapt] to genuine demand for content on reading devices” (pg. 367).

The changes to copyright and piracy are handled by each industry differently. The fashion and publishing industry do have a common battle with new technological advances. Both industries have seen a decline in their brick and mortar stores and an increase in their zeros and ones binary walls. Now exclusively online retailers such as ASOS (As Seen On Screen) from the UK are entering the retail market. Companies have no choice but to have physical stores and online stores because online shopping is on the rise. E-commence is booming and new players are emerging in the retail landscape. Clothing manufactures can directly sells goods to customers and so can publishers (Thompson, 2012). There is no need for intermediaries such as stores when a web programmer can build a store online, which cost little to nothing compared to a physical store.

Niemer (2013) writes in Reshaping Retail: Why Technology is Transforming the Industry and How to Win in the New Consumer Driven World how manufacturers are not the only new contenders. Logistics companies such as Fed Ex are aggregating items and selling them, magazines have more editorial commerce on their pages and consumers are selling to each other via sites like Ebay (Niermer & Zocchi, 2013).

The publishing industry has gone through the same tribulations as the fashion industry. One retailer that is a key e-commerce player in both industries is Amazon. Amazon started as a bookseller but has spread to a broader base of consumer goods. Amazon aim is to get consumers to buy off their website which means undercutting other websites and stores. In the publishing industry Amazon is selling books and e-books with large discounts even losing revenue with each book purchase. Thompson (2012) explains how Amazon and other large online companies, “[used] book content as a lever to drive the sales of its hardware” (pg. 369). This is referring to how e-books were sold by Amazon for only $9.99 with the purchase of a Kindle. This pricing model has publishers worried because it devalues the price of the book. In the fashion and retail industry Amazon is creating competition and lowering prices through their Price Checker App. This application scans barcodes of products and shows if the consumer can buy it at a reduced price online (Niermer & Zocchi, 2013). Amazon and other companies now control the bargaining reins when it comes to deals with publishers and manufacturers. If brands and publishers want their products on Amazon’s virtual shelves they have to follow amazon’s style and rules.

A technological advance that the fashion industry has capitalized on is information. Niermer & Zocchi, (2013) defines big data as “data for which the scale, distribution, diversity, and/or timeliness of delivery require the use of new technical architectures and analytics to enable insights that unlock new sources of value” (pg. 69). Retailers are gathering more information on their customers to advertise and sell them products that have been tailored to their likes and needs. Gross (2013) explains how retailers must adapt an ‘omnichannel strategy’ that complies data from physical stores, online websites, mobile devices to create a custom shopping experience to customers. Stores can track spending habits and what particular items are being purchased. Duhigg (2012) wrote an expose about how companies are learning our secrets. Marketing departments are hiring analytics and data specialists to compile and find patterns in customer data. Customer data is collected through loyalty point cards, credit cards, phone applications that give coupons and even postal codes that some retailers ask for during checkout. Duhigg (2012) writes about how Target created a pregnancy prediction model that would calculate if a woman was pregnant by the goods that she purchased in store. This model is not directly a part of the fashion industry but similar models can be created. We now have applications and tools that tell us what to buy at a lower price (Amazon Price Checker) and can find out almost instantly where an article of clothing is from. Whether it is on a television show or a movie or just the girl or guy sitting next to you on public transit.

The publishing industry does not collect data like the fashion and retail industry. It may collect data about what types of book a person purchases and recommends similar titles. It does not use big data the way the fashion industry uses it to personalize and customize emails and flyers for its customers. Consumers may be buying clothes but the real money maker is the information that the brand or retailer collects.

Technology has changed different aspects of the fashion and publishing industry. All of these changes could be leading both industries back to their roots. Brands and publisher may start to create custom and unique pieces that are only sold in boutique shops or small book stores. However, these items and stores will be a novelty. In the future we might all just buy everything on Amazon. Each consumer will have a custom Amazon page with all the items they need or Amazon thinks they need and want. Both the publishing and fashion industry will not die out with the advances of this new technology. They will adapt and grow.


Work Cited

Blakley, J. (2012, April 1). Lessons from fashion’s free culture. Retrieved October 1, 2015.

Bridle, J. (2014, November 7). Digital Rights Management: Its not as if wanting to read books is a crime. Retrieved October 3, 2015.

Cowen, K. (2012, May 16). Changing the Face of Retail: Where fashion meets technology. Retrieved October 2, 2015.

Duhigg, C. (2012, February 18). How Companies Learn Your Secrets. Retrieved October 3, 2015.

Gross, N. (2013, September 17). Managing the Technology of Fashion. Retrieved September 30, 2015.

How Technology Is Disrupting the Fashion Industry. (2015, September 12). Retrieved October 4, 2015.

Niemeier, S., & Zocchi, A. (2013). Reshaping retail: Why technology is transforming the industry and how to win in the new consumer driven world.

Thompson, J. (2012). Merchants of culture: The publishing business in the twenty-first century (Second ed.). New York, New York: Plume.

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