Reinventing the Publishing Industry

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

For the past year, I have gotten an insider's perspective of the mysterious world of the publishing industry. Never did I imagine when setting upon the journey of writing a book that there are so many labyrinths to navigate. After conducting two years of solid research, interviewing over 150 women in power, finding results that would lead to answers about why our culture, society and business continues to thwart advancement of girls and women, I find that the numerous steps to publish could prevent the public from thinking about crucial aspects of gender and power.

So what are those steps that seem insurmountable? The first step is finding an agent. Without a reputable agent a publishing company will never look at a proposal. Authors can not represent themselves unless they are well known and have a track record in the industry. Yet, agents are not easy to come by. Knowing that they only make a salary if the book is published, they fully assess a potential client on multiple factors-expertise, book idea, and of course whether or not the individual has a national platform to sell the book. Strangely enough, the agent piece was easy -- I found several agents willing to accept me as a client.

The next hurdle is writing a comprehensive proposal and sample chapters. The proposal is a guide to the book, an introduction to how the book came to be, descriptions of the chapters, marketing plan, bio of the author and competitive analysis. Basically, it is the business plan for the book. This I do expect -- a publisher will want to see an idea fully flushed out and be able to determine if this is the right choice and assess the credentials of the author.

But what comes next is the most baffling -- sending out the proposal. So after two years of quality research, a quest for the right agent, months of writing the proposal, the time has come to approach editors. The excitement is high as you wait for feedback -- only to discover that editors love the idea, find you highly credible but cannot invest in an author who is unknown and without a pre-existing national presence or celebrity status. Does that mean if I was Pamela Sue Anderson I could write a book on anything? I believe so!

So I decide to think about this with my leadership/organizational development hat on. Our country is in the midst of one of the biggest economic crises in history, economists and leaders have found Corporate America to be lacking in effective leadership and innovation. The publishing industry, as I have now heard from the inside scoop, is facing more distress and duress than ever. At a time when people have moved to online information as a news source and read articles written on blogging sites and ezines more often than read magazines and books, wouldn't it make sense for the publishing industry to re-evaluate its archaic methods?

Innovation is critical to industries that are on the verge of becoming dinosaurs. Intellectually, I would think books would be a cheaper source of entertainment in a time of recession. Can the publishing industry capitalize on that? Should they be thinking more strategically about re-inventing the publishing industry based on how society and culture has advanced?

The publishing industry controls what our country reads. I looked at the non fiction that is being churned out and am highly disappointed in the selection. Does the publishing industry believe that Americans do not want to read smart, thought provoking material anymore? There are tons of profiles from Hollywood has beens, individuals who sell their stories for millions because they can. Has our country's literature been reduced to reality shows and People magazine type literature? It is the responsibility of the publishing industry to produce material that sparks America to think and start realizing Americans want more than the current offerings.

For a profession that is supposedly characterized as creative, the publishing industry is not creative at all. If our country is to make significant shifts, innovation needs to occur. From an education standpoint, our country falls short when compared with other countries. Intuitively, if our own publishing industry is purposely choosing not to publish anything without a following, how can we expect our education system to thrive? There is a connection between books and education level, isn't there?

I challenge the publishing industry to get out of their comfort zone. Stop looking at only the superficial quick fix answer -- our book sales are low so let's get a celebrity to write a book. That was never the solution prior to the industry tanking. Why would those tactics be used now? Long term strategic thinking is needed. What about the possibility of discovering an author and capitalizing on the wild success of this newfound talent? Relying on recycling only works in an effort to protect our environment. It is not an effective tool to advance business and ideas.