We Are All Publishers

Almost anything we progeeks are into can be considered a form of publishing.  Knowing this is important to our careers.

That may sound strange when your interest doesn't come out as a book or a magazine, so stick with me here as I take a look at just what publishing is.

We talk about book publishing, magazine publishing, even software publishing.  But in reality almost anything related to information is a form of publishing – television shows can be seen as published (packaged and sent out), movies the same, a sports event is televised and bounded and presented.

After chewing this over, here's how I define publishing:

Providing and supporting access to content the customer wants.

That content can be a concert, a book, a program, a poster (which is of course information) or an e-book.

Viewing the majority of geektastic/fannish careers can be considered publishing, this gives us a tool to analyze just what's changing and what we need to be on top of, be our loves anime, science-fiction, video games, or Bollywood musicals.

Providing . . .
You have to get the content to people.  You have to print the book, broadcast the show, burn the game to CD, ad so forth.  You have to make it available for sale and let people know about it.

"Providing" has changed rapidly in the last decade.  E-books, print-on-demand, DLC for games, online viewing of video, etc. has all come into play within the last yen years or so.  There are new costs and ways to save money.

This is where a lot of businesses are having issues – how do you get things out to people these days?  What works?

I don't have an answer.  But today you have to keep asking the question and find your answers to succeed.


Support is an area missed way too often in content distribution.  The badly-printed book, the buggy DVD, the malfunctioning software – we've all been there and then some.  Even when things are running well, people can miss ways to enhance the customer experience – with free products, short story sequels online, tie-in-media, or a supportive online community.

However, support is now a lot easier.  You can have a website to support a product.  You can have a Facebook group.  You can make a DLC tie in to your game.

In fact, now you have to support your product and service to get an edge on your competitors.  They have DLC for their game and you don't (or you overcharge)?  They have an advantage.  You just put out a novel and don't have a web page for the series, then your competitors have one up on you.

Support is no longer something you can take for granted, it is an edge.

You've got to have something to sell.  Otherwise who is going to be interested in whatever content you have?

This seems to be given of course – you have to have a new book, a new game, a new broadcast, to bring people in.  This is about the only thing that hasn't changed, except . . .

There's a lot of ways to GET content now.  The author who'd never get any exposure can self-publish ad get your attention.  There are other countries selling their content rights.

There's also "supporting content" much like the above.  Do you put out a book with a companion book? Do you have exerpts of the book online or from the sequel to draw people in?  Do you provide free DLC to game?

The challenge of modern content is there's so much – and what content you have to pair together.

. . . the customer wants.
And here's the rub of "publishing" – people have to want it and that's extremely unpredictable.

Your audience is often a global audience – so you have to be concerned about needs in various countries.  Your audience has access to many different forms of content, and thus you may need to hyper-specialize.  Your audiences needs may be simple, but supporting issues (like the above) may be the deal breaker.

In an age with a lot of content available, finding what works is harder and harder because of the competition, and because people and companies can niche, often quite effectively.

You have to know your audience well, do your research, and make the stuff they want.  What may have been accepted twenty years ago isn't no because people have more choice.

So I think for most of us in fannish jobs, this is what we're facing – we're really all publishers or in some kind of publishing.  In that area we have to provide and support our products well, and make sure we get things people want in a time of increased choice.  Technology can help with that – but also provides many a challenge and edges to our competitors as well.

You're probably a publisher or want to be in publishing, even if you didn't realize it.

Realizing it will help you succeed.

– Steven Savage