The Dorchester Transition – My Thoughts

Posted August 11, 2010 by Holly in Discussions | 8 Comments

Dorchester put a new FAQ page up on their site today, detailing some of the main concerns about their transition from traditional publisher to e-publisher. Here’s the intro:

Given the many changes in the publishing industry over the last several years, Dorchester has made the decision to more tightly focus its distribution models so that we may fully capitalize on the most profitable emerging technologies.

Starting with September titles, we will be moving from mass-market to trade paperback format. This will delay new releases roughly 6-8 months, but it will also open many new and more efficient sales channels.
And we’re pleased to say all titles will be available in ebook format as originally scheduled. The substantial growth we’ve seen in the digital market in such a short period—combined with the decline of the mass-market business—convinced us that we needed to fully focus our resources in this segment sooner rather than later.
Dorchester has always been known as a company ahead of the curve and willing to take risks. As bookstores are allocating the bulk of their capital to the digital business, it only makes sense that we do the same. Everyone keeps hearing that the industry has to change if it’s going to survive. We’re excited to be at the forefront of that change and will continue to keep you posted on further developments.
 I think many of us were stunned when the announcement leaked last week. Dorchester has long been one of my favorite publishers, because they take risks and publish things many others won’t. It seems like they’re willing to take more chances than other publishers.
I was saddened when I heard they were in financial trouble and had sold many of their titles to Avon and Berkley. I was still hopeful that they’d be able to turn things around, but I’m on the fence about whether this is the way to go.
The digital publishing market is largely untapped at the moment. Many authors and publishers are still living in the dark ages when it comes to digital books. 5 years ago, digital books were dismissed as a silly joke. Today, nearly every title that’s published is released in both print and e-formats. With the help of hand-held reading devices, mobile applications and a major marketing push from websites like Barnes and Noble, Amazon and Books on Board, digital publishing has grown and expanded. Even so, many authors and publishers still look at e-publishing as the bastard child of print publishing. 
Seeing a company like Dorchester take the steps to move fully into that market both pleases and bothers me. I couldn’t be happier that a major NY publisher is looking at the digital market in a serious light and giving it the credit it deserves. Unfortunately, I think the hushed-up way this was gone about has possibly done more bad than good for the cause.
I do not work for Dorchester. I’m not contracted with them as an author or otherwise. I have little to no contact with them as a reviewer. But if the rumors are true and their authors weren’t told in advance about this move, nor given the opportunity to explore other avenues if that was their wish..well, that doesn’t look good on Dorchester.
Instead of this being a move toward something wonderful, a way to open up digital publishing and prove once and for all that the digital market is here to stay and should be taken seriously, it’s somehow tainted. I’m very saddened by this.
I wish Dorchester  and its authors the best of luck in the future. I hope they come out of this stronger than ever. I also hope other publishers realize this isn’t another black mark against digital publishing, but a sign of what the future will bring.
What do you think about Dorchester’s announcement? Are you ready to move forward into a more digital age, or do you think we should remain in the print ages?
PS. Check out Wendy’s blog for more info and a better presentation of what this means for Dorchester and its authors.

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8 responses to “The Dorchester Transition – My Thoughts

  1. You know I’m a huge supporter of digital books. I’d say between 50 and 75 % of all my reading is done in e-format.

    But that still leaves 25 – 50 % that isn’t. Almost all of that is mmpb.

    Like you, I can’t see how digital has eclipsed mmpb sales. I just don’t see it.

  2. goddessani

    I’m really saddened by this and by othrs that move in the same direction.

    I don’t read e-books. It’s purely a personal choice and it does backfire because it often takes longer for the print version to be released.

    But I can’t believe the mmpbs got in the way. HCs and trade size, yes. There’s not enough difference in price between an e-book and mmpb to make a big difference.

    This sounds like a cop out to me.

  3. Nearly everyone I talk to that is an avid romance reader has a hate/loathe relationship with trade paperbacks.

    For the most part, they are simply more expensive mmpbs that offer no additional benefit in quality except for a slim chance to get placement in the notoriously anti-romance indie bookstores.

    I live in a Kindle dead zone and my ebooks are read on either my ipod touch or my laptop. Neither is convenient for me to take to the beach. And the inability to lend, sell, or otherwise use as I see fit most ebooks mean that my ebook purchases hover around 10% or less.

    Which means the other 90% is almost exclusively mass market.

    I don’t see ebooks as eroding the mmpb. Especially not with agency pricing, geo restrictions and DRM.

    The vast majority of romance readers are not part of the book blogging/social media/online scene. They’re the ones who grab a paperback while they’re at the grocery store or Target.

    Mass markets are priced and supposed to be distributed “for the masses.” Trade paperbacks have always been traditionally a bookstore only format. And ebooks may be growing, but I think Dorchester made the wrong choice. Lack of a retail presence in mass market will mean that your average romance reader just won’t buy their books.

  4. Wendy

    Granted what I know about the business of publishing wouldn’t fill a thimble – but I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that ebooks have eroded mass market sales that much. Even at $7.99, mmpb is still an affordable, viable format. If anything, I’d have thought digital would have chewed through more of the hard cover and trade pb sales numbers. Although with agency pricing – not so much now I guess.

    Plus I just don’t want to see mmpb vanish forever and ever. It’s portable, affordable, and most importantly….swap-able. Until I can loan out my ebook files to my sisters, my friends etc. there’s no way in holy heck I’m going all digital all the time. No matter how convenient I find the format for getting my Harlequin fix and reading ARCs….

  5. Kim

    I still like reading actual books. I just don’t like e-books.

    I think there’s more to Dorchester’s reasoning than that they’re trying to be ahead of the curve. For whatever reason, they must have been losing money and decided to try this to save the company.

  6. I don’t know if this is really a question of whether it was the right choice or the only choice for them at this point. I don’t write or work for them but I wasn’t very surprised when I heard the announcement only because I know they’ve had serious issues paying their authors. When they were pulled from the RWA conference, I figured they had a lot of stuff to iron out. I don’t know if this is so much that the explosion of digital books pushed them in this direction as much as poor money management.

    As a side note, I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that even though trade books are more expensive to buyers, a lot of the time, publishers can break even with them as opposed to losing money on returns w/ mass market books. With mass market books if they’re not sold, the bookstores strip the front cover, return those to the publisher, then toss the books. With Trade that’s not the case. Even though they’re paperback, they can return them and the publisher can resell them. They also stay on the shelves longer than mass market. No matter what’s happened, I’m saddened for a lot of their authors. If I’d signed w/ them hoping to make the jump into mass market I’d be disappointed at the changes if they weren’t spelled out to me before hand.

  7. For me it sucks. For the first thing I need an e-reader and have to buy one from abroad..for the second I can’t buy all ebooks since some are only being sold in just that country, so what am I to do then? It all sucks in the end

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