by Raelene Gorlinsky
Sigh, another URL in my "Publisher" links list is no longer functional. It was a small epub who's been rumored for a year to be on the brink. So it looks like they finally fell over the edge and are gone. I'm sorry to see a publisher (of any format) fail. I hope they did the right thing by their authors before closing their doors. But mostly I dread another round of noise from people claiming how this shows epublishing is not a viable business, epublishers are all incompetent and/or evil, epublishing only produces bad books that didn't sell to New York, and a lot of other nonsense.
Come on, people, get a grip and deal with the reality of the business world. If that new bakery down the street goes out of business, would you be screaming that all cake-makers are stupid and no one should deal with them? If that gift shop where you were selling your handmade jewelry on consignment closes their doors, does that mean gift shops are not a viable retail business?
Businesses of all types fail. A lot. The newer and the smaller, the more of them don't make it to long-term success. One hears some riduculous numbers - "Oh, 90% of new businesses fail within two years." That's urban legend, reality blown way out of proportion. But even the real numbers are pretty sobering:
From the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), reported in Business Week magazine, September 1999: Over the lifetime of a business, 39% are profitable, 30% break even, 30% lose money. (We won't ask what happened to the missing 1%.)
A US Bureau of Labor Statistics study for 1998 - 2002 found that 34% of new businesses cease within 2 years, and 56% within 4 years.
Entrepreneur Weekly in March 1996 quoted a Dun & Bradstreet report that for businesses with fewer than 20 employees, 63% did not survive 4 years and 91% did not survive 10 years. (Per the NFIB report, two-thirds of new businesses start in the owner's home and 79% employ only the owner.)
Without getting into the many, many reasons that businesses close their doors, you can see the grim statistics. Almost all epubs I know of did indeed start out in the owner's home, run solely by the owner or with only a few other people involved. That includes the one for which I work, which passed its seven-year anniversary in November and now has quite a few more than twenty employees. We're very successful, we're beating the statistics and so are a number of other epublishers and small print presses. But yes, some epubs don't make it and fill in the "did not survive" side of the ledger.
I don't believe that epubs fail in any higher percentage than businesses overall. So please quit it with the nay-saying about epublishers. Focus on those of us who are doing it right, surviving and succeeding, rather than trying to make the world see only the ones that don't make it. Or I'm not going to let you have any more cakes or jewelry.