Publishing Isn’t for Sissies: Tim DeYoung–Creating a Bridge Between Print and Digital Publishing

Dorchester’s abrupt shift from a mass market publishing model to focusing on digital and trade paperback releases has been dissected and discussed and bandied about for kicks and giggles by just about everyone. Mostly by folks not involved in the ongoing change. But was it so abrupt? Was it Dorchester’s choice alone? Was the story really simple enough to be covered in a tweet or a Facebook update?

The emotions running high then and now were real enough. The circumstances weren’t great for anyone involved, either before Dorchester’s move or since. The publishing industry itself, never a source of enduring security for most who challenge it, was has been in a very public tailspin for the last few years.

Exactly how much of Dorchester’s move was about one publishing house’s floundering dynamic? How much of it was industry trends playing out on a small enough stage for us to dissect every bit of it and hopefully learn something new?


From the start, I wanted Publishing Isn’t for Sissies to be about seeing the bigger picture. There’s a larger story here. Every publisher and author is playing it out, in various arenas, trying to find their place in what we’re all about to become. I applaud the brave approach Vice President Tim DeYoung and the rest of Dorchester’s staff are taking to innovate and pioneer an uncharted path they’re determined to make work for their authors.

To see a bit more of that bigger picture for yourself, spend a few minutes looking at our publishing world through Tim’s eyes…


Some people have asked me why Dorchester turned from mass market centric publishing to a digital and trade model.  The response to this question involves an understanding of the marketplace and the changes within. 

I don’t think anyone will disagree with the statement that the biggest trend in the publishing industry is the extraordinary growth of the e-book.  Articles, blogs, and editorials are everywhere you turn, trumpeting the demise of print.  There is no question that e-books seem to be the future, what with all the new platforms springing up, some that feature interactive participation or even the use of color.  Still, even with the fantastic growth in the last couple of years, e-book sales are far overshadowed by the sales of physical books.

Several years ago, the wholesale marketplace started going through very real upheaval.  Many retailers that relied on them for their books began cutting space and limiting the number of new titles and the quantities they would display.  The result was especially felt in the genre publishers.  The move to best-seller dominant distributions severely cut the romance and other genre pockets in the marketplace.  In the last couple of years, this has been exacerbated by the tremendous sales of hardcover and trade titles like the Harry Potter series, Twilight series, and the promotion of similar titles. 

After a couple of straight years with diminishing sell-through and huge returns, two major distribution agencies declared bankruptcy. One ended up liquidating all product and closed completely.  This shock further increased returns: books that had not sold and would be applied against publisher and author revenues.  Authors  selling 100,000-200,000 copies per title and growing were suddenly selling 50-, 60-, or maybe 90,000 copies.  Even major bestselling authors were losing 50% of their sales.  That, with the addition of or possibly because of the financial problems of the country, pushed mass market publishing to the brink.

Into this market appeared the e-book.  It offered a way to recoup losses the author and publishers were experiencing.  The marketing of strong authors with large followings through e-books produced very strong secondary sales.  This rapid growth did not make up for other losses entirely, but did ease some of the crush.  The loss of rack space cut off many ardent supporters of genre fiction as the books they wanted to read were no longer available where they shopped.  Most likely they have not turned to e-books yet as demographically, they are not the same as e-book purchasers and readers.

As a result of the continuing mass market decline, we put together a plan to ease some of the financial stress by partnering with a distributor/sales group to move much of our backlist into trade and to make it better available to the independent and chain bookstores.  Easing the cost of carrying hundreds of titles in stock by taking advantage of new printing technology was a very strong move on our part.  It would have effectively made a greater percentage of backlist titles by our authors available at all times.  In addition, we had worked out a plan and had scheduled some new titles to be published in trade first, before being brought out in mass market. 

This would have taken advantage of increased space in some markets and a growth in trade sales in general.  It was to be a gradual process as we weaned ourselves from our mass market centric publishing program.  Circumstance resulting from the decisions made in August of last year forced a major shift to new title publication in trade.  Understand that this is not on demand printing.  This is a full scale, trade printing program. 

While we are pushing our e-books very hard and attempting to get as many backlist titles into e-books as quickly as we can, we firmly believe that the real success and growth in e-book sales will not be from e-book only publishing.  The ability to print books, build authors, and develop a following for their work will make the e-book side of publishing that much stronger.  It is very difficult for first time authors to get e-books noticed without some other type of publishing to market the title/author.  With a solid trade line backed up by marketing and publicity, it can only help the release of e-books and increase the sales of the backlist titles in e-books as well. 

We strongly believe in our overall program and believe it will only grow stronger as we move forward.  We are making more changes to assist in making this program work, from paying as we go, to clearing up past royalties, and to the creation of a new contract to make the royalties earned in trade and e-books equal to or better than current industry standards. We need to make this program strong and viable for all authors.  We need and covet their support.

Will e-books overtake the printed word?  Probably.  Will there be a market for the printed word, yes.  What our program is attempting to do is not delay the growth of e-books, but create a program that can act as a bridge between all print publishing and the ever evolving digital publishing.  We want to position Dorchester and our authors to take advantage of all opportunities to grow their sales, market and following.


So, advantage. Opportunity. Creating programs that bridge authors to a stronger and more viable future. That’s what Dorchester was about when I first signed with them. And it’s still what they’re about, even though Secret Legacy, the second novel in my sci-fi/fantasy series, isn’t a mass market release like its prequel was.

No, publishing isn’t for sissies.

But if you’re looking for insight into what’s really happening in the unstable world of publishing, and the opportunities and challenges coming at all of us faster then we ever expected, Dorchester and the new path they’ve chosen to navigate remain one of the games to watch. Not for entertainment or shock value, but to learn from professionals fighting in the trenches to make all of this work for their authors and readers.

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2 Responses to “Publishing Isn’t for Sissies: Tim DeYoung–Creating a Bridge Between Print and Digital Publishing”

  1. Very interesting, thanks for sharing, Anna! I’m still among the ranks of the unpublished, so I’m watching the ebook vs. paper vs. self developments very closely as I determine where I need to be – and how to get there!

  2. Gord Rollo says:

    Love this report, Anna! Thanks for sharing. Tim has always been a straight shooter and has always been very good to me with my dorchester novels. My fingers are crossed they right the ship and starting moving smoothly into the future.

    All my best,


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