IVP - Addenda & Errata - Pity the Futurologist!

March 28, 2008

Pity the Futurologist!

A futurologist is bound to be increasingly frustrated with publishing—even in this day of desk-top publishing and on-demand printing.

First, we must state the obvious: the futurologist trades in identifying and speaking to and about future trends. Consequently, futurologists want their books out there now, while their views are still “future.” But the book publishing industry also wants to know ahead of time what the future holds in the way of books.

Catalogers, distributors, industry magazines want a manuscript—no, better yet, actual page proofs and the final cover—of a book several months ahead so they can get their catalogs, flyers and magazines out several months in advance of the books themselves so retailers and wholesalers will place their orders weeks ahead of time so the catalogers and distributors can ship and sell (and bill!) lots of orders immediately when the books arrive in their warehouses. And every year they seem to want to reach their hands deeper into the future of publishing seasons.

This means reaching further back into the publisher’s “forthcoming” lists. In other words, the marketer wants to be the futurologist, and that future needs to be a sure thing! Something they can hold in their hands.

Meanwhile, the futurologist is saying, But if it’s not fresh, it might be out of date! And I can only see so far forward. So the futurologist must be more prescient than ever. There’s a surcharge being levied on his visionary craft. He or she can’t just be telling us what’s going to happen in twelve months (that’s when the book will be published and the topic might be history by then), they must be telling us what’s going to happen in twenty-four months.

It’s doubly ironic, since these days one of the things they want to tell us is how and in what ways things will be moving faster than they are now—except they are bound by the slowness of publishing and marketing. Pity the futurologists. They either need a quick and dirty publisher or another medium entirely. Probably the latter. Like a blog. But that might soon, if not already, be so yesterday.

Posted by Dan Reid at March 28, 2008 12:23 PM Bookmark and Share

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