Thursday, December 04, 2008

Black Wednesday...Silver Futures

No, this isn't a post about the stock market.  But it is a time to take some stock of things in our business.  With all the layoffs at S&S and the shakeups at Random House and so many other reorganization strategies around the world of publishing, it would be easy to start spouting doomsday messages.  I'll just throw on a sheet and stand on the corner in NYC with a sandwich sign about the end of the (publishing) world...  

Actually, no.  It isn't the end.  I won't be so saccharine and cliché to say "it's a new beginning" (hold the gag reflex, please).  But I will say that this is not all bad.  Nathan Bransford has blogged about this topic more than once, like this and this.   And Caren Johnson reflects on yesterday's events in her most recent blog.  Both have a positive perspective on things.  

But add in several of my writer friends in their blogs, on FaceBook...all over.  And one can only imagine what the people waiving their pink slips in the air are thinking.  Plenty of people are nervous.  This could be our Chicken Little moment.  

But hang on.  Can you ever imagine a world without books?  That could be the one thing that would instantly eliminate me from Fear Factor! (shudder...)  Thank you, Ray Bradbury, for your glimpse of such a world in Fahrenheit 451.  

That said, we need to consider what all these shifts in the business really mean.  After all, publishing is a business, as much as we love to think of it purely as an art.  Writing is the art, the craft.  Publishing is the business.  So what does the future hold for us?  

First of all, books might begin to look a little different, but there is simply no reason for them to disappear.  With all the fuss about Kindle and the Sony Reader, digital books may have a stronger foothold in our libraries than we once believed.  Is that a bad thing?  

As Caren suggests in her blog, advances may have to be adjusted—and that doesn't mean you'll get paid less if you write that Printz-winning best seller.  What it could mean is that your advance could be a little smaller, and your royalty check a little bigger.  That's "real-time" money.  Money actually earned out by your book.  As a soon-to-be debut author (I believe, I believe...) my fantasies about a great advance might be dented, but I've always known the cold realities of first-time advances.  That doesn't mean I won't keep dreaming...or keep writing.

So what is the silver in our future?  My guess is a more efficient publishing machine.  Perhaps a broader reading audience thanks to technology and better marketing strategies.  Even a more educated, lit-savvy readership who hunger for more.  

At least, that's what I'm going to hold my breath for...


  1. I hear it's all gloom and doom but it's not permanent. I don't think kindle or high tech gadgets will ever replace the humble, low tech book. for me, the internet is more about browsing - cherry picking, really - and books are about deep immersion in a story, a life or a time, about being transported. The clouds will eventually clear.

  2. I've been negligent in the blogosphere and missed your good news, so I write not with a belated--congratulations! I'm so happy for you that you have a good agent, and I can't wait to hear what the next year holds for you. And as I'm sure your research tells you, parents buy books for kids even when they don't buy them for themselves. We're sittin' pretty! (Okay, not entirely, but still, we can have a slight reason to feel good.)

  3. Thanks Cake! Yes, I think the kids market is actually one that will still see some decent action over the holidays.

    And Stella, as far as I'm concerned, nothing will ever replace the book, its crisp pages, the fragrance of the ink and the binding, the weight of it. I think it will stay around. But I do think electronic options will also change the landscape somewhat, and not all for the worse.

    Keep our chins up, gals!

  4. Reality - advances are becoming almost nonexistent. I don't have an advance, although I could have used a major one but I also have a large contract. With my series being 50 books, and the publisher wanting to publish one book every three months (4 a year), I'm going to be earning royalties on top of royalties, exponentially when the last of the books comes out. So I guess in the long run, I'll be doing better than having had the advance. Even the larger publishing houses aren't offering those huge advances any more. But every little bit helps. It takes a lot of sales to earn back the advances and to start seeing a royalty check, so I guess I'm better off since I saw a check immediately (albeit a small one, but I saw income after the first quarter after the book came out).

    Hang in there, you will get that much desired sale and you will see your books start taking off. Keep me posted on how the moving might be going, et cetera - E :)

  5. Thanks, E! Still waiting for the house to sell...grrrrr! And still getting ready for the big pitch. But 2009 will be a banner year, I can just feel it!

  6. From Florida -
    Good luck with the house sale.

    I love what you said about a wider & perhaps deeper, better-read audience for writers to appreciate.

    Our voracious teen daughter at home, who always asks for more bookcases,
    would like a Kindle when she moves north during college years. She likes the idea of having it along on the train, bus & plane, for commutes & visits home, rather than lugging a bag of big books.

    I'm hopeful. And thinking how to write more, with less.

    Thanks for that comment about the ghost threads from the Halloween time post, Ghost Girl....

    JG in Tallahassee


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