Chicken Little, Go Home!
Amazon’s revenue beat forecasts and jumped 18% in the third quarter of 2008 compared to the year before. (Read the article.)
Fiction reading apparently had a significant increase from 2002 to 2008. (Read the article.)
It’s true that the publishing world is changing. The way people read is changing… we have many options besides ink-on-paper books. The way people buy is changing… whether it’s online versus brick-and-mortar stores, or new versus used.
The one thing that isn’t changing is the fact that people are still reading (even if we’re reading Facebook and Twitter and blogs). So the question we need to be asking ourselves is, how will we adapt to the changes? How will we keep on providing people with what they want to read, how they want to read it?
I think various options in self-publishing, niche publishing, and ePublishing are becoming more and more viable for writers. Many analysts are predicting the rise of self publishing. eBooks are the present and the future. This is especially true if you have a non-fiction book on a specialized topic. You may be able to reach your target audience much more effectively than a big publisher, and with focused marketing it’s possible you’ll sell more books and even make more money than if you went with a traditional publisher.
I’m noticing more independent regional publishers these days, and I think they’re a great option for people who aren’t having success going the usual route. Apparently, Colorado has more independent publishers than any other state, and you can contact the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA) to find them. Search the Internet for a similar organization in your own state. Small regional publishers can be a great alternative to the two ends of the spectrum—traditional large international publishers and self-publishers.
The downside of looking at these options is that they require you to be proactive and have an entrepreneurial spirit. Since my inbox is already overflowing with letters from writers who clearly don’t want to be anything but WRITERS (moan, whine, I’m not a marketer, moan, whine, I’m not a publicist, moan whine, I just want to write my books) I know these options may not look attractive to many of you.
The dream of writing the Great American Novel goes something like this: Author writes book. Publisher loves book. Author gets fat check. Publisher does everything else.
As you know, this dream is all but dead (and if it’s still alive in you, start putting it out of its misery right away). The truth is that if you want people to actually READ your work, it’s going to take more proactive involvement from you, no matter which route you choose.
I’ve met several authors who weigh the amount of work they’re going to have to do if they publish traditionally with the amount of work if they went the self-publishing route. They determine they may as well take matters into their own hands, keep control and self pub. This is mostly true for people who are writing non-fiction books, especially things like health, business and other self-help. However, if you’re writing “niche” fiction that’s harder to sell (like fantasy or sci-fi) you may find a niche or self-publisher serves your needs. (I’m hoping that as self-pubbing becomes even more accepted, it will be professionalized a bit more, with editorial and design help so that authors can present a quality product.)
Where will agents fit into all this? I think that as traditional publishing gets smaller, there will be fewer agents. Many of us will alter the type of work we do… moving more into packaging or becoming publishers ourselves. Some may choose to leave publishing altogether.
In any case, things are changing and we’re going to have to keep up with the changes rather than bemoan them if we’re going to be successful in the business of publishing. Traditional publishing is going to keep shrinking, in my opinion. Rather than be scared or depressed about that, let’s keep looking at options for getting our written work into the hands of those who want to read it.
P.S. Nathan Bransford blogged in a similar vein yesterday: It’s the End of Publishing as We Know It. (And for the record, I feel fine.)