13 May 2010

A New day in publishing

I've been reading articles for a few months now about the state of publishing in the USA and let's just say the ground is shaking.  (Here's a recent LONG article about it.) The industry has been in trouble for a while. They keep putting more money into big name best seller types and squeezing out people who can't produce the best sellers and giving less chance to what we call mid-list authors.

Apparently less people are reading books - there's more and more competition for our free time attention. The strange and interesting thing is that all the ebook type devices (kindle, nook, ipad, etc) is that sales are up. While this is good news, the publishers are in a mess. Massive competition exists for the few dollars a book brings in and how it is divided up (publisher, agent, seller, author).

The ebooks are potentially adding pictures, videos, and graphics to regular books to make them more alluring to people into that AND to be able to possibly charge a little extra for those particular books.

Amazon and I think the Apple people are offering authors a unique chance to sell direct to the public. In the past, "self publishing" has really had a negative reputation, but some already established authors are making some good money on posting their own work for sale direct.  This is a dramatic development.

I personally make no predictions about where this is all going to land and who is going to get paid what by whom. That is for the big dogs to decide. But as an aspiring book author and published short story writer, I feel for the first time a glimmer of hope I haven't felt for a while. To be well respected in the past, you absolutely had to follow the agent/publisher route. As a person who knows how to layout and design a book, I've wondered about the wisdom of doing so. I know professional editing is worth the price and the polish you get, but the selling direct to the audience and cutting out all the people who get a cut of the book price. Wow! Revolutionary stuff going on these days. I wonder if I will get to join in someday.


  1. It is exciting. Since I love to make predictions, I do have some opinions on this.

    I think that books as we think of them now (even in ebook form) may become a thing of the past. I suspect that the direction the industry goes is to make things a bit more meta rather than linear. So, a book would not be just a story that you read all of the way through (though you could), but rather would be a story with the opportunity to get sidetracked in specific elements of the story. Think an annotated version on steroids or even a wikipedia-type format devoted to your storyline. It would take a bit more time to structure, but a good story would be able to fit that construct.

    Furthermore, I would suspect that rather than just text and images that we will see more interactive content like video or something that changes elements of the story based on your current global position or something like that. The only limit here is in how much creative energy and resources an "author" and "publisher" determine to expend.

    Maybe this function already exists with Kindle, iPad, or Nook, but I think that "ebooks" will be more social in that you will be able to read friends' comments about specific passages in a book (In a murder mystery, for example, you could see friends' predictions of whodunnit and their rationales). Books will succeed or fail based on whether groups of friends are reading the book at nearly the same time.

    It is likely that most books will eventually be listened to rather than read. It's just easier to listen than read, and the technology is pretty much here now, already.

    Finally, I think that ultimately popular "books" are going to be more episodic and bite-sized, that are consumed chapter by chapter rather than book by book. Think "lonelygirl15" (Google it some time if you haven't heard of it) but in text/wiki/sound form rather than in video form.

    That's just my take. In the end, the most flexible and creative publishers and authors will succeed and the rest will not.

  2. There's a lot of back and forth on the future of books. The scenario you described with links, alternate endings and imbeded video etc is going to be possible on the ipad, so likely not far behind on the others. There is a prevailing theory that books (as in long stories) will survive; it's a question of their physical "appearance."