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Reading articles about the death of book publishing-NOT for the faint of heart

October 15, 2008

I would be remiss if I did not draw your attention to two articles, among many, talking about how the economy is affecting book publishing, the industry near and dear to my heart and wallet.

First, from last month, New York Magazine’s happily-titled The End.  Yes, when my print copy arrived in my mailbox, it signaled sunshine, puppy dogs, and sunflowers.  Unfortunately, or fortunately if you are New York Magazine, the article’s got some good stuff in there.  It’s worth a perusal, especially if you don’t operate within the inner circle of NY trade publishers.  The article covers a lot of ground, not just what’s going on at trade houses, but what major retailers are doing in this economic climate.  Higher advances for “mediocre” books, declines in sales at the major brick and mortar stores, Amazon being seen as a threat – oh yeah, read this one with a glass of wine.  Essentially, it makes the point that the industry needs to chance, and it talks about some ways that publishers and retailers are going.

Next, the New York Observer piece.  A former colleague, Julie Trelstead, pointed me here.  The piece makes the case that if there is indeed a move among publishers to publish fewer books and be more selective about what they sign, that it will be harder for new talent to be discovered.  That publishers will go more for the sure thing.  On that, I don’t totally agree.  I think there will always be room for new authors, especially if they come in willing to share the risks with the publisher (that’s a signal for “ask for a nominal advance, think more about royalties.”)   Heck, we’ve seen blogs like “Stuff White People Like” (lack of hotlink intentional) get OUTRAGEOUS advances, without having written a single print page.  What I can say with certainty is that it will become even more important for prospective authors to raise their profile through blogs and other social media tools to get noticed, not just by publishers but by future book buyers.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 16, 2008 12:32 pm

    Ellen – thanks for noticing the tweet! I completely agree that the authors who can attract readers to their books by creating a name for themselves (online or in the real world) will continue to find that publishers (small like Plain White or huge like Wiley) who will want to work with them. What won’t be happening much are publishers “making” authors.

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