Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Peek into the Future . . .

I was reading the Huffington Post this morning and someone was prognosticating about what changes we can expect in publishing for 2010.

Unless they have a crystal ball, I'm not sure anyone can predict what's coming for this volatile business. Just look at the surprises of the past.

Who could have predicted the runaway success of the Twilight series? Who would have guessed that Harlequin would open an unsavory can of worms with their foray into self-publishing? No one forsaw the sad loss of Kate Duffy, an editor of legendary stature in the romance community. Or what fear monger would have warned us of the demise of Andersen--the disaster that left tons of books moldering in storage instead of hitting the shelves on their release dates? 2009 is a year most publishing houses are happy to see gone (with the exception of the one who holds the rights on Twilight!)

But the good folk at Huffington have some predictions for us. Here's the Emily's Digest version of them.

1. Several publishing houses will merge. That seems like a safe prediction. When times get tough, strong companies gobble up their competitors. If it saves editorial jobs, it might not be a bad thing.

2. Fewer titles will be published. This is a double-edged sword for authors. Those who are published should be given more marketing support from the publisher, but it'll be a case of "them that got shall get." Brand name authors will do fine. Newbies may get short shrift. Midlisters may find themselves in limbo.

3. More writers will opt to self-publish. This prediction disturbed me. I don't think it's a good choice for writers and RWA National seems to agree with me, judging from their decisive reaction to the Harlequin vanity press. I know it's frustrating to submit without getting a contract, but we grow as writers with each "no."

4. The YA market will expand. As the populace ages, young readers will take up the slack. New methods of delivering books, like Dorchester's foray into serialized stories for cell phones, will be the wave of the future.

I have no idea what will happen in 2010. All I can control in my career is my own writing. And since author numbers will be more important than ever, I can support my favorite authors by buying their new releases during the first week.

But I do have one prediction I feel confident of--I will read new books that touch my heart this year and I'll bet you will too. Let's agree to share them here regularly!

What do you think will happen in publishing in 2010?

Happy Reading & Writing!


librarypat said...

I agree with your YA predictions. What is available has really increased lately. Some just hopping on the band wagon, but there has been some very good stuff coming out.

It saddens me to see authors being left out in the cold. It is hard enough for you to make a good living. Many people don't realize the importance of first week purchases (I didn't until a few months ago). As you said, the big authors who don't need the help will be the ones to get it.

I've never felt vanity presses (self publishing) was a good idea. Having a book go through the critique and editing prosess forges a much better product, even for previously published authors. Self publishing will put a lot of books on the market that are of questionable quality. After a few bad experiences, readers will be less likely to try someone they are not familiar with and stick with the big names. As a result, even fewer authors will be published by the remaining publishing houses.

I certainly have no idea what is going to happen. I just hope publishers use some common sense. If they force currently published, moderately successful writeers out, they will be hurting themselves in the long run.

Thanks for an insightful post.

Barb H said...

Hi Emily,
I don't think I know the importance of 'first week' purchases as opposed to purchases anytime within the month.

As far as the current publishing landscape goes, it seems as if more and more of the public is going to the ereaders.

But we who grew up loving the feel of a physical book in our hands, being able to flip back to a previous section, or forward a few pages to take a peek at what's coming ;) can't imagine it.

Right now my students (college age) are challenged to research any information from sources that are not online. However, they do, I admit, carry paperbacks in their backpacks to read in any off time.

Your post brought up so many intriguing questions that seem to branch out of each other.


EmilyBryan said...

Pat--There have been a few sucessful self-pubs out there (Eragon is the one usually touted) and it may be a viable option for non-fiction, especially if the author has an "expert platform" to market the book from.

But self-pubbed fiction authors usually end up disappointed and spending far too much time trying to sell their book instead of writing the next one.

EmilyBryan said...

Barb! Good to see you here. Re: first week's sales.

A book hits a bestselling list not based on the number of copies sold, but on the velocity with which it flies out the bookstore doors in the first week. If it sells out then, they'll probably re-order and keep it on the shelves longer. Otherwise at the end of 6 or 8 weeks, the books are stripped and the covers returned to the publisher for credit.

So if you want to support an author, buy their book on the realease day or as close to it as you can!

Pre-orders help too, but don't count toward hitting a list. If a book has good pre-orders, B&N or Borders may decide to increase their initial order to meet anticipated demand.

Another reason they emphasize brisk early sales is that it precipitates a second wave of sales as the first group of readers tell their friends. Word of mouth is still the gold standard for book marketing.

Sandy said...


I refuse to worry about predictions. I can't control anything but myself. I must keep writing. lol

I also read Huffington's post and found it interesting.

EmilyBryan said...

Sandy--You've hit the sweet spot there. All we can control is our own writing and our attitude. Stay positive, my friend.

Gossip Cowgirl said...

I agree about #3... it worries me, too, that self-publishing isn't taking a nosedive. Perhaps that's small-minded of me, but I just don't feel comfortable with it. I will admit that part of that may be my growing up in the age of gate-keepers, but for the most part, I want to trust the gate-keepers. I'm definitely not certain of my own ability to know quality in my own writing, especially because writing (like any art) is intensely personal, as well as subjective.

I heard a piece on NPR on the 31st that talked about the effect that YouTube has had on the music industry, and the author (oddly, an editor of Atlantic Monthly) predicted a huge upsurge in self-publishing that would follow the kinds of trends that the music and film industry have seen over the last couple of years in that self-promotion and self-publishing (or a type) have taken a toll on the "Industry". I have to say, I hope it doesn't happen. While it is nerve-wracking to be on the receiving end of the feedback loop and the rejection pile, I still would prefer that to being able to potentially put a product out there that isn't going to sell.

On the other hand, if you've ever read "Blink", you've read the story of Kenna--a musician who couldn't get a contract because he didn't fit the "mold" of music that came before him. He made a record that no one bought, and although many musicians (who "knew their stuff") said he would be huge, the public just didn't take to him and he ended up sort of fading back into obscurity. Even after the publication of "Blink", his music still didn't take off. So there's something to be said for the fact that even a self-published genius can't make it if the public doesn't like whatever he's putting out.

Then again, there are plenty of writers out there who crank out passable manuscripts that people eat up for whatever reason. So in the end, maybe self-publishing still won't have any effect on the writing world. I don't know. It's very interesting to think about, though. Thanks for this post.

I do think that @librarypat is right about readers being less likely to take chances on new authors after having a few bad experiences. In fact, after some bad experiences of my own, I had to force myself to read 10 debut books this year. I ended up not enjoying most of them, but at least I bought the books. I did find one gem in the bunch, and I'm glad I slagged through the rest just to find the one I really loved. But I am probably unusual in that I don't mind reading a crappy book (or a badly edited book with good/marginal writing). I find that everything I read helps me be a better writer. And I know better, now, than to judge a writer by their debut.

EmilyBryan said...

Rebecca--Thanks for your comments!

Nora Roberts wrote 12 novels which were rejected before she was finally published by Harlequin. What if she'd decided to self-publish before she figured out her unique style? Stephen King has been rejected. Ditto JK Rowling. The only author I've ever heard of who hasn't received a rejection was Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Most of us need to develop the hide of a rhinocerus or our stay in Writerland will be painful and brief.

My first few manuscripts richly deserve the obscurity they enjoy gathering dust bunnies under my bed. But everytime a writer writes, we learn something. Opting for self-publishing short circuits that process.

I had good luck with debut authors this year. I discovered Tessa Dare and loved her debut GODDESS OF THE HUNT. If I'm on the fence about an author, I visit their website and see if they have an excerpt I can try (sort of like being able to sample the flavors at Baskin-Robbins!)

Good luck with your writing!

Linda Henderson said...

My biggest wish for the new year is that we don't loose print books. I just can't get too excited about an e-reader. Oh sure, eventually I'm sure I'll have to scrape up the money to buy one, but as far as I'm concerned, you can't beat holding a print book with a wonderful cover in your hands.

EmilyBryan said...

Linda--I love print books too, but as a condo dweller I'm beginning to see the charm in something that holds 100s of books in the space of one.

And yet another seismic bit of news hits the romance world:

Alicia Condon is leaving Dorchester Publishing (my house) for Kensington. Alicia has been with Dorch for over 20 years and her contribution at Leisure and Lovespell will be sorely missed.