Changing Publishing Landscape

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One of the aspects of writing I think a lot on in publishing. After all, I now work on the book selling end of the industry. While before I was fixated on what it meant to be a writer, how publishing worked for the writer, how self-publishing worked for the writer, how marketing worked for the writer–and so on–I’ve now shifted my focus to the industry as a whole.

At When Words Collide in August 2015, I took a workshop with Faith Hunter about Bait and Hook. I already talked about the workshop here, but something came up when I was there they I haven’t been able to get off my mind.

During a tangental question-and-answer period, the issue of the changing publishing landscape came up. Faith mentioned how she saw things going: hardback for top a-list authors at publishing houses, tradepaper on demand for a-list and upper mid-list, and the digitization of midlist–or the elimination of mid-list all together.

When I order books from publishers, usually working with sales reps, a lot of the time this statement comes up, “It’s nice, but not in hardcover.” Or “Wait until the paperback.” This happens a lot with debut authors who are coming out in hardcover first, or short story collections. If the publisher decision was to have it come out in hardcover and they weren’t going to give it a firm marketing push, the understanding on the bookselling side is that unless you have a real good reason to carry it now, wait for the paperback version. Let other stores take the risk and feel out whether this author is going to be doing marketing on their own or not.

Do I think high print runs are going to be a relic of the past? Yes, I think so. Print runs are shrinking because warehouses cost moolah. Digitization and print-on-demand of the midlist (including debut authors) is going to really change the industry and make it harder and harder to break out.

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Bookstores are important. People still love paper books. People always will. Technology and data are far to fleeting. Paper stays, can be shared, can be handed down, can be gifted, can be resold. But if the traditional publishing industry is going to adopt some of what the self-publishing side of the industry is doing–print-on-demand, digital-only version–its going to be even harder for beginning authors–even midlist authors–to start or continue their careers with appearing in bookstores.

As I mentioned, it was an off-topic subject that has stayed on my mind for some time as I work through what books to order into my store for spring and summer 2016.

Where do you think the industry is going?

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