New York Magazine published an article that looks at the downward spiral of the book business. As writer Boris Kachka says, "The book business as we know it will not be living happily ever after." He goes on to describe the "horror" that is now the book world--slow sales, staff cuts, empty offices and more. Indeed, he paints a sad picture of the industry in which I lay my future and my dreams.
But I'm still hopeful, still clinging to the thought that people are still reading books. What else could they be using my novels for? As I like to say: "There's always light at the end of even the darkest tunnel." Those in the book industry need to step into that light--all of us, from authors to agents to publishers to distributors to booksellers. There's always hope.
However, I can't get the image of shredded books out of my mind. No author wants to think of their publisher having to shred books. But it happens. 25% of books published are fated to die a slow death by shredder.
Kachka talks about the huge advances that the elite writers receive--those debut novelists that publishers risk everything for. I'm thinking it's time to level the playing field. Publishers are slowly coming around to that line of thinking.
As an author I can take a huge advance and not see anything more for years, or I can take a smaller advance and receive royalties every quarter. The way I spend money, the latter is probably best. Of course that doesn't mean I'd turn down a $1,000,000 advance. But I'm a suspense author who has a vested interest in seeing bookstores and publishers succeed. I believe we'll see a more cautious approach to advances to authors in the future. We'll probably see smaller print runs, maybe using print-on-demand (the technology, not subsidy).
I believe that publishing companies AND authors will have to think outside the typical bookstore box. Many authors I know would prefer to market online as opposed to doing cross-country book tours. Even Margaret Atwood prefers not to do a barrage of signings. I coach new authors to stick close to home, do signings in their city or town first, then branch out, keeping costs down.
The internet opens a lot of doors for authors and publishers--especially if they're creative in their marketing. I held a 30-day virtual book tour after the release of my last novel, Whale Song, guest blogging on a variety of sites and blogs. It was quite successful. However, it could have been more successful if it had been advertised more to the media, bookstores and online. This is where I see publishers saving money and creating more buzz. The internet opens up the book market to the world. Why not use it?
Don't get me wrong; I love doing book signings. Apparently, I'm an anomaly because I truly enjoy meeting people and selling my books in a bookstore. But online promotion is the future.
There will always be people reading something. Most of my friends (non-authors) love reading and have book collections they add to regularly. Books are comforting, easy to take on holidays--nothing says "relaxation" like reading a good book on a Mexican beach.
Personally, I'll take a lesser book advance than the 2.5 million a fellow countryman was paid (for multiple translations). I'd even take less than the 1 mill. another fellow Canadian received for advance. I realize it's a marketing ploy; it ups the interest in the book, but let's get real.
Heck, I'll take a signed contract with Berkley or Bantam or any one of the BIG GUYS, an advance between $100K-500K, plus royalties, and I'll work my .$$ off to promote my "baby". Where do I sign? My agent is Jack Scovil at Scovil Galen Ghosh (formerly Scovil Chichak Galen) Literary Agency.
So where will the book industry be in 5 years? I have no idea, but I can tell you one thing: The suspense is killing me!