Tuesday, March 3, 2015
The Publishing, Writing And Reading Revolution
Publishing and by extension, writing, are in the throes of a revolution the like of which has not been seen since the invention of the printing press.
Out there is a whole brave new world (or maybe not so brave but undeniably new). If you’re a writer in nearly any field you can’t have missed the chat, buzz and hair-pulling about the new direction publishing is taking. If you’re a reader (and writers are readers in addition to their writing hats) you can’t have missed the rapid changes; the introduction of electronic readers, the ability to read with smart phones and tablets and of course the old paperback, hardback, newspapers and magazines still fight for their place in the market.
But, as always there’s more than one side to a coin. You’ll read some articles raving about it’s the best time ever to publish, that things are shifting rapidly in favor of the author. After all there’s self-publishing now with Print On Demand and EBooks, along with the traditional publishing paradigm. Things are great, right? Things can only get better and better.
Then there’s the writer who tells us about the decline in book sales and e-book sales. So it appears people are buying fewer books each year, that people want their stories ‘visual’ meaning video and graphic novels, anything to avoid reading the written word. They want to return to childhood when they saw one big illustration and six words on a page. So, in the long run, things are actually getting worse for writers, right?
Here’s the thing. In my estimate they are better, to a point. There are more opportunities for writers. The major declining sales argument stems from statistics gleaned from the big publishers and book sellers. The ‘wonderfulness of it all’ stems from the folks in love with the new direction things are taking whether it’s Print On Demand or E Books. In either case the writer is usually asking why can’t I get published or if self-published, why aren’t my books selling as I’d believed they would?
Okay, readers, here’s where you come in. You’re the central element. What motivates you? Do you have enough books in a wide enough variety within your grasp to read when the mood strikes? Yep, I have old fashioned books on old fashioned shelves, but I also have a Kindle (it’s crammed full) and if there was some tragedy and I escaped my house falling down with only my pets and my Kindle I’d be well supplied with reading material for months – with the capability of downloading more once I reached a computer and could access online resources. Or hitting a Wi-Fi hot spot where I could download direct to the Kindle.
So what does all this mean? It means that readers have a whole lot more choices to. Where once they looked for bargains at yard sales, used book stores and promotions at the ‘Big Box’ booksellers, or just went to a library, now they can add to that list access to plenty of digital material much of it low cost or promotionally free or buying used books online. And don’t forget the thousands of public domain books that can be downloaded from many sites free.
Let’s face it, Amazon became the giant in this arena and now people can download books to their reading devices and take an entire library, including business oriented reading material in pdf format, anywhere they go. And readers can download even more anywhere they can tie into an online connection.
And for those readers who still love to hold a book in their hands and caress it, there are literally thousands of additional titles now that would never have hit the shelves courtesy of Print on Demand from such sources as CreateSpace. This is good and bad with the thousands of writers jumping in to take advantage of the sudden, new opportunity. There are some exceptional writers who are gaining exposure. Then there are the ones who can’t spell, can’t punctuate, haven’t taken the time to edit and manage to turn some readers off altogether. C’mon guys, if we’re going to do this let’s all get professional.
So, bringing it full circle, the writer needs to realize the reader is not simply now spoiled rotten when it comes to choices, that reader is positively swamped. The reader still has all of the old resources (how that will change in the near future remains to be seen) plus the ever expanding online universe offering used books and Ebooks. And the competition is fierce. Who wants to pay the publishers’ inflated prices for the newest paperback when there are so many other choices?
In the end it’s kind of scary out there for writers – in addition to being very exciting. Supply right now outstrips demand in a big way creating one heckuva buyer’s market for the reader. There always were writers who simply shouldn’t, but now they do and they’re pumping hundreds of thousands of new books into the market (most of which aren’t worth reading).
On the other hand, oh, joy for the writer, thousands of writers have beaten the odds. There have been spectacular break-outs. There have been writers published electronically who have gotten very nice contracts from traditional publishers. There have been writers who have done so well on their own they’ve refused said contract from said traditional publisher.
As the writers we need to clean up our acts, get some beta readers so you know that book is worth reading, edit it and polish it up both with all the grammar and language angles and with the formatting for the new venue angle. In other words take time to think not only as a writer, but as the reader you are as well. To get the reader to choose one writer’s work over another the writer has to make it worth the reader’s while.