From the Sunday morning mind of Earl Staggs
Recently, my good friend Kevin Tipple sent me a copy of an article by David J. Montgonery from a site called “Crime Fiction Dossier.” The article began with:
“We're starting to see reports of tough times in the publishing industry, with sales at Borders down 10% and Mifflin Harcourt declaring a freeze on acquisitions.”
The article goes on to say layoffs are rumored throughout the publishing and bookselling industries and that publishers will start making some changes to their business models. Some of the changes referred to were fewer one-off books, more books published as paperback originals, and fewer monster advances.
Mr. Montgomery went on to say:
“We'll almost certainly see a contraction in the number of books published. This is a step that has been a long time coming and is desperately needed. Currently the big houses publish too many books; more than they can adequately promote and sell. By publishing fewer books, and focusing their efforts on the ones remaining, they'll not only improve their bottom line, they'll better serve their authors. (Obviously this means that some writers will get the axe, but only those that were the most marginal anyway.)”
Basically, he’s saying if the publishing industry wants to survive, it must tighten its belt, do some serious housecleaning, and make some drastic changes in the way they do business. (Unlike the mortgage and automobile industries who only have to ask the government to refill their coffers with our tax money. But that’s getting into political territory and we don’t want to do that here.)
I doubt Mr. Montgomery’s thinking comes as a surprise to anyone in the writing community. How long have we wished publishers would regress to the days of old when they promoted and supported talented new writers with their dollars until the writers could build a fan base?
Instead, we’ve seen their dollars go into multi-million-dollar advances to the same big name authors who already have an audience and to ribald celebrities for tell-all books. Except for a slight few authors fortunate enough to land decent contracts, we’re pretty much left to our own devices and purses for promoting and selling.
In summing up his article, Mr. Montgomery said:
“The current economic climate provides a chance for the publishing houses to take steps that will put them on a firmer long-term foundation.”
What steps the big houses take, how successful those steps will be, and which houses will survive fall squarely in the wait and see category.
To bring it down to a more personal level, how will the changes in the foreseeable future within the publishing industry affect us? All we can do is wait and see.
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