Very interesting article on the current gloomy state of the publishing industry, and what can be done to break the funk.
Relevant To My Interests is this part in particular:
In short, publishers are not losing print sales, because those sales are being taken by e-book sales, they are losing print sales, because they aren’t trying to change their strategies to sell more print books after failing at it for over a decade. The retail conglomerates pushed out the indies, consolidated their shelf-space, and now are contracting, which means fewer opportunities to sell in the physical marketplace. None of this has much to do with e-book consumers who now find it more convenient to buy books wherever they are.
Being a wannabe Urban Fantasy writer, I’ve have this conversation a few times over the last few months. Print is nice–I’m pretty sure nothing beats holding a physical copy of the book you worked so hard on, breathing in the smell of ink and pulp and glue–but, if I look at things objectively, print books just aren’t what I’m buying as a reader. They’re bulky and inconvenient. I buy them for exactly three reasons: either because I need something to read during takeoff and landing on a flight (a use case which in itself is on borrowed time); because the book is some big glossy thing with lots of pictures (e.g. artbooks); or because the author is one of my OMG FAVS!!! and I want something to display on my shelf along with the rest of the set (Michael Marshall Smith and Terry Pratchett being the main recipients of this honour).
For everything else, I prefer ebooks. They fit in my pocket, I can take them almost everywhere, I can read them across multiple platforms (e.g. phone, tablet, laptop), and I can annotate and scribble all over them without feeling guilty (a necessary part of my own development as a writer, honestly).
There’s also the sad fact that bookstores–actually physical bookstores–are getting more and more difficult to find. A few years ago my husband did fly-in-fly-out work in Gladstone, an industrial town in central Queensland. The Last Surviving Bookstore in Gladstone was a Christian bookstore, and it went out of business in the time he was down there; he sadly showed me the shopfront when we walked past it. Borders closed down while I was writing my own MS, which kinda sucked because I had a scene set inside one. Plus I can only think of one local bookstore which isn’t a big chain; it’s an SFF specialty store I used to spend all my free time in as a kid. When I was a teenager, rent costs forced it to move out of the mall and right out into the city’s industrial zone. I think it’s still open, but only a few days a week. Meanwhile, the chain stores are okay, but good luck finding anything in there that’s not already an enormous international bestseller, and some genres just aren’t represented at all.
(Meanwhile, the issue of parallel importing into Australian book markets is highly contentious. Particularly to Australian Amazon shoppers being told they can’t download things onto their Kindles because “that book is not available in your region”. Which I guess is another use case to buy print books, and has happened to me a few times on both old and new titles.)
Publishing marketing is in a sorry state. They do tremendous work, but they do it blindly. […] What publishers ought to have done a long time ago, and ought to devote themselves to now, is marketing directly to readers, and making partnerships with a larger variety of physical and digital retailers.
If I think about it, where have I gotten all my book recommendations (or anything, really) in the last, oh, decade? Not bookstores, that’s for sure, and very rarely any sort of traditional media. Instead, it’s been places like LiveJournal, Tumblr, Twitter, and GoodReads. More specifically, it’s been the fandoms created around titles that have piqued my interest (and often it’s direct author-reader interactions that are fuelling those fandoms). The days of standing in a bookstore–browsing titles by cover and blurb and picking something based on it–seem like a quaint childhood memory.
I don’t know where this is all going, really, other than as a general lament that this is probably not the Golden Age to try and be selling an MS into an already crowded market. But, eh. Not much to be done other than navigate the waters, I guess.
Somewhat related: the more my husband reads about dysfunction in the publishing industry, the more he wants to work in it. Bless his cynical black Harvard MBA’d heart.