Hi and a happy January to all! I, for one, am having a very good month so far. My authors are all getting good reviews, my Fall 09 catalog copy is almost finished, and I’m close to acquiring a project I’m especially jazzed about. I’m a happy editor.
Still, I keep hearing that I should probably be more nervous about my job stability than I am. Maybe so. But then again I’m a not as distressed as many others are about the state of affairs in my beloved, yet admittedly whiplashed, industry, either. I figure, hey, sometimes it takes a good crisis to shake things up so they can settle back down in a better place. And if, in the middle of the hurricane, you end up making lifelong friends with your neighbors because you have a flashlight and they have bottled water and together you can find your way to the Dixie cups, then all the better for everyone in the end.
When things do settle, I’m hopeful that this is pretty close to what will shake out:
â€” The recognition that books are intellectual property and not just merchandise. Now, Borders Inc. doesn’t seem to buy into this theoryâ€”the new CEO just hired to orchestrate a turnaround comes from Pathmark grocery stores, the ultimate in big-box shopping modelsâ€”but the rest of the publishing world seems to be gleaning the notion that a book isn’t just black letters on a white pageâ€”a story can be digitized, contextualized, reproduced, reconfigured, and repackaged to best serve the audience and the author. Anyone out there in love with a Kindle, or an iPhone, or even a fake twitter character’s storyline? That means more products, more ideas, more opportunities for authors.
â€” Fewer middle(wo)men. As the social networking capabilities become and better equipped to lead us to the content that most interests us, the less we’ll need to rely on Barnes & Noble product placement and big-budget publicity promotions to connect reader to author. As Richard Nash, the editorial director of Soft Skull Press, said this week in the Harvard Business Publishing online magazine: “For most of human existence, the output of art could never keep up with the demand. I believe that is now changing, and that’s why we’re seeing the great intermediaries in this processâ€”record labels, movies studios, book publishing companies, Borders, etc.â€”start to shrink, or even fail. They relied on demand being so pent-up they didn’t really need to work very hard to match tastes, to connect artist and audience. But now that demand can in fact be sated, their lack of connection to either artist or audience may doom them.” As they say, ad posse, ad esse.
â€” More books, and better books. Independent publishers have long been able to produce quality books on thrifty budgets, and big houses are quickly going to have to pick up these think-small skills as well. With all this low-cost, efficient publishing, there should be more room, not less, for great ideas to reach their audiences. In other words: It’s OK if your book isn’t going to sell 60,000 copies, because your publisher won’t need it to to recoup the cost of its creation. You’ve got a 5,000-sales niche-driven book idea? Let’s hear it.
See you in February,