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06 May 2008 @ 10:09 am
Some thoughts on change  
A lot of change is happening in the publishing industry these days. A lot of downsizing, and merging, and, one hears, less books are being bought for fewer positions in publishing lines - the rest of that adage being, quality is getting picked over quantity. I recommended Michael Stackpole's latest Secrets podcast a couple of days ago, and I recommend Nathan Bransford's blog pretty much every day - he talks a lot about the changes in publishing as they happen, and speculates a bit on what's to come.

For instance, today he linked this article in the NY Times about the CEO of Random House stepping down.

What do all of these changes mean for people like me, trying to get published? I don't know, but I'm doing a fairly good job of not freaking out about it, even though part of me wonders how much more difficult that whole "getting published" thing might be, now and in the future. And not just getting that first sale, but continuing to sell after that - but that depends on so much (like sales of that first book) that I won't even speculate right now. A lot of people are saying that getting an agent now is really the way to go - but I've believed that all along, and that's what my efforts have been concentrating on. I guess, at the end of the day, it comes down to this for me:

~ Despite all this talk of 'people aren't reading/buying books' I don't think the book industry as a whole is ever going away - people DO read. Maybe that format will be changing in the future to something more ebook and less paper, I don't know. (Personally, I will ALWAYS want to own my favorites in paper form, and I'm betting a lot of book lovers feel the same. For my non-keepers, a Kindle with ebooks might be the way to go. I'd have to try one first, LOL.) I believe people are reading more now than we ever have before - largely because of the online world. How many of us start each day scrolling through our friends list here on LJ? *raises hand* It's as habitual with me as my morning cup of coffee. That is reading. Fandom and fanfiction is enormous, and growing bigger all the time. Teenagers get involved in fandom, they read/write fanfiction, and guess what? They become more literary because of it, they find they enjoy reading, maybe they even go out and buy books. I wish some of the authors who fight fanfiction would think about that. Not to mention the popularity of YA fiction right now. Sure, some of us reading it are far from YA ourselves, but you can't tell me these books aren't being read by kids/teenagers who will grow up to be book readers, who buy books. The industry might be changing, but I think its place in the entertainment field is secure. There will always be readers.

~ So, if the publishing industry in general is acquiring fewer books, that just means your book has to be better to get picked up. I'm actually okay with this for a couple of reasons. I'm an avid reader, and I read all kinds of books, all sorts of genres - and let me tell you, many is the time when I've bought something by a new author, and been bored or disappointed by lackluster story, characters, or writing. Less of those lukewarm, or 'just okay' books would be fine with me - I'll avoid wasting my money on something I'm not even going to finish. The other reason, though, is from the authorial perspective. Fewer books means more attention the publisher will pay to my book (hopefully) when it gets published. Well, more attention to all the books they're publishing, really, but you get the idea. This is just a guess. I'm not totally familiar with the inner workings of the publishing wheel, but that seems like sound business to me if your business goal is to pursue quality over quantity.

~ Note I'm not wringing my hands and saying "Oh, but this means maybe I won't get published!" Because, quite simply, I just don't believe that. I believe in my writing. I believe in my stories. Yes, I have down days - who doesn't? Especially when you're querying and receiving multiple rejections a day, sometimes. But really, truly, at the end of the day, I know I'm good. My writing, my characters, my stories - maybe it sounds like ego, but I believe it solidly in my heart of hearts. I know there's room for improvement. I know I can make each book better, and I am willing to work hard to do that. But I absolutely don't look at Dark Vision or Nemesis and ever wonder if they're good enough - I know they are. (I just have to find the agent who agrees with me. :)

You have to have faith in yourself, in your words, if you're going to survive in this business. That's been true from day one. These changes we're seeing only make it more true today. For me, this changes nothing. Maybe it makes the road to publication a little steeper, a little longer, but I'm not worried about whether or not I'll eventually get there. I just have to keep walking.
 
 
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
 
 
 
The Proverbial Bull in a China Shop...: all okaysabaceanbabe on May 6th, 2008 05:30 pm (UTC)
Everything about being published is an unknown for me, so I'm not particularly worried about it. The only thing I can do is write the best I can and do what I can to improve what I write. It wasn't until late last year that I even felt confident enough in my own skills to attempt something other than fanfiction, and that something is nowhere near ready for an agent or a publisher to look at yet.
rhienellethrhienelleth on May 6th, 2008 05:39 pm (UTC)
The only thing I can do is write the best I can and do what I can to improve what I write.

True, very true. :)

Everything about being published is an unknown for me, so I'm not particularly worried about it.

See, and I think that might be key - for you, this isn't a change, because you're not familiar with the current model anyway. Wherever publishing ends up, that's what you'll be tackling for publication when the time comes. But change is scary, and for everyone used to publishing the way it is, I think that's especially true. Unlike the movie and music industries, the book industry hasn't significantly changed in any way for....decades. So I think the changes we're seeing now have a panic inducing effect for some - they really aren't used to seeing it at all.
Miss Crankypants: Iron Man Tony Stark White Tankaka_paloma on May 6th, 2008 06:28 pm (UTC)
...the rest of that adage being, quality is getting picked over quantity.

*snort* Oh, really. Well, it's not been that long since I last worked in a bookstore and you could have fooled me on that score. I think a lot of times it's who you know in the industry. I mean, look at Cassandra Clare. The second book in her series was just recently released. Quality? I don't think so.

So, if the publishing industry in general is acquiring fewer books, that just means your book has to be better to get picked up.

Unfortunately, I'm cynical enough to believe that what they mean by this it that they'll more or less publish sure bets, like the offerings by James Patterson, Nora Roberts, and Sophie Kinsella, rather than take a chance on an unknown author.

I know, I know. I'm a huge downer. But all is not negative in Palomaland. I do believe this very strongly: someone's got to become the next J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Nora Roberts, Dan Brown, Robert Jordan, etc. Why not you? Or me? That is, if this massive writer's block ever goes away. *sigh*
rhienellethrhienelleth on May 6th, 2008 06:48 pm (UTC)
I mean, look at Cassandra Clare. The second book in her series was just recently released. Quality? I don't think so.

Don't get me started on this one - City of Bones is a finalist for a Locus Award. All I could think was "Seriously??" and "Maybe awards for books are more like the Oscars than I ever thought."

But back on topic before I completely diverge - the books you're seeing on the shelf now are the product of the past two years of publishing, not examples of where it's headed in the future, which is fewer books. Whether those books will ALL be "quality writing" is extremely subjective. Not everyone likes the same things, and some decisions will be based more on "this will sell" than "this is good". Right now, for example, YA is still in a big boom phase - that will fade, but until it does, publishing will continue to acquire mediocre and even occasionally poor books to fill all the slots they have for the latest "trend", simply because they have x number of slots to fill, and only so many really great books to fill them. That's been the case forever, and it's not going to change anytime soon.

Unfortunately, I'm cynical enough to believe that what they mean by this it that they'll more or less publish sure bets, like the offerings by James Patterson, Nora Roberts, and Sophie Kinsella, rather than take a chance on an unknown author.

Those name authors will always have a place in line, but there is another truth - the publishing houses will always need new authors, too. It's really the middle ground authors that will likely struggle the most as things change, those who have already been published, but don't have the big numbers to perhaps justify the sale of their next book to the accountants. At least, that's been my impression reading around the blogosphere.

Miss Crankypants: Misc Spleenaka_paloma on May 6th, 2008 07:52 pm (UTC)
City of Bones is a finalist for a Locus Award.

Arrrggggh!! WTF?! Seriously?! That is just so, so wrong. How on earth did they get past the fact that technically, she's a very bad, very sloppy writer? I'm not talking plot, characters, themes here. She has structurally unsound sentences, misplaced modifiers, comma splices galore. The works! Arrrggh!

Sorry, that just makes me so mad.

And, yeah, I do ultimately agree with the stuff you've said. I guess I'm just living up to my "Miss Crankypants" name today. And I suppose I still have a lot of bitterness left over from all the crappy books I've had to receive, shelve and sell over the years.
rhienellethrhienelleth on May 6th, 2008 08:28 pm (UTC)
Yeah, your reaction to the award pretty much mirrors mine. And hey, I worked in a bookstore for five years, so I get the bitterness. :)