Friday, January 23, 2009

These Changing times . . .

By Lonnie Cruse

Everything around us seems to be changing, and I doubt we've even seen the tip of the iceberg yet. A new President for our country, other new law makers, the economy is in very serious trouble, job loss is at an all time high . . . change is truly everywhere. A lot of it not good. I, along with every author I know, am wondering how this will affect writing and publishing.

Books are as necessary to those of us who love to read as food and medicine and the other basics of life. But if push comes to shove, buying food and medicine will have to trump buying new books. Libraries and used book stores will get more of the buyers business, book stores online or brick and mortar will get less. Many independent book stores have already closed, many more likely will. Which will, of course, reduce resources for authors and publishers.

This will obviously trickle down to how author's promote their work. Book signings are becoming less and less popular with book stores. Conferences authors attend will see fewer attendees this year, and some conferences have already cancelled their annual meetings. I fear there will be more in the next year or two.

Fans love meeting authors at signings or conferences, getting signed copies of their favorite books. And authors love meeting their readers, getting to know them, getting feedback, along with meeting with other authors for support. These kinds of losses will cripple the industry as a whole.

The major option currently left to authors, publishers, book sellers, and buyers will be the Internet. Not as much fun as authors and readers meeting in person, or an author being able to meet face to face with her/his publisher, but still a great option. That's assuming we can all afford to stay subscribed to the Internet.

I've already had to cut back on the number of books I can afford to buy in a year. I took a hard look at the books I bought last year, read, and decided not to keep, and realized I need to hone my buying skills quite a bit. I asked for gift certificates for Christmas so I could buy a Kindle. That way I can purchase books a bit cheaper, read them on the Kindle, and delete them when done. Or keep them, should I want to, as it holds 200 books. But at the end of the year I shouldn't have a tote bag full of books to dispose of and there should be at least one tree still standing that wasn't cut down to provide me with new books. I'll still order books by my have-to-have authors, at least as long as I can afford to.

It will be interesting to see just how far the economy does affect the writing/publishing business this year and the coming years. One HOPES publishers will stop giving those huge advances to writers with big names and small talents and focus more on what the reader really wants . . . new works by new writers, writers that hold our attention. Well, we can at least hope.

I belong to several author discussion lists online and I can't help noticing how many newbie authors who used to be energetic and enthusiastic on these lists have slowly drifted away, no longer producing new books, no longer updating websites. A sad loss for those of us who love to read new works.

One hopes readers will keep reading, keeping writers writing. If you have any thoughts on this subject, feel free to post in the comments.


caryn said...

I'm afraid the economy is going to get considereably worse before it turns around. And even when it does, how long before those improvements trickle down to everyday folks?
I know I'm using the library more and more for a couple of reasons. One, we are trying to hold on to our cash as job security is iffy at best and our investments have tanked.
Two, like you, I have enthusiastically supported many new authors I have met over the years by buying their books-all sorts of books. But at the end of the year, I like you have tons of those books that I although I may have enjoyed while reading, I am not planning to keep (there is a limit tot he number of bookcases that will fit). Also, when I am honest, and really look about the house, I probably have nearly enough unread books piled about to last me for 4 or 5 years! Yes, I know, that's a lot of books, but I read a review of a book and it sounds interesting so I go looking, or I read a book and really like it only to discover it's part of a long sieres so I try to find the others etc etc.
Anyway, the bottom line is, for the forseeable future, I'm trying to curb my buying and either use the library or read what I have-except for my very, very favorites or something new that really catches my fancy.

Sheila Connolly said...

I think new writers are going to have to become savvy about marketing very quickly. Both writers and readers have to be aware of how important early sales are to a writer. If a new author doesn't hit whatever magical number their publisher wants, they will sink into oblivion.

Probably half of my book purchases over the past year have been new issues by friends, both real and virtual, because I know they need the push. Others I buy used--I recognize that doesn't give the author any credit, but my money goes only so far.

And I do try to buy at independent bookstores rather than the big chains, because each sale is that much more important to an indie.

Bill McCleery said...

Those of us working as newspaper reporters certainly are facing job concerns. Here at The Indianapolis Star, we've experienced a couple rounds of layoffs in recent months. In addition, all employees here at The Star -- indeed, throughout all of Gannett Co. -- must schedule off one week without pay during the first quarter of 2009. We expect the same thing will be asked later in the year, as well. The company calls them "employee furloughs" -- and says they will help reduce the need for further layoffs. I can vouch for the fact my family of five is really watching out elective purchases (including books)! And, here at work, a shrinking number of staff members is trying to keep putting out a paper!