Sunday, September 28, 2014

If You Think the Book Industry Has It Tough...

Nearly three weeks ago, I read a Digital Music News article about increasingly dismal sales for artists in the music industry. As I don’t know much about the music business, the article shocked me enough to still be thinking about it. The similarity with some of the problems in the book industry was disconcerting, to say the least.

The article maintains that the music industry is failing because artists are having more difficulty making money from audio releases. In fact, every new platform earns less money for the musician. Streaming earns less than downloads and downloads earn less than CDs. The article goes on to say, (and this is really disheartening) that music buyers place less value on music now more than ever. YouTube and piracy, for instance, don’t cost the listener anything which also means no income for the musician. People can now listen to music their entire lives without ever paying a cent for it. This is why the article also states that 99.9% of musicians survive on day jobs.

Here’s another point. The sheer volume of artists is so vast that it is become harder for an artist to get noticed. Music fans are flooded with music and videos and games and all sorts of things to keep them busy and distracted from sticking with an artist.

The article goes onto say that that traditional record stores have all but imploded and that major labels, who were once the source of  income and innovation for musicians, are but a fraction of their former selves. Is any of this sounding familiar to you book folks yet?

There are many more important points in the article, but my question is, are we in the book business doomed to suffer the same fate? Is it possible to avoid some of the mess that the music industry is in? Although books aren’t streamed the way music is, there are so many similar challenges that it feels like we’re falling into a twin rabbit hole. Who knows what will appear on the other side? As mentioned, I don’t know much about the music industry, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.




Sunday, September 21, 2014

I Always Knew That Writing Was Good For Me But...

For many years, I’ve known firsthand that writing, whether a journal entry, story, article, novel or blog, always made me feel better. The satisfaction from putting words onto paper has kept me grounded, happier and calmer than I am when real life forces other priorities on me. I know that writing colleagues often feel the same, despite the hard work that goes into creating a story or a novel.

It turns out that studies are showing direct health benefits from the act of writing. In fact, an article in mic.com cites a 2005 study which showed that just 20 minutes of writing three to five times over a four-month period improved mood, stress levels and depressive symptoms.

A 2013 study explored 49 people who’d had biopsies on the same day. They asked one group to write down their thoughts and feelings for twenty minutes at a time over a three-day period, two weeks before the biopsies were performed. Eleven days after the biopsies, 76% of the group who’d written in journals were fully healed while 58% of the control group hadn’t recovered. Were there other factors? Who knows? The article doesn’t say, but researchers are currently studying the potential health benefits of writing and results are already showing better immune systems.

The article also states that writers sleep better, which I completely disagree with. Ask my writers’ group of over a dozen people and you won’t find many great sleepers. Of course, there are probably a huge variety of reasons for disrupted sleep. It’s possible that if we didn’t write, the sleeping problems would be even worse.

Here’s another thing. A huge part of the reason for my happiness with writing comes from a desire to write ever since I was a child. I’ve always wanted to jot thoughts and ideas down. But what about people who simply don’t want to write? What if the mere idea of recording thoughts on paper stresses them out? There’s a big difference between wanting to write and being forced to write. If people were told to write for research purposes, but didn’t really want to, would their immune symptoms be weaker than those who love to write and embraced the chance to take part? In spite of the vast number of books published every year, not everyone is interested in writing. But for those of us who do, it’s nice to know that our physical well being is benefiting too.




First Imaginarium, Then Context

I love writing/reading/fan conventions.

Do they sell books, you ask?

I answer: I love writing/reading/fan conventions!

This weekend, I've been at the first edition of The Imaginarium, the brain-child of the fabulous Stephen Zimmer.
A creative writing convention featuring 11 tracks of programming, catering to all genres of writers, as well as screenwriters, game designers, and comic/graphic novel creators. A full convention experience themed on creative writing, including a film festival, vendor hall, costume contest, art show, and much more!

Lovely!

Next week, I'll be at Context in Columbus, Ohio.

Context is a friendly convention focused on speculative fiction literature and related games, comics and films. If you enjoy science fiction, fantasy, or horror, you'll find plenty to entertain you at this convention.

I'm on panels at both of these, and our new publishing house, Per Bastet Publications, will have tables to sell books and sign books. A fine time will be had by all!

 Do you enjoy attending and working at conventions?

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Word, Vancouver is Coming Up!

One of my favourite annual events to attend and participate in is Word, Vancouver (formerly known as Word on the Street). Over the past twenty years, the event has grown from a single-day festival to a four-day long celebration of reading and writing. The culmination of all that fun happens on the last Sunday of every September in various cities across Canada. This free event is a wonderful day where authors, editors, magazine and book publishers, literacy and writing organizations gather from all over the Lower Mainland and beyond to enjoy a day of readings, panel discussions, book bargains and music.

Crime Writers of Canada will once again be exhibiting on Sunday, September 28th. This time we’ll be indoors at the Vancouver Public Library (on Georgia Street), so if it rains we’ll at least stay dry! I’ll be manning the table from 1 to 3 p.m. with fellow writer Derrick Carew to tell people about the CWC and celebrate the new titles that Derrick and I, and other writers have released this year. Hope to see you there!



Sunday, September 07, 2014

Publishing Stats From the UK

Those who follow my blog know that I love stats, so a blog by Kathleen Jones from the Authors Electric Collective caught my attention. Kathleen takes a look at the UK publishing scene, but the numbers might also reflect North American trends. No links are provided to the source of the stats, so I’m taking this at face value. Heaven knows that numbers change weekly in this crazy biz.

First off, it will come as no surprise that the total market share for the big publishing houses is down from 70% in 2001 to 59% now. Penguin Random House alone was down by 15% in 2013, not a good sign but this doesn’t necessarily mean that it will remain this way. Assuming that these publishing houses want to stay alive, they’ll have to find new ways to market and sell books, just like the rest of us.

The self-publishing world continues to grow at a pretty healthy rate. In 2013, Lulu rose by 38% and CreateSpace sales were up by 161% in one year! It appears that a lot of self-publishers are bringing out print versions of their books. Apparently, half of all book sales in the UK (print and e-books) are now through Amazon. A few months ago, I wrote about the large number of bookstore closures over there. Clearly, Amazon is having a huge impact on book buying habits.

Kathleen refers to Nielson source which indicates that e-book sales were up by 20% in 2013. E-books accounted for 25% of all book purchases in the UK and one in five of those sales were self-published books. Paperback sales were down by 23%.

You can draw your own conclusions from these and other stats in Kathleen's blog, but it sure seems that the tough times for traditional print publishing isn’t over. As Kathleen also notes, with all those books out there, an author’s discoverability is going to become tougher as well. The tsunami of books is growing and each of us is a guppy caught in the wave. The challenge, as always, is not to drown in it.



Sunday, August 31, 2014

Print Versus Digital Reading Experiences

A few days ago, The Guardian published a piece about a study that wanted to determine if there were any differences in the reading experience between print and digital books. The study was small, using only 50 subjects to read a 28-page Elizabeth George short story. Half of the participants read the print version and half read the story on Kindle. The subjects were then tested on aspects including objects, characters, and settings, and the scores were fairly even. But when they were asked to place 14 events in order, the e-reading subjects did significantly worse than the print readers.

The researchers therefore suggested that a Kindle doesn’t help readers retain what they’ve read as well as print because there’s no tactile and visual way to see the pages they’ve read. They also suggest that turning the pages may provide some sort of sensory offload that somehow helps reading comprehension. You can read more about this in the link I provided.

Another study referred to in the piece was conducted on 72 Norwegian grade ten students who were asked to read a text book in print and on their computer screens. Those who read the PDF version scored significantly lower on comprehension than those who’d read the print version.


I’m not sure what all this means or if the studies truly reflect the experiences of others. I do know that reading from a tablet is a different experience for me than reading from print. I read faster on a screen, or at least it appears so. There isn’t as much text on my iPad screen as there is in a trade paperback, so I’m tapping the screen far more often than I would be turning the page. Many of the books I download do tell me how long the book is and how many pages I have left to read. As for comprehension, honestly I haven’t tested myself, so who knows? I strongly suspect, though, that none of us who grew up reading print should discard it anytime soon.