Sunday, August 11, 2013

How are You Coping With Change?

This week, I read two insightful blogs that really struck home. As someone who’s been writing and publishing for thirty years (starting with short fiction), I’ve seen many changes and heaven knows they’re speeding up. Back in the day, I used to submit a short story with, a self-addressed stamped envelope, to a magazine editor, and wait and wait. If I was lucky (and I often wasn’t) they’d send a note back, sometimes with a contract, agreeing to publish the piece. Now everything is submitted via email and payment comes through PayPal. It’s often a faster, more efficient way of doing business, although not always.

When I first self-published Taxed to Death in 1995, the Chapters/Indigo chain welcomed my book and my small indie distributor. I also sold books on consignment through twenty different stores in BC’s lower mainland I personally visited. By the time Fatal Encryption came out in 2008, 95% of the indie stores were gone and Chapters was no longer doing business with indie authors, except to occasionally permit a meet ‘n greet to sell books on consignment. Even now, I’m told that many of the stores are less friendly to indie authors than they once were. Of course, I’m not the only one to experience drastic changes.

A recent blog by Kristine Kathryn Rusch is about her struggles to keep up with the constant upheaval in the publishing biz. She announced that her last traditionally published book has just been released, and that she’s done with traditional publishers. She lists some interesting markers that many of us once used to define success: selling a short story, selling a novel, hiring an agent, landing on a bestsellers’ list, etc. but she says those markers have changed, and I agree. Bestsellers’ lists are skewed and some self-publishers are making more money than their traditionally published counterparts. And is a well received book one that’s had 50,000 free downloads and 500 sales, or 5,000 downloads, but 1,000 sales? How does one even define success anymore?

Another interesting blog from the Bookseller discusses notable changes that writer Jude Rogers has also experienced in England. Ten years ago, she and a friend started a magazine called Smoke: A London Peculiar, and, after going door to door to bookshops, they were selling 5,000 copies in over 80 London shops by the third issue. A decade later, they’re releasing their first Smoke book and now realize that the marketing world they knew is gone. Distribution is now centralized and the personal touch that made the magazine  successful is gone. Worse, the personal touch with booksellers isn’t even welcome.  How sad is that?

I strongly encourage you to read both blogs because they provide great information and analysis of their experiences in today’s book industry. Be prepared, though, you might need a painkiller, or at least a very strong drink, by the time you’ve finished reading.

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