Saturday, May 01, 2010

More Questions Than Answers About the Future of Publishing

Peter was at Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale a week or so ago, and I took this picture of him and Patrick Milliken when I went up there to see him. I liked it so much that I thought I'd post it.  This was the first time I've actually met Peter and Janice in the flesh.  Peter was working, of course, so we didn't get much chance to visit, but I did get to talk to Janice for a bit, which was a real treat, for me at least. Interestingly, there is a picture on Peter's blog  of this event that Janice took at almost the same moment, but a much wider angle, and there I sit, in the green blouse, off to Patrick's left. 

As I read over the last few of my blogmates’ posts, I found myself with more questions than answers, or even intelligent opinions, about the way the publishing industry is going.  I think that technology can be a very good thing, and I am by no means convinced that the advent of iPads and Nooks and electronic publishing spells the end of life as we know it. It might end up being a wonderful thing for authors.  One thing experience teaches us is that there are always unintended consequences, good and bad, that can’t be anticipated.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Peter asked what a traditional publisher has to offer that we can’t just do ourselves? We can find professional editors, and most authors end up doing most of their own marketing, anyway.  What about getting oneself reviewed, I wonder?  In the past few years, all kinds of online review sites have popped up, and sites like Shelfari.  For a relatively small potatoes mid-lister like Yours Truly, library sales are quite important. Is having a traditional publisher a requirement in order to be reviewed in PW and Library Journal?  Will it continue to be?

What about agents?  Will having an agent still be more useful than not for getting one’s material distributed and sold in different formats and venues. How about a publicist? People like Peter and his inestimable wife Janice Hally are extremely media savvy and ahead of the curve when it comes to taking advantage of the Brave New World of Publishing that is coming into being as we speak.

I write a series set at the turn of the Twentieth Century, and how my characters are trying to cope with the amazing changes in the world. Now, here it is another new century, and I’m the one who's trying hard to cope. But I grew up in a world that required an entirely different set of skills. It’s like all the younger people coming up are learning to speak Chinese as their native language. I can learn to speak Chinese, too, but I’ll never be as fluent as a native speaker. 

Moving to China, or into the future, is exciting and exhilarating.  You have to keep moving, keep learning. The possibility exists that we will be freed from all the conventions and baggage of the past that held us back.  Even so, at the odd moment, I long for the comfort of my native language, and a country where I understood the customs. If I could just spend a few restful days in the 1970s...





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