Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Freaking out about the future of publishing

This is Debby, apologizing for my late post, especially if you’re on the East Coast. My other job made some demands early in the day, but I finally made it.

What a good idea to have someone else read a manuscript aloud. I’d have to pay that someone, alas. I’m the fiction-reader exception in my family. Okay, my husband will read fiction if it’s had a series of rave reviews. In fact, I was laughing with a group of writer friends just a few days ago about our spouses’ tastes, most of which ran to Clive Cussler, Dan Brown, and John Grisham. Page turners with eighty three-page chapters.

This got me thinking about the future of publishing, however. I don’t have anything figured out. Hah, I wish! But I do think e-books are here to stay. And perhaps, once publishers get accustomed to how to negotiate fees, rights, and available platforms, they can start nurturing authors again. Maybe, just maybe, editors can loosen up and pick from a wider field of writers instead of worrying about whether Stephenie Meyer is going to make her deadline—and their bottom line for the year.

I mourn the loss of print reviews. Heck, I’m worried newspapers are going to disappear altogether. And they may, so what are we going to do? We’ll begin scanning our headlines in other places. Even I, an old coffee-drinking, don’t-bother-me-until-I’ve-read-the-morning-paper type, will have to peruse some online format. (My next blog will be about power failures.) And we’ll get used to it. I don’t have a Kindle yet, but my friends who do, and some are in their eighties, love them.

Might I dream that this will eventually bring down the cost of producing literature? Might it be easier to market? Maybe so. If I could find a variety of respected reviewers like The New York Times Book Review, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and The Globe and Mail online, we’ll make our wish lists there. We’ll compare the success of an artist’s new release with her past one via electronics. People will learn the respected sites and recognize the vindictive, spite-filled wannabes that muddy the vast waters of the Internet. It’s already happening, isn’t it?

My head may be filled with rosy cotton, but the alternative is to despair the future of books, and that is too depressing to contemplate. People still love books; we love to learn and to be entertained. Some sense of order will come to the publishing industry, some entrepreneurial type will break from this morass of remaindering, returns, warehousing, and distribution issues, and treat publishing like a business. A thriving online business.

What do you think? We’ll have new sets of problems, but the industry can still thrive.

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