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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What Will Publishing Look Like in 2021?

In the comment thread of my post on What Readers Won’t Miss from Corporate Publishers When They’re Gone, “Ghostly Girl” asked the above question. It sure is a hot topic..

What will happen in the next ten years? Will corporate publishers stumble along into dodoland? Will bookstores become a faded memory? Will all writers become entrepreneurial self-publishers? Will everybody who’s got a novel in him/her get fifteen Warhol fame-minutes on a bloated, crap-laden Amazon.com?

Things do look dire for corporate book publishing and brick-and-mortar retail sales at the moment. Early in the week we heard the Borders chain has finally shuffled off its mortal coil, and on Thursday, Publisher’s Lunch reported book sales suffered another huge monthly drop—especially for adult hardcover and mass market paperbacks.

This has made the future of publishing a hot topic of discussion everywhere I go. On Wednesday night, a friend in my critique group asked what the Barnes and Noble of the future might look like. Most said “Barnes and Who?” or “What’s a bookstore?”

But I disagreed. I predicted Barnes and Noble will survive—in a rather different configuration—maybe a combination of a much-expanded Starbucks café and an Apple-like outlet, displaying a variety of Nookish products, X-boxy things, coffee-related paraphernalia—and one book.

Written by Snooki.

Turns out I might be something of a clairvoyant. In that same Thursday issue of Publisher’s Lunch there was also news of a big-money auction of a hot new literary property, shorthanded as, “Pippa Middleton’s Pilates Coach.”

So. Maybe publishing isn’t so moribund after all. At least some Big Six guys are still partying like it’s 2009.

I had to look into it. Pippa Middleton’s Pilates Coach sounded like a brilliant satire of our shallow, celebrity-obsessed culture—maybe some uproarious comedy about fictional idiots spending millions to learn Pilates from the coach, “who’s coaching the girl, who’s related to the girl, who danced with the son of the Prince of Wales.” (Paraphrasing the classic song from 1927.

But a quick Google showed the celebrity-crazed idiots aren’t fictional. And the book is not meant to be funny. And it’s coming soon to a Barnes and Noble near you.

To further confirm the accuracy of my crystal ball, Kris Rusch reported the same day that Barnes and Noble is drastically reducing its book inventory in order to put in more toys and electronics. She’d heard from friends at Barnes and Noble who said they “were notified at our B&N location this week that in the next couple of weeks we will be receiving a ‘massive returns download.’ To coincide with this outflux of books we will be adding 3 more of the massive toys and games displays, as well as expanding gift and the digital presence.”

Toys, games, Nooks, and—an “outflux” of books. 

The books left will no doubt be written by the girl who danced with the boy who danced with the Pilates coach of the chauffeur of the Prince of Wales. Or whoever is current incarnation of Snooki.

This is how corporate publishing/bookselling will survive. As long as there are royals, vulgar bimbos, and aging rock stars with debauched tales to tell, people will buy their stories.

Thing is, people who buy Snookibooks aren’t big on other types of books, so they probably won’t invest in e-readers.

They will be kind of like the people who watch broadcast TV—the ones who don’t need to buy cable, because it’s stupid to pay money for some high-falutent Mad Men or Game of Thrones when you can watch America’s Got Broads who can Crush Beer Cans with their Boobs…for free.

So Snookibooks will have to be in paper. In bookstores. On that one shelf between the Xboxes, Nook carrying cases and Starbucks coffee mugs.

In fact, I see publishing following in the footsteps of television in many ways. The Big Six will be like the broadcast networks. Paper books will be the So You Think You Can Dance with the Biggest Loser/Big Brother fare. Plus there will be a few token Jonathan Franzen/Safran Foer tomes standing in for the Good Wife/Glee win-a-few-arty-awards broadcast offerings.

I think a few other very popular books will probably still be produced in paper as well.

In an article in the July 17th Boston Globe, Amanda Katz wrote about people who buy books in paper after they read the e-book. She reported a conversation with the general manager of the Harvard Book Store, who observed, “People come in and say, ‘I read this on my iPad, and now I want to own it’…as if somehow having it on their e-reading device is not really owning it.” (Italics are mine.)

So what books will people really want to “own”? 

Here’s what I predict—

Top-Selling Superstar Books in Hardcover, Suitable for Gift-Giving: An awful lot of people give books for holiday, graduation, and birthday gifts. You can’t give somebody a Kindle download and wrap it with a bow. So the biggest bestsellers will probably still be available in paper for quite a while.

Humor Books: You can’t leave your Kindle in the bathroom for your guests to chuckle at the latest Garfield offering, so it’s gotta be in paper.

Coffee Table Books: The paintings of Gustav Klimt in Kindle black-and-white are not going to have the same impact. High-ticket art books will stick around.

Impress-the-Guests/Keepsake Literary Books: That lovely leather-bound copy of Leaves of Grass can’t be replaced by electrons.

Bibles and other Iconic Religious Books. Thumping a Kindle is unlikely to give the same satisfaction.

Decorator Books: Books make a room feel cozy without being cutsie. I suppose people will start making faux-book 3-D wallpaper, but it won’t be the same. So books will become a premium decorator item. I predict used bookstores will become much more upscale as hardcover books become rare collectibles.

Books for Small Children: Patting the e-Bunny probably won’t amuse your 2-year old in quite the same way. And until they get holographic, an e-book is not going to replace the pop-up book.

And of course, Snookibooks: I include those big-advance political books published to be bought up by PACs in this category. Schlock never dies.

And as for everything else—that will of course be in ebooks.

But I can picture us reading our Kindles and Nooks while sitting in the Starbucks inside the Barnes and Noble, because, let’s face it, people like the feeling of a bookstore.

So when I look in my crystal ball, I’m seeing a few bookstores sticking around. There will be the Barnes-and-Noble one-Snookibook model, and the upscale collectible bookstore. 

I also see the survivor-indies still hanging on. Those are the ones that have weathered the last century’s bookshop assaults: first from Costco/Walmart, then the Big and Nasty chains, and then from Amazon.com. These are the tough little guys who survive partly on greeting cards, crystals, games, and/or coffee—and mostly on damned good service.

And what about the corporate publishers? Will they be part of the vast non-Snookibook market? 

Mark Williams of Mark Williams International (the quiet half of bestselling author “Saffi Desforges”) sees things going this way: “It cannot be long now before the Big Six start taking on authors on an e-book only basis. Offering all the traditional editorial services, translations and access to the full range of e-markets, but without the cost of paper production. If they get realistic about royalties they could yet survive the Transition and emerge stronger.”

He’s probably right. If the corporate guys finally figure out they can make more money without their heads crammed into their derrières, they’ll probably figure out how to cash in and take control of the e-books.

But while the corporations try to make their creaky way out of the 19th century, I see a huge growth in small presses. There are hundreds of small publishers mushrooming up everywhere on the Interwebz. (Just Google “small presses”.)

I also see the emergence of the collective small press—groups of writers in the same genre banding together to form their own brand.

Like independent cable TV companies, small and collective publishers can each address a different niche. With e-books, their overhead will be almost non-existent, so they can afford to put time and energy into building brands and promoting writers.

We already have Ellora’s Cave for Playboy channel-type erotica, and I’m sure there will be another for “characters welcome” caper stories, another for FX-style noir and dark thrillers, women’s fiction presses for the Lifetime TV crowd, etc.

Some will come and go, but the small publishers who become established will be the new "gatekeepers” for readers who want professionals to sort through the vast number of books on offer.

Literary agencies who have become facilitators for self-publishing may expand to become this kind of branded-niche wholesaler.

Midsized and University presses might play the part of the premium cable networks as literary stars and Pulitzer prize-winners are dropped by their corporate publishers and/or seek homes outside of the déclassé corporate Snookibook-world. As Pulitzer-winner Alice Walker said when she moved to a small press, “As water is to flowers, independent publishing is to democracy.” 

Smaller publishers aren’t just smarter, they’re cooler. 

And of course some superstars will create their own franchises/networks. Joe Konrath’s indie superstar turn might be compared to Keith Olberman’s TV network. Konrath Inc. is certainly a brand that needs no gatekeeper or umbrella (My crystal ball isn’t quite so sure about Olberman, since my satellite company doesn’t carry his network.)

Other branches of the industry will jump in and fill the void as well. Amazon-the-bookstore becoming Amazon-the-publisher is rather like Direct Satellite TV becoming the producer of Glenn Close’s Damages. Both in TV and publishing I see the retailer controlling the product in a much bigger way. (If that is good or bad, I don’t know.)

The innovation and creative spark that fuels all this will originate with the indies. Yes, there will be tens of thousands of us—all doing our thing on Amazon like amateur filmmakers on YouTube. Some will become breakout superstars who get their books on that hardcover gift shelf at B & N; some will find a steady income with small e-publishers or collectives; some will establish their own brands, and most will fade into obscurity. But at least we’ll all have a shot at our Warhol minutes. A way better shot than we had in 2009.

So I think we will still have corporate publishers, bookstores, and paper books in the next decade—all quite different from the ones we have now, but traditions will be preserved, at least in appearance. People hate change.

So what about you, scriveners? What do you see in your crystal ball? Do you think bookstores will dodo off to extinction before 2021? Do you think publishing will reconfigure but not really be all that different, like the TV industry?

BTW, if you scroll down, you will see I made an Awesome Announcement on Friday. Yes! I’m going to be back in print. And yes, I love small publishers. <3

And next week, I’ll have yet another Awesome Announcement! This one is concerning an exciting addition  to this blog. I’m totally jazzed about it.

In two weeks, we will have a guest post by the incomparable Samuel Parkwhose literary novel, This Burns My Heart  has been getting rave reviews from all the most prestigious literati--and is one of Amazon’s top picks for this month. Come read Samuel's words of wisdom on August 7th.

And if you’re going to be in California in September, there’s still time to get the early bird discount for the Central Coast Writers' Conference. Deadline: July 31! 

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Blogger E.J. Wesley said...

Fun post, Anne, and probably 100% true.

July 24, 2011 at 1:47 PM  
Blogger Ghostie Girl said...

I was waiting for this post and I love it. I'd be surprised if publishing houses survive these challenging times.

But I don't see them coming out stronger if more writers develop entrepreneurial skills. If writers treated themselves as businesses, there would be no need for publishing houses.

Pippa Middleton's pilates coach has a book deal? Oh gee. And Snooki? Maybe this is what the Mayans were warning us about. The publishing world is facing its own 2012. :D

July 24, 2011 at 1:55 PM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

If they keep catering to Snookibooks, their days are numbered!

July 24, 2011 at 2:40 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

You're probably just about 100% right. My only question is: will all this take ten years? Might happen much quicker.

IMO the only bookstores that look really good right now are Archivia (art, design, decor & architecture). Rizzoli (ditto) The Museum bookstores (also ditto). Beautiful books, beautifully presented. A pleasure to buy. A pleasure to own.




July 24, 2011 at 2:54 PM  
Blogger L. Diane Wolfe said...

I see a lot of that happening.
Right now, most people don't realize just how niche small publishers really are - and where they market their books. It's usually not the bookstores, either. Returns can kill a small publisher. No, they target other retail outlets, businesses, schools, and organizations.
I think independent bookstores who offer more than books will survive - and if they offer used books, even better, since soon there won't be that many books in print.
Change is coming very fast. Hope everyone's ready.
Just someone tell me BAM will NOT be the last chain standing, because I really dislike that bookstore chain!

July 24, 2011 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger Lynda R Young said...

Like music stores, I don't think book stores will disappear altogether for a long while yet. Definitely nonfiction is more popular in the hardcover, gift-giving formats. But stories will always be around, though they might take on different formats.

July 24, 2011 at 5:50 PM  
Blogger Ranae Rose said...

This post made me giggle. :) But more seriously, I agree with most of this, and I think your idea of collective small presses (authors working together) is pretty interesting. Kinda sad to see book stores shutting down, cuz you're right, they're nice to visit. I was just talking about it a short while ago with some family members and I said what you said about the book stores shifting to carry more electronic and non-book items (which is pretty lame, IMO, but if they gotta do it to survive, then they gotta do it). As long as they don't get rid of the Starbucks cafes I'll probably keep coming back every once in a while.

July 24, 2011 at 5:52 PM  
Blogger fOIS In The City said...

A wise man once said television would become "a vast wasteland" and there are still many who might agree. With the death of fine art funding, the dominant yellow press and news broadcasters acting more like talk show hosts ... who would be surprised by the "death of the salesman (bookseller)?" B&N as Willie?

Maybe ten years is still too soon ... and perhaps we might want to take a short look "back" into the history of self-pub'd ... author's cooperatives and the roots of small presses ... back to Victorian England and in the US in the days of Henry David Thoreau and his merry band of poets.

The big six will reconfigure, hire new front men and figure it all out while the writers and readers continue publishing and reading. On what and with what? Well we no longer read chapbooks,hand sewn with linen paper ... but I don't think print is dead ... somewhere out there an executive is waiting to be born who understands the modern market of publishing and that man or woman will help print survive differently than we know it today.

Any fans of JD Robb's Death series out ther? Where the main female char. Eve Dallas thinks her partner Rourke is nuts for reading actual books ... where everything is made of soy and cars fly over the roads. And that is only 2059.

I might be a fussy old broad but I do not want to sit in a wanna-be-book-seller-quasi-coffee-shop-toy-store. I am a lover of the library and have been known to sniff a book or two in my day.

In the mean time why not do it all ?? Publish with small press and do e-publishing or POD with an e-publisher and enjoy the changes :)

Cafe late anyone?

July 24, 2011 at 6:46 PM  
Blogger Cathryn Leigh said...

@fIOS I'll take a chi please... *giggles*

The saddest thing about the Boarders closing for me is... my little 3 person writers group is going to have to find a new location to meet...

It's just amazing the changes this world has gone through. Books have survives the advent of the movie, TV and internet, so I suspect, as Anne has definitely pointed out, there will still be some out there, just no perhaps the ones we might enjoy sitting down and reading while relaxing on the beach, or curled up up on the Sofa with a storm outside.

:} Cathryn Leigh

July 24, 2011 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger Betty Craker Henderson said...

Books in some form or another will be around for a long long time because intelligent people have to find a way to learn learn learn more. (Not to mention the enjoyment that comes from the reading!)I don't worry about the method as long as I can get the content...I use every method available and welcome any others that may come along...and I'll just bet they do!

July 24, 2011 at 7:51 PM  
Anonymous Pat Bowne said...

I see part of the B&N of the future as looking more like a Kinkos or framing store, because it will be selling print-on-demand custom-bound books. The basic book will be electronic, but the luxury item will be the specially bound and illustrated copy that you designed yourself at the store; the way rich people used to have their books rebound in matching covers.

July 24, 2011 at 8:55 PM  
Blogger Neil Vogler said...

Great article, Anne.

Actually I agree with Pat above -- I think all chain bookstores should get a slick new Espresso Book Machine and print almost literally any book on demand in-store and while-you-wait.

That, in tandem with ebooks and related devices, is the way ahead for bookshops.

July 25, 2011 at 3:19 AM  
Blogger Susan Flett Swiderski said...

This post is so beautifully written, you should seriously consider being a writer ...

We could throw in the towel on writing, and say there's no future in books, but I can't imagine a world without real hold-it-in-my-hot-little-hands books. I don't WANT to imagine that. The day of the mega bookstores is probably fading away, but books will always ... MUST always ... have a place in society. (But God save us from Snookibooks.)

July 25, 2011 at 4:26 AM  
Blogger Ghostie Girl said...

@Neil Vogler, this has already started in the UK. This one place lets you print off out of print books while you wait.


But that does seem like a better idea. Have print on demand books in bookshops and while the books print, go get a cup of tea.

July 25, 2011 at 6:28 AM  
Blogger Carol Kilgore said...

Great post. And congrats on your Awesome Announcement :)

July 25, 2011 at 6:51 AM  
Blogger Linda Gray said...

If I were a small publisher, I'd be publishing my own e-zine and/or making connections with other e-zines that specialize in publishing the first few chapters of clients' and others' books, or sell the chapters for a very low price (like 29 cents). Reason: that bit about e-book readers going into the Harvard bookstore to buy the paper book resonates. People want to own books they love. But with e-readers available they're hedging their bets. If they loved the first few chapters they'd buy the book. Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

July 25, 2011 at 10:36 AM  
Blogger Cynthia Lee said...

I was talking to a friend the other day about ebooks and the future of publishing.

While we both like our ereaders, we agreed that there are certain much and long beloved books that we have to own in a tangible way.

For example, I'm a huge Dickens fan. I could never read one of his books on an ereader. I would have to buy it and peruse it at my leisure, leave it beside my bed at night, stroke it and love it. I don't know exactly why I do these things - I just do them. If a book is a classic, has really beautiful writing, or if I just love the hell out of it - I want to own it in hardback forever.

I suspect there are other bibliophile types out there with similar needs. I sure hope so.

July 25, 2011 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger Amy Romine said...

It is an exciting time to be in this business, as authors we can mold the landscape of future endeavors and rewrite the rules about publishing success. Great Article, Anne. I think your crystal ball is pretty accurate. The biggest obstacle the eBook seller and author have is the populations grasp of an intangible item. If it is not something the consumer can hold and thus control it is difficult for them to wrap their heads around it. The fact that eAuthors are not yet recognized by the writers guild and or the Big Five is a hurdle in itself. It is all relative though, progress as a definition is slow to catch on. There has to be a train to push and unfortunately we are all still in the designing stage! Thanks again for the great article.

July 25, 2011 at 11:23 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

EJ—Thanks. I kind of hope it’s not 100%, but a lot of this has already happened.

Ghostie—LOL. I keep thinking about those Mayans, too.

Alex—If they do, they deserve it.

Ruth—Thanks for including the websites of these sublime stores. I haven’t been back East for decades, but Rizzoli’s was always a must-visit whenever I went into the City from CT. Ditto the museums and museum shops. I’m glad to know they are still there.

L. Diane—I think the number one thing that will kill print books is returns. Bookstores have functioned as consignment stores for 80 years, and you’re right: the whole thing worked against small presses. But with ebooks, small presses can compete with the corporate guys. It’s a renaissance for entrepreneurs.

Lynda—Music stores are a good analogy. We still have them, although the giants like Tower records died a tragic death. There isn’t big money in selling CDs, but it’s there. And even a few quirky vinyl stores manage to survive.

Ranae—I did intend this as a humor piece, although I realize it’s pretty dark humor. But I do hope the small bookstore will survive—along with other small, independent stores. A lot of us would rather shop in a small shop and pay a little more. Big box shopping is an un-fun, exhausting slog.

fOIS—You have a good point about the “vast wasteland.” TV of today actually has more quality programming than in 1961 when Newton Minnow gave that speech. It also has much worse programming than Mr. Minnow could even have imagined. What we have now is more choices. I think with books we’re going to have more choices, too. A good thing.

Cathryn—The fact that Borders was the first to go is so sad. They were definitely the most writer-friendly of all the chains.

Betty—You’re right that reading isn’t going anywhere. More people are buying books than ever before. They’re just not made of trees.

Pat—Ooooh. Love your crystal ball. We will be designing our own favorite books—how’s that for increasing choices?

Neil—You’re right. The technology for Pat’s vision is already here. Yes! Once they’re affordable those Express-POD book machines may save bookstores.

July 25, 2011 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Susan—LOL. Thanks. I’ll consider it. I think we’ll always have books of one sort or another.

Ghostie—I love that idea. I didn’t know they actually had the POD machines available for retailers. Maybe we’ve got them in big cities here, too. I don’t always know these things because I live in a small rural town (with two thriving bookstores—I’m so proud.)

Carol—Thanks! I’m still smiling.

Linda—I like the idea of publisher’s e-zines. My old pubisher had their own (paper) magazine with excerpts, which generated most of their sales, so I know it works. Amazon has some hefty previews, but it’s hard to choose which one to preview. A zine would target a niche. Great idea.

Cynthia—I’m with you. My house is lined with bookshelves from floor to ceiling. But the ereader is good for the classics, too—because anything out of copyright is free. My sister has a Kindle but has never paid for a book. She’s reading the entire oeuvre of Trollop and all the Dickens and George Elliot she never got around to—for free.

Amy—Well put. It’s the public’s perception of “book” that needs to change, and change takes time.

July 25, 2011 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

Great post. I work at one of those dying community treasures...the independent bookstore. We sell more gift items than books. I wonder if that might not be the future of the bookstore...a gift store with quality books as one of the gift choices. I think one of the first things to go will be the hardcover novel. We still order them but send most back. I wonder if most people know that "best seller" is not about how many books are actually bought by consumers. It is the number bought by retailers and these days, many of that number are returned. In that sense being a "best seller" on Kindle is more meaningful!

July 25, 2011 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger Elle Strauss said...

For a rather serious subject, you made me laugh a couple of times!

July 25, 2011 at 5:37 PM  
Blogger Ann Best said...

Wow! What a comprehensive overview, Anne. Thanks for taking the time to research and post this.

For me, the brick and mortar bookstores reflect community, which you just don't get isolated at home, staring at your computer screen or Kindle or Nook. All these changes have their good side and their not so good. Like some who have commented, I think the printed book will be around for quite a while, especially the kinds of books that you list. It probably won't disappear completely in MY lifetime. I hope it doesn't. I hope it never does. Always there has been change, and always there will be. I'm especially happy to read the assessment of the Small Press. There are some very good ones that have sprung up in the past few years, including the press that published my memoir!
Ann Best, Author of In the Memoir, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

July 25, 2011 at 5:40 PM  
OpenID ninabadzin.com said...

Oh Anne, you 100% outdid yourself. Maybe your best post ever. Bravo!

July 25, 2011 at 9:12 PM  
Blogger p.m.terrell said...

Love your post, Anne! You did a great job. It shows how much research went into your predictions. It will be fun to re-read this in a few years!

July 26, 2011 at 5:40 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Christine--thank you so much for your report from the trenches of contemporary bookselling. This is so important:

""best seller" is not about how many books are actually bought by consumers. It is the number bought by retailers and these days, many of that number are returned. In that sense being a "best seller" on Kindle is more meaningful!"

Elle--Thanks! Sometimes life's darkest truths need to be told with a punchline.

Ann--You've hit what I was trying to say about the feeling of bookstores--it's community. We don't want to lose that. And thank goodness for small presses! Not that having an agent wouldn't be nice, but as Kim told us last week, small publishers will play a role in agent-directed careers, too.

Nina--Aw shucks, thanks!

p.m. These posts give me an excuse for all that obsessive web surfing. Yeah--reading this in 5 years will be very interesting...

July 26, 2011 at 9:46 AM  
Blogger Gabrielle Evelyn said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

July 27, 2011 at 12:22 AM  
Blogger Merry Farmwr said...

Great post! I definitely agree.

I would add one more thing though. I think there will be a booming side-business for freelance editors, to which many editors who work for big companies will have fled when those houses make major staffing cuts. I would hope that all of the serious indie authors (myself included!) would jump on the chance to form partnerships with them.

The future looks bright to me!

July 27, 2011 at 6:54 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Gabrielle--that's looking a little spammy. I'll leave it up, unless I get more spam from that address.

Merry--What a good point! Yes. This is going to create some great jobs for entrepreneurial editors--and agents too--who can leave the corporate publishing jungle and establish themselves as independents.

July 27, 2011 at 11:57 AM  
Anonymous Mari Passananti said...

Interesting discussion, and thanks for sharing that insight as to the definition of "bestseller." Are there any accurate figures available on how many fiction titles get shipped back and pulped? Is there any chance this crazy business model will change? Why or why not?

I apologize if my questions are too basic. I am new to all this.

July 27, 2011 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger Kristen Lamb said...

I think we are experiencing the same paradigm shift as the dot com era in the 90s. I know you are like me and old enough to remember that.

There were companies that didn't want to go on-line and they died because they were stuck in the past. There were a crap load of "paper giants" that were all fluff and no substance....and they DIED. Then there were businesses that did embrace the future and survived and they are thriving today, stronger than ever.

Same with publishing.

There are indie "publishers" coming out of the woodwork right now and so much crap is being uploaded that Amazon is experiencing technical issues. Apparently all I need is a business card, a computer and a basic knowledge of how to format a book and I can call myself a publisher.

I feel the next five years are going to be a hell of a ride. The wheat will separate from the chaff. All the writers who felt that they didn't need to build a platform are in for a rude awakening. The self-pubbers who slapped up their book and waited for instant fame and fortune to follow are also in for a rude surprise.

I love the new paradigm. If we are willing to serve others, write great content, and work our asses off, the sky is the limit.

I think in a few years, we will see who is left standing--authors, publishers and agents.

Now for a glimpse into Kristen World

I think B&N would be better off serving wine. Drunk people buy more and it's the only way that someone with an IQ higher than a Thigh Master could stomach a book written by Snooki.

Have Happy Hour. Drinks and downloads are half price.

I think the B&N of the future, if they take my advice, will invest in POD. I think they could have salespeople there near glowing touch screen boards of all kinds of books. People can read a few pages and download at a lesser price because they get an in-store discount OR if they want a paper copy, they can buy POD. The book will print while they drink a nice cabernet. The happy, slightly buzzed customer can pick up their printed book once Happy Hour is over and they pay the bar tab.

I think NF and self-help will remain in print. People like to write in those kinds of books, dog-ear, make notes. I always buy a copy for my Nook for reading and then a paper copy for reference and study.

What an awesome blog. THANK YOU!!!!

July 27, 2011 at 12:24 PM  
OpenID wosushi said...

"America’s Got Broads who can Crush Beer Cans with their Boobs"

Copyright that right now. Network execs will be swooping in and swiping it before you know it. :)

It's interesting the parallel you make between publishing in the shift in TV. The shift to what I like to call "crap TV", has resulted in a new, albeit small, surge of quality content online. Great shows are being produced online only, and the audience for it continues to grow.

Perhaps something similar is happening with publishing as well...

July 27, 2011 at 12:34 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Mari--You're right that it's a crazy system. I'll be writing more about that on Sunday.

Kristen--Thanks for coming by! You're my guru for all things social media. I'm always pimping your book We Are Not Alone the Writers Guide to Social Media (read it everybody, if you're ever planning to publish a book.)

You're right about the analogy with the early 90s. Most businesses went to computers; the ones who didn't died. Most people got personal computers; the ones who didn't turned into instant geezers (no matter what their age.)

I LOVE the idea of a wine bar in the B&N. A couple of other commenters talked about those POD machines, and I think they could be seriously cool. Especially with a nice Pinot while you wait for your custom book. Elegant.

And that's a good point that the self-help books will stay in paper along with Snooki and the Bible. I admit I have some myself that are all marked up and dog-eared.

OK, Kristen, I'll make a date to meet you in the wine bar of the Barnes and Noble of your choice in 2021!

July 27, 2011 at 12:44 PM  
Blogger bob said...

The times they are a changing. I find the current publishing revolution both exciting and frightening. It will be interesting to see where it all leads.

July 27, 2011 at 6:52 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

wosushi--I can't copyright it, because it's been done. For real. Google "America's got Talent crushes beer cans with boobs."

bob--Change is always scary, but this will bring a lot of good stuff for writers.

July 27, 2011 at 8:20 PM  
Blogger Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Huh, yeah, I can see all this feasibly happening, which is why I'm super happy to be with a small publisher who is going bigger than small, but will never be huge - they'll stay right in the sweet spot, I do believe. Thanks for this post - it helps give me a bit of perspective I didn't have before. It's something I need to share, for sure.

July 28, 2011 at 6:40 AM  
Blogger Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Smaller publishers aren’t just smarter, they’re cooler.

Wow. Love that.

Thanks for the crystal ball peek! It's very enlightening and not a little nerve-wracking!

July 28, 2011 at 8:22 AM  
Blogger Judith Mercado said...

One thing likely will not change. There will still be Annes and Judiths writing their version of The Great Novel. And they will be dreaming and hoping ... and perhaps grateful that there are so many additional options for getting published respectably compared to the past when the Big Six were a nearly monolithic wall to achieving dreams. Great, and amusing, post.

July 28, 2011 at 5:32 PM  
Blogger Judith Mercado said...

One thing likely will not change. There will still be Annes and Judiths writing their version of The Great Novel. And they will be dreaming and hoping ... and perhaps grateful that there are so many additional options for getting published respectably compared to the past when the Big Six were a nearly monolithic wall to achieving dreams. Great, and amusing, post.

July 28, 2011 at 5:32 PM  
Blogger L'Aussie said...

Hi Anne! I loved this post and read it all even though it was rather long as it needed to be. I'm glad for the glimmer of hope with the indie publishers. That seems to be the way of the future, but I predict things will move a little faster than you predict.

The small bookstore is still flourishing in Australia. We love to buy our books from the little guy. I know they struggle, but they keep finding ways to do better, so we keep buying. Clicking the online button can never give the same thrill (although we all do that too!)

Congrats on your next print book!

Great. I'll be sharing this link.


July 28, 2011 at 6:58 PM  
Anonymous Marilyn Peake said...

Very exciting post, Anne! I love this: "Smaller publishers aren’t just smarter, they’re cooler." I've started feeling exactly the same way about both small publishers and a great many self-published authors. It’s such an exciting time for writers! I self-published three novels and three short stories for 99 cents each on Amazon Kindle in March, and my daily sales have increased 17X, with a tremendous increase in sales this month. I’ve also found many outstanding self-published books by other authors on Amazon Kindle, many with awards and excellent professional reviews. All of this makes me very happy as both a writer and reader. :)

July 28, 2011 at 11:15 PM  
Blogger Spook said...

Eee, this sounds so exciting! Thanks so much for posting this Anne - I'm really really excited about all this! Though I'm a total Snooki-book hater, I think this will be a hugely intriguing time to be an author, with lots more opportunities beyond getting through the Big Six to be successful.

I am happy now :)

July 29, 2011 at 12:43 AM  
Blogger Doralynn Kennedy said...

That was funny, sad, insightful, and scary. Great post. And all too true.

July 29, 2011 at 8:59 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Michelle--Thanks! Your decision to go with a small publisher definitely influenced me. Your blog series on small publishers is a must-read.

Susan--Coolth is worth a lot, IMHO.

Judith--So true. We'll always be here, pounding away at the doors, whoever happens to be behind them.

L'Aussie--glad to hear indie bookstores are still alive and well in Oz. Here in my CA town, too. Indies will save the world. You're right. This post was too long. Broke my own rules.

Marilyn, I'm SO happy to hear about all your success!

Spook--See, I told you there's no need to rush. The book business will still be here when you're ready. Bigger and better.

Doralynn--Yes, I guess it's sad and scary, but it's also really exciting and full of opportunity.

July 29, 2011 at 10:14 AM  
Anonymous Karyne Corum said...

Anne, have I mentioned how much I love your blog? So succint, so on target and yes, so darn witty. I get more information on what's up and coming here than in the Times.

If we are doomed to snookibooks(aka some illiterate hack ghostwriter because can you picturing her even finding the x on a keyboard?) then maybe all the bookstores, corporately owned that is, should go down in flames. To be replaced by smaller ones, run and operated by small, cool, presses.

July 29, 2011 at 10:24 AM  
Blogger jamilajamison said...

Anne, this is an excellent post, one that made the writer and the sociologist in me stand up and listen (that sort of thing happens when cultural shifts are discussed). The idea of literature going the way of "high culture", or, to borrow from your analogy, the way of premium cable channels, is a fascinating one, and incredibly plausible. As a writer I am facing the future of publishing and bookstores with a sense of optimism. While I lament the loss of the brick-and-mortar stores that I practically grew up in, I see greater possibilities for writers to publish in the digital landscape.

I'm also loving Kristen's prediction of wine-selling bookstores. The San Francisco Public Library system, I've been told, has started book club gatherings where people can actually drink in the library. I haven't been to one yet, but if this is the wave of the future, I can't wait to get there!

July 29, 2011 at 12:14 PM  
Anonymous Ann Marquette said...

Good piece Anne. Gives us much to think about, maybe cry a little about, and even some chuckles along the way.
Our world is ever changing, and change can get confusing at times.
Let us ride the waves with faith, trust, joy and laughter.

July 29, 2011 at 11:00 PM  
Blogger Clara said...

Tell me no more of this grim future, ghost of christmas yet to come!
The though of snooki books everywhere is pretty scary...if not horrifying.

July 30, 2011 at 12:01 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Karyn, Aw shucks--thanks so much! Your website is knock-your-socks off cool. Love it.

Jamila--Maybe we'll get to toast the debut of your new SF-set steampunk novel in the SF public library?

Ann--Great advice. When life gives you a wave, get out your surf board!

Clara--Not so grim, really (unless you run a Borders bookstore.) Mostly, I see good stuff ahead. I think Snookis have always been with us. Wanna bet there were a bunch of a Snookae scrolls back in Cicero's day? O tempora, o mores!

July 30, 2011 at 8:22 PM  
Blogger author Christa Polkinhorn said...

Excellent article and I don't think I need to add much to the already 49 interesting comments. As an independent author, I am excited about the new opportunities. How long will they last? Let's just say: Authors, work hard and enjoy the moment!

August 2, 2011 at 1:22 PM  
OpenID atsiko said...

In regards to how B&N will change, I have a current example that might serve as a model. Hastings Entertainment is a company that runs "entertainment superstores" in small and medium towns in the US. They have books, but they also have used books, music, video games, trading cards, instruments, rentals, the requisite coffee shop, etc.

A model that Borders had been moving towards before it collapsed. As digital becomes more and more popular, what with services like Steam, and the Kindle and iTunes, I think there's a good chance a lot of the various physical media stores will collapse, and be replaced by multi-media stores that cater to the entire physical media consumer crowd.

August 2, 2011 at 8:36 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Christa: Great to hear from another Central-Coaster (at least part-time) You have some great book reviews on your blog. This is indeed a great time for authors, and we can make the most of it by helping each other, as you're doing.

atsiko: I LOVE the idea of an entertainment superstore with all that to offer. Especially if it has Kristen Lamb's wine bar too!

August 4, 2011 at 9:18 AM  

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