Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Does Publishing have a Future?

So many elements seem to be conspiring to drive publishers out of business. Bookstores are struggling due to a variety of reasons-- the current economic climate, the decrease of the reading public, the ease and economy of purchasing one's books online, the influence of the media on one's reading choices that makes everyone want to buy the same book rather than try something new. These are just a few reasons; I could add a lot more and I'm sure you could, too.

At the same time, countless people want to write and get published. Thus the rise of the vanity presses, the self-publishing services, the we-will-publish-you-if-you-pay-us companies, the POD companies like Lightening Source and many others. When millions of people are writing books and craving publication, willing to pay for the privilege, companies will then arise to fill this huge market.

With the news that Harlequin is now offering a vanity imprint, I am wondering what all this means for the publishing industry. Clearly here's where the money is--publishing for a fee. Forget about quality, or promotion, or marketing, or even getting the books into bookstores. Why should these publishers care? They already have their profit.

Is this the future of publishing? Brick and mortar bookstores closing while millions of books are available online, e-books, on websites, etc? And the reading public can pick and choose according to their interests? Publishing company particulars no longer mattering? The struggling small press having to switch over to charging author fees in order to survive?

I am shuddering here. I don't like this picture. And I shall do my part to help the small press in any way I can, such as posting a review here on Zarahemla's release, No Going Back by Jonathan Langford, an excellent book which I want to promote in my own small way. Watch for it on Friday.


  1. I don't feel threatened by the POD because it still all comes back to people hearing about the work and word of mouth from others that its good.

    Vanity publishers will never be capable of putting the hurt on the rest of us because as soon as they have their check they drop they ball. And as hard as it is to get a writing contract the odds of a self-published work getting big are astronomically greater.

    Publishing will always have a future because even great works can always be polished to a brighter gleam and a more razored edge.

  2. I'm rooting for the small press. In a big, personal way.

  3. All the more reason for the small press to make sure its titles are well-edited, and to do market research ahead of time, to know there's a market out there. And to sign enthusiastic authors willing to promote their own books. Anything else? Oh, yes, and to be fiscally conservative. And to have cool-looking, eye-catching covers.

  4. I thought you might find this interesting.

  5. Thanks for the link, David. I like to watch what's happening with the e book phenomenon.

  6. As well as printing, distributing and promoting books publishers are also doing something else : filtering out all the books that they don't think should be published. We may not always agree with their decisions on this, but surely this is a vital role? Most readers won't want to choose from a million self-published titles; they want the publishers to present them with what they consider worth reading.

  7. Look at all the depressing news, the changing world, then get sad, get depressed, get frustrated, and then realize that nothing will ever replace books and traditional publishers.

    After all these innovations making everything simple and accessable, we still look for quality.

  8. I liked all these positive comments. Thank you!

  9. I'll look for that book. It sounds great.

    Karen, I will always be one of those people who wants to hold a book in my hands. There is no substitute for the smell of freshly printed paper, the colorful cover (which I always take off so I won't ruin it), and the spine arranged perfectly on my shelf when I'm done.

    I know I'm not the only one out there who feels this way. I believe publishers will be around forever if they can just push through the hard economic times. Keep your chin up!

    Also, I hate reading on the computer. I tried to read an online novel once but gave up after a few pages. I'm at the computer long enough as it is. I certainly don't want to sit there longer just to read. That's what a bathtub is for! lol

    Anyway, that's my two cents worth.

  10. I think it's interesting that the Harlequin decision has drawn so much attention. When in fact, small presses have been doing much the same thing for years without any backlash. I'm pretty sure that Cedar Fort does--they'll charge an author fees for editing, etc and let them use the Cedar Fort imprint. Different from Harlequin, however, in that I believe they will actually distribute these titles as well. If anyone wants to correct me on this or fill in with more accurate details, please jump right in.

  11. Change is coming. No, I don't think books will ever be replaced by digital media; however, my ten year-old wants a kindle or a nook. These young ones are fed on digital media. They expect convenience and instant results. I have to say that even my habits are changing--though I won't spend $300 for an e-reader. I've downloaded and read books in PDF. Digital media is here to stay, and change, and improve. Publishing as we've always known it will have to change as well just like the music business and phone companies. The rising generation will demand and create more technology, not less.

  12. Kate, I agree with you on the technology factor. Kids who are techno savvy by the age of 5 will feel quite comfortable reading books on a device, possibly not even enjoying them in paper form as we do.

    I learned to type on a typewriter and always swore I would never write on a computer, and I never did UNTIL I got a laptop. I still won't write at a desktop, but my laptop has not only replaced the typewriter in my creative writing, it has replaced paper and pen, too. (Except for the first rough draft--I still write that with pen and paper.)