Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

The End is Near, or Is It?

Many of you may have heard that Barnes & Noble will be closing a third of their brick-and-mortar stores over the next ten years. That’s about 20 stores per year! According to some of the articles I have read, they have been quietly closing about 15 stores per year over the last decade, while branching into new areas with the Nook and their merger with Microsoft.

It would appear that the future of publishing is showing a definite shift toward the internet and ebooks. Yet, some articles are stating that overall e-book sales are down from the past few years. It is an uncertain time to be an author.

Consider, too, the merging of some of the Big Six publishers this past year, and the failure of many big publishers to publish e-books. Are they really that sure that real books are going to maintain their staying power in the marketplace?

Perhaps the number of readers in the world has decreased? [And by readers, I am talking about the human variety, as in one who reads, not electronic e-book readers. :)] A sad thought, indeed. Especially for a writer albeit an as yet unpublished one! But it does seem that a lot of teens and young adults that I have come into contact with would rather play with the apps on their iPads and smart phones than read a book. Do people still read?

I, personally, love books, and reading. Just ask my husband! 🙂 I think sometimes he fears our floors will cave in from the weight of all my books. I always said I would never like an e-reader, but over the last few years, I have fallen in love with Kindle and the idea of being able to carry around 3000 books without throwing out my back! But still there are some books that I prefer in three dimensions. Books with a lot of formatting – charts, boxed topics, pictures, lists, and so on – are much easier to follow on real paper. Some books are so dense with information that flipping back and forth to an index is almost guaranteed, and again, for that, I prefer paper.

As an author in the pre-published phase, I have been sitting on the fence regarding traditional and self-publishing. My research is telling me that most traditional publishers, if you can get their attention, won’t spend the time and money to promote an unknown author, so marketing would fall squarely on my shoulders. The odds of them putting up the cash to publish my book in hardcover as well as paperback and e-book formats are slim. That just seems to be the way of the new world – so many authors, so little funds, and they are only taking chances on writers who are already household names.

So I have to ask all my fellow writers – both traditionally and self-published – is it worth the heartache and the two-year turnaround to release date to continue submitting to agents and traditional publishers when the majority of the promotional work is going to fall to me anyway? Is it worth the 20% here, 30% there to hope that I would receive the editing and promoting attention my book deserves? Should I continue the quest for representation despite the stories about writers being lost in the shuffle and never seeing their books go to print, despite having an agent and a contract with a publisher?

Or, do I plan on becoming an independent author – one who publishes her own books and controls every aspect of the process? It is a scary and exciting prospect… and something worth thinking about.

Perhaps it is time to shift my continual research from how to write a query letter and try to land an agent to how to self-publish and format ebooks… 🙂

What do you think of the future of publishing? Do you prefer ebooks or real paper?

17 Comments

  1. I am so right there with you! I prefer a book over an e-book many times. My mom & I were just discussing the Barnes & Noble thing today. I wonder the same things you do about finding a publisher, etc. I could have written this post myself! Uncertainty seems to be certain. I am hoping for fantastic luck to come my way and put me in the path of the right person at the right time to help me gain the successes I seek.

    • Just remember that YOU could be the right person to make it happen, no outside assistance required! 🙂 It is exciting to have these self pub options, but there is so much to learn about putting out a quality book to match all the hard work that went in to the story.

  2. That makes me sad about Barnes and Noble. There is no experience quite like grabbing a cup of coffee and settling in with a good book at a good bookstore. And a lot of the independent ones continue to close altogether. Thankfully, we have Powell’s here (I live near Portland).

    I decided to go with self-publishing, because most traditional publishers will not put the time and effort into marketing a new talent, so you’re going to do the work whether they publish you or you publish you. And then, if the book doesn’t sell, they will probably take it out of print. With self-publishing you get to retain ALL of your creative talent, you don’t have to compromise, and you can reach a wider audience if you put the effort into it. I’m still new to it, but have been researching and reading about a lot of ordinary people who learned how to conquer this market. Although I haven’t made a lot of money at it yet myself, I know the tools are out there for me to do it once I am willing to put the time in.

    Good luck to you!

    • Thanks for sharing your approach. I have begun to shift my research from landing an agent to self publishing. Lots to learn but I am with you- maintaining creative control will make all the hard work worthwhile.

  3. I was very upset when Boarders closed. That was my very favorite store! I am now getting into Barns and Nobles. To read this post is very disappointing. I think I buy at least three or five books a month. Both my husband and I are avid readers! I hope that gives you some encouragement!

    • I know what you mean! Lounging in the aisles of a big bookstore with piles of books around me in my “taking home” pile is one of my greatest pleasures. 🙂 Can I see a show of hands from all the folks out there who grab a basket on the way into B&N and load it up??

      • Books, bags, stationary and coffee….the book store is really my favorite place!

  4. I don’t believe that the sky is falling. And I think people still read. But there’s no doubt that there’s a market shift that we’ll all have to adapt to. Were I a publisher I’d be worried; I think traditional publishers are going to have to make drastic changes to survive, but they’re not known as a particularly agile and cutting edge bunch. But as a writer? Not so worried. How we reach the market will change, but that doesn’t mean the market is gone.

    • You are absolutely right about the slow-to-change publishers! I definitely think the writers may have the upper hand in the coming years with all of these routes to choose from!

  5. I, too, love the feel of a book in my hands. With whatever you decide, you will be successful and I will do whatever in my power to help you!

    • Thank you, my friend, for the kind words!! 🙂

  6. Cheryl, I think it’s a good time to think of being what I have started calling myself … a hybrid. The climate is perfect to approach our careers from both sides of this issue. We don’t have to choose one or the other. And we can break that myth that “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.” As a side comment … there are actually more readers. It is the glut of books they must sort through in all formats that makes it seem as though we have lost them. Be assured … readers are still out there and they are game for any good story … regardless of how we get it into their hands 🙂

    • Hybrids rule! 🙂 I think most readers don’t pay a lot of attention to who actually publishes a book. If the story is good, and the product is packaged professionally (ebook or print), it shouldn’t matter.

  7. I’ve had just about every thought that you’ve written here. I’m not sure if there are less readers now then there used to be. In some ways though, teenagers, etc. have always balked at the thought of reading. I remember an old episode of The Cosby Show where the oldest son went out of his way to get Macbeth on tape so he wouldn’t have to read it. Then when he played it he still didn’t understand, due to the language, etc. Good Old Dr. Huxtable explained to him that he wasted more time trying to find a substitute for reading then if he just sat down and attempted to read the book.

    And that was what? The mid-eighties?

    However, the distractions teenagers have today are more profound. The way I look at it though, is I feel sorry for those kids who spend more time flipping through their phones than reading books. I can’t even begin to explain how much books have enriched my life. So, if these kids want to spend literal years of their lives staring a tiny screens, well, then I guess that’s their problem.

    I’m still a big believer in traditional publishing, and once I feel my novel is ready (hopefully in the next six to nine months) that will be my first course of action. It’s good to know that the self-publishing option is there if I need it…and one day it may be the way to go altogether. That being said, it’s a good time for writers. And there will always be readers. I venture to say that there are a lot more of us out there then we might imagine.

    Great post, Cheryl. Makes for a fabulous discussion.

    • Thanks for the comment! I have been sitting on this fence between traditional and self publishing for 8 months now… what to do? Perhaps continue to submit to agents while learning everything I can about the whole self-publishing business? Cover all the bases. 🙂

  8. I have a Kindle, and I really don’t enjoy it as much as a real book. However, I do like it for convenience sake. I, too, am on the fence regarding trad publishing and self-publishing. I hear a lot of the same kinds of doubts across blogosphere. I suppose for each of us the pros and cons are different, what matters most to me will be different for another author. Now going on my fourth round of querying (over a 3 year span) I am growing more and more concerned that I may have to go the self-publishing route. That’s not where my heart is, in all honesty. So for now, I will still try to woo lit agents.

    • You have more perseverance than I do with the rounds of querying! I would not be “concerned” if the self publishing road turns into something you decide to try. Be excited! So many opportunities out there for authors than there used to be it seems. We can do this! However, we decide to go, we can do this. 🙂

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