The Times They Are a Changin’!
Throughout the last few months, I’ve noticed things getting very contentious within the publishing industry. Change is to be expected and I’m all for the advancement of society. But while the paradigm within the industry has been shifting for nearly a decade, it seems that lately things are getting more and more heated. What I’m finding most troubling is that everyone feels they have to take a side: self publishing versus traditional publishing. And with taking sides comes the bashing of one another, the misrepresentation of data and the huge schism of mistrust.
At a workshop earlier this month, I equated this issue with the whole “working mother versus stay-at-home mom” debate. It’s becoming emotional and it rankles. A lot.
The bottom line, though, is that we all want to write; to get our words, our books, before readers. Few of us will become rich through this process, but the sense of pride an author feels when they see their book in print or on a reader’s e-reader can’t be quantified. It’s the issue of how we get our story to readers that seems to be splintering the industry the most. And writers aren’t the only ones feeling the strain. Agents and booksellers are also trying to figure out how to reinvent themselves in this constantly evolving industry. They are feeling the emotional toll as well.
I was delighted when the Southern Independent Booksellers Association (SIBA) invited authors and indie booksellers to a team building/market awareness exercise in Atlanta earlier this month. It gave both groups a chance to discuss ways to navigate the changing terrain. We started by dividing up into teams for a cooking challenge similar to something you’d see on Top Chef.
It was a lot of fun and I can tell you we were all happy to finally sit down and eat our lunch after the stress of preparing it!
Afterwards, we spent the afternoon discussing how indie booksellers and authors—both indie and traditionally published—can work together to strengthen one another. I came away feeling better about my path as a writer and even more energized about supporting my local indie bookstore. Despite the rise in digital content, there is still a very viable role local bookstores can and should play in today’s publishing market. Authors who overlook this are shooting themselves in the foot.
Indie bookstores are actively looking for ways to support self published authors by promoting their work. They are developing a la cart promotional opportunities for authors to purchase in order to reach a greater audience. But those same authors need to understand that these booksellers are small businesses, too. They are being inundated by indie authors who want their books carried in stores and booksellers have to pick and choose which authors to work with. Authors who’ve done their homework and know what kinds of terms to offer for the sale of their books rise to the top of the pile quickly. It goes without saying that those who are courteous of the bookseller’s time by sending an email, an advanced reader copy, or letter will also catch the bookseller’s attention. And the big no-no: Don’t go in an indie bookstore and tell folks they can buy your book on Amazon! Sadly, that’s happening.
No one knows what the future will bring within the publishing industry, but I think we’ll all survive to see the other side if we keep sight of the most important aspect: the book. In the end, it’s all about having good books to read.