Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Publishing Industry is Tanking?!

Just a short note tonight while I take a break from the b#*ch that is my pitch/query/potential blurb for the back of my book. Articles on the web abound on the fact that the publishing industry is hurting, no one is reading, and sales are slumping . . . except for YA fiction (young adult), where the demand for books is increasing.
Let's examine this problem.
Ten years ago, there was a dearth of young adult fiction. As someone in my friends from Seattle writer's group mentioned yesterday, it was only a few years ago that the market for teens and adolescents changed. It used to be that if you were a kid, you read books written for a kid. Remember 'Dick and Jane'? I loved those books. Once you reached 12, or 13, though, it was on to the adult books, because aside from Judy Bloom, and the Outsiders, the choice of reading was limited. Some smart cookie in the publishing industry eventually figured out that teens wanted variety, and the dawn of YA was born. Apparently that smart cookie left the industry for a better paying job, and now we're left with the rather more dense publishers and agents, who haven't figured out that variety is the spice of life, and there's only so many Zombie/Vampire/Harry Potter rip-offs a teen can read before they bail out of the culture that is today's publishing industry.
Publishers and agents seem to be afraid of anything new, anything that doesn't fit into their smart little boxes of categorized genre. It's easier to spin off the success of something that's already been done, someone that's already had a success, rather than to take a chance on something, or someone new. And so, authors that have had one best-seller can sell a piece of crap second book, banking on their name, and their publisher's backing, and the public buys it, trusting the publisher and the author. I've done it. It did it as recently as last week, trusting the author, and trusting the publisher. I bought a piece of junk. With no warrantee. Grrrrr. I guess it's fair marketing, but it certainly doesn't inspire any faith in Jane/Joe reader. And it doesn't inspire any faith in me as I push forward, looking for an agent or publisher who is willing to take a risk on someone new, something new.
I'm a reader, and I'm tired of same old, same old. I don't want to read the next Sex and the City Spin-off. I want something different. And that doesn't mean the same sort of characters in the same place with a new set of shoes, that means something about women that's funny, but waaaaaaaaaay different. Maybe that's why I read the English and Irish markets of books as well. I'm sic, sic, sic of New York women wanting diamonds and Gucci. And I'm still waiting for the Canadian Publishers to move their heads out of their arses, as they realize that some of us in Canada aren't great literary aficianados. We want to see some Canadian spunk. Just like there was in the Olympics.
Knowing what I know now, I have no doubt that there are incredible authors out there who've been waiting 5, 10 and even 15 years to be published. It's time the publishing industry hired a few more smart cookies. It's time for them to take a few more smart risks. It'll be that, or all of us who are too impatient to wait, too determined to have our voices heard, will be taking over the self-publishing industry, and when Joe/Jane pubic finally figures out where the really interesting stuff is, they'll be following us, and the world will start reading once again.
Apparently I'm not good at the short blurb, and now you know why I've written a novel.
Waking up this morning, I just want to add that I in no way want to slam any authors who have written YA Vampire or Zombie books, or any other genre, because that isn't fair. The overflooding of anything in any market, tends to lead to a drop in followers. Us humans get bored easily, and unless something is of very high quality, we're more than happy to move along.
Thank you to those who are commenting. It is appreciated. I haven't yet figured out yet how to reply. And if nothing else, if I've stirred up some discussion, I believe that's a good thing. :)


historywriter said...

This is a just right blurb. Well said.

Alan Miles said...

I'm on the same journey as you, Lisa - but we don't have to let the agents and publishers beat us. They're only channels to the people who really matter - your readers. And you're already reaching out to them, right here for a start.

Seems to me that if the channels are clogged up, we've got quite a few alternative routes these days.

Let's go for them - and get those readers anyway, anyhow.

Anonymous said...

Working for an independent publisher, I can tell you that there's a lot more at stake these days when picking out a new author. Even the giants aren't picking up as many titles. The major book distributors aren't buying as much as they used to and cost of goods continues to increase. Last week the box industry announced a 10% rate hike. When you consider how many distribution houses and publishers use those boxes, it just adds another hit to the system.

I hope that there are some book publishers who are able to make that jump and take a chance on exciting new work. In many cases it appears to be more than a fear of the uknown - it's a fear of the last paycheck!

Adrienne said...

Well said.
As an aspiring author, I can relate to the frustrations and struggles of trying to get an agent or editor interested in your "no name" material. I know many people in my writing group who are incredible writers and have been working for years to get their stuff published.
I also understand that in today's economy, the publishing industry can't afford to take many risks. That's why it's helpful to build your platform before sending out queries.
You're obviously already taking steps in the right direction with your blog. Winning writing contests is also incredibly helpful to giving credence to your query. Agents are more willing to look at sample chapters if they know that judges have been impressed with your work.
Whatever you do, don't give up! It's a tough industry, but if you're real passionate and dedicated with your work, you'll succeed! :)