By Moonrat, guest blogger
So, to be totally honest, I’ve never actually had a talent for clairvoyance. Unless you count that time I predicted I would eat too much at the sushi buffet—that uncanny prediction definitely came true.
However, now is the Era of Many Changes in publishing. The people have many questions, and the people deserve answers. This isn’t to say I necessarily have them, or am qualified to give them, but I can do at least as well as Madam Rosmerta. So step forward, my child, and ask!
I heard printed book publishing only has five years to live. Is this true? Will ebooks kill books?
No. Trust me. People who like ebooks will read ebooks. They’re an extra market and have little to nothing to do with actual book publishing. They don’t even affect book revenue—people who say ebooks cut into hard copy sales are disregarding the fact that you make a lot more money straight to the bottom line on an ebook than on a paper book; ebooks pay for themselves.
Books will always be printed. Ebooks will be an extra thing you can have if you want. Nothing else is going to change. No market is compromised. This is the giant red herring of book publishing—freaking out about ebooks instead of working on the things that actually need fixing. Don’t listen to them; they’re all silly.
If you’re so sure books are never going to die, how will publishers survive this difficult time that seems to have them all running bankrupt?
Well, the sad truth is that the industry is based on cash-flow publishing—basically printing books, selling them, and giving the money back when they get returned, but hoping that next month’s books will cover the gap. It’s a kind of stupid system, one that encourages publishing too many books and publishing them too quickly.
So eventually, the system is going to break down, and a lot fewer books are going to be published. The only fiction published will be big-bomb NYT bestseller candidates, and literary projects that have some kind of cult following. All the middle titles—the ones that aren’t quite popular enough or high enough quality—will drop away. A lot less money will be made in general, but the money made will be real money—on books that sell to consumers, not books we sell to retailers who sell them back to us. Bookstores will carry fewer books, and books will print fewer copies. Authors and agents will make less money. Publishers will make less money, and so lots of people will lose their jobs—particularly in editorial.
It will be sad that people lose their jobs, yes, but what won’t be sad is the higher standard of excellence publishers and authors will have to hold themselves to in order to secure a successful publication. In our cash-flow world, quality has been the first thing we’ve sacrificed. We’re currently witnessing the end of an era that will have produced a disproportionately small number of immortal writers, because their books were rushed out for the sake of numbers alone.
Wait, are you saying it’s going to be even harder to get published in the future?
Uh, yeah, I guess I am. But let that be a challenge to you. Think of it this way—if you secure publication in the future, you’re even more worthy and special than the people who have secured it in the recent past. You jumped through flaming hoops they never even had to imagine.
So what the heck is the point of writing, then?
Because you love it. That should have been the only point, ever. If you’re only writing for glory and recognition instead of for personal growth and refinement, consider taking up another hobby. Perhaps table tennis.
Do you have faith everything’s going to work out?
Yes, blind, unconditional faith. There will always be books; there will always be people who love to read; there will always be people who love to write. And there will always be overlap among those groups. I’m here for love; I hope you’re here for love, too. I’m not afraid; things will work out the way they’re meant to. And in the meantime, I’m going to work as hard as I can toward my goals. I hope you are, too!
Moonrat, or “Editorial Ass,” is an anonymous book editor, diehard sushi fanatic, and incurable book addict. She works for a small press in New York and blogs at editorialass.blogspot.com about her hapless exploits in publishing and life.