Just a couple of quick notes this morning. I’m in the final day or two of writing the latest work-in-progress and that seems to be all I can wrap my mind around. This has been one of the most demanding — and frustrating — novels I’ve ever worked on. It’s demanding in that it simply has not let me work on anything else. I was halfway through another novel when this one took root and pushed it, and the other three novels I was mentally planning, out of my head. It’s been frustrating because it has demanded it be written differently than other novels have (handwritten and then dictated or typed in), it’s a different sub-genre than I usually write in and the main character is damned pushy and loud. But it is almost over and will soon be off of my desk.
But that doesn’t mean the publishing world has come to a stop just because I have loud characters demanding my time. The first thing to catch my eye was a quote that came out of the Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute. I applaud the news of the modest growth of indie booksellers over the last few years. I shout with joy to hear that they recognize that, among others, the reason for that growth is the adoption of tech that brings them out of the dark ages and helps them meet their customers’ needs. What had me shaking my head was the fact that the rose colored glasses are still in place for some of them. I can’t find the quote right now — sorry, I’ll look later and edit it in if I find it — but one of the attendees said he was optimistic because the sales of e-books, while continuing to increase, isn’t increasing at such a high rate as it had been. This means, of course, that print isn’t going to die and will see a resurgence.
I’m not saying he’s wrong. But let’s face facts. Everyone expected the sales to slow for e-books. Anytime a new technology is embraced by consumers, it enjoys a period of time when sales of the hardware to support the tech and then the media shoots through the roof. That’s what we’ve had the last five years or so with dedicated e-book readers and apps as well as e-books. But the shiny has worn off the hardware end of it and people don’t have to buy e-books all over again just because they have changed their e-book reader or smartphone/tablet/etc., like they used to. Also, the shiny has worn off of e-books as well. They aren’t the “fad” any longer so folks aren’t buying them just to say they bought an e-book. And, yes, there were a lot of folks who did that just to keep up with the Joneses.
But there is something else that bothers me with his statement. He doesn’t take into account the fact that, while e-book sales continue to increase (albeit at a slower rate but no one really expected them to continue increasing in triple digit figures forever), he doesn’t take into account that most print sales are still falling, dismally so in some areas. There is going to be a market for print sales for years to come. But that market won’t support every niche genre and sub-genre in fiction. It may not support general bookstores. Bookstores may have to do exactly what a lot of them are already doing — going niche. Just selling certain types of books and marketing, hard, to those fans and customers. I guess what I’m saying is that the indie booksellers need not to start relaxing and patting themselves on the back. There is still a lot of hard work to do and one aspect is figuring out how to bring e-books into their stores.
Another bit of news that caught my eye serves as confirmation of some of my concerns when I heard that Penguin was taking over Author Solutions. When that originally happened, I held out hope that Penguin would take some of the stink off of Author Solutions and make it a legitimate tool for authors. That hope dimmed as I looked at the “services” offered by A. S. and the costs involved. I questioned whether these services were really worth the monies being charged and if they would — or even could — be delivered.
Now comes news that Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart LLP, a New York law firm, has begun investigating Author Solutions for deceptive practices. You can find out more about this over at Writer Beware. My reminder is that no matter who you are dealing with, there is one rule to keep in mind — money flows to the author and not from the author. If you are paying for services, you should be in control of them. You are the employer, or the contractor, and if you don’t have the authority as such, then think long and hard about whether or not the contract before you is one you ought to sign. If you are being charged for cover art, do you have the right to absolutely decline what has been presented to you — and at no charge? If you are being charged for promotion, do you have input into the kind of promotion being done, how it is being done, etc.? As much as we don’t like to think about it, writing is our business and we need to think about it as such.
And now I’m off to try to finish the novel that doesn’t want to die.