I’ve been a longtime reader of Kris Rusch’s blog on publishing, linking to it often. If you don’t know it, you should.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch is an award-winning mystery, romance, science fiction, and fantasy writer. She has won two Hugo awards, a World Fantasy Award, and six Asimov’s Readers Choice Awards and, along with her husband Dean Wesley Smith, once owned and operated a publishing company.
Few writers have the kind of background that Kristine Rusch has, and she goes into depth on many publishing industry-related topics in her thoughtful and well-informed blog posts.
Reading a recent post called The Changing Playing Field, this paragraph stopped me:
Our industry is growing. We are getting new bookstores, new readers, new writers, and we haven’t hit the peak of the market yet. Why not? Because traditional publishers dropped the ball decades ago. Traditional publishers forgot that they sell books to consumers. Instead, they changed their business model to sell books to bookstores. When the independent bookstores declined at the turn of this century, traditional publishers started marketing to the big distributors and to the chain bookstores, which was why you heard such industry-wide panic when Borders went down. It wasn’t because the readers went away; it was because traditional publishers had no idea how to sell their books to people other than the ten to twenty buyers for national distributors and chain bookstores.—The Business Rusch: The Changing Playing Field
Even in this short excerpt from a very long article, you can see that understanding the history of book publishing gives you an insight into what’s happening today that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
What stopped me was the idea that the readers never went away when book publishers and bookstores started to experience the severe disruption in their business models that we are still going through.
Even though book publishing is a conservative business, inheriting practices and conventions from previous centuries, readers adapt to changing times, don’t they? I think this phenomenon is one of the forces behind the spectacular and ongoing growth of indie publishing.
The demand for good writing, for books that are solid and well put-together, the demand for stories, fantasies, exposés, intergenerational tales, for reflections on life, and for thrilling murder mysteries is still strong.
And the book itself, through its transition to various electronic formats is becoming more flexible, more malleable, with its text escaping to other lives and new ways of connecting with readers while creating real income for authors.
Along with the rise of social media and the unprecedented ability of a single person to gather huge communities, authors can now connect with tens of thousands of readers, get live market intelligence, and form real connections through the social sphere.
So there’s still the demand, still the readers, and all these great new tools, processes, and ways of connecting to our readers, engaging with them directly, and getting our writing into their hands.
It’s up to us to figure out how to navigate this world, but the payoffs—personal, financial, spiritual—are potentially huge.
I love that, don’t you?