Books and Kindle

I ran across the following quote from a recent Hugh Howey Post titled, The State of Self-Publishing:

Critics of self-publishing will say that not every writer wants to be a businessperson. Meanwhile, publishers expect just this of their successful writers. And they should. Few musicians make a career of their art without understanding the business side of performing and releasing their work. The same is true of commercial artists, photographers, and filmmakers. Yet somehow, the myth of the writer who just pounds out words and hands in rough drafts persists.

I think the title of the post could just have easily been, The State of Publishing.

While proponents of both traditional publishing and self-publishing bare teeth and take sides, the method of publication is far less relevant to readers who choose to read digitally.  If you’re a reader the ‘State of Publishing’ is incredible right now.  There is more choice, lower prices, and greater access to books than ever before.

When was the last time you recommended a book to someone who asked, “Who’s the publisher?”

The more likely question is, “Can I get it on my Kindle,” or, “Can I get a paper copy?”

The people arguing about how things should be published are people in the business of publishing, not readers. Readers want a good story. If that story is written by an author they already know, great. If it’s not, that’s great too. Then they can discover the author themselves and share their find with friends.

Sure, every author wants to see their books in bookstores, but even that’s difficult.  I live in a town of 100,000 people and we have only one bookstore, a Barnes and Noble, which is more coffee shop than bookstore. When it was an actual bookstore I was a once a week visitor, searching the aisles for interesting books. It’s June now, and I may have visited the local B&N twice this year.

So, what is the state of the publishing? From a business perspective, it’s growing, but not much. Trade book sales (consumer fiction and non-fiction) were up 6.9% in 2012, and dipped by 2.8% in 2013, according to the two most recent BISG Reports.

But those are just numbers. The simple truth is there are a lot more books being published now than ever before, and it’s increasing difficult to find an audience for new books. So . . . what’s the ‘State of Publishing’ for authors?

From a traditional publishing perspective, unless you’re one of the handful of authors for whom each new book is an automatic entrant onto best seller lists, the state of publishing is perilous, at best.

For the established, self-published author, the flood of books is also a challenge. Yes, they have more control over things like marketing, pricing, design and output. But that control comes at a price. Time. Spending time on marketing, pricing, design and everything else, takes time away from the business of producing new products.

For the new author, the state of publishing is thrilling. She can be published now. Either traditionally, or self-published, her work has a chance to find an audience. If the books are well written and well produced, the author has an even greater chance of finding an audience. Not a guarantee, but a chance. That’s something she very likely wouldn’t have had ten years ago.

Your opinion of the State of Publishing probably depends on two things right now. Where you are as an author, and how you feel about change.

Change is inevitable in all businesses, but what’s happening in publishing, and in all forms of digital business is rapid and inevitable.

No matter where you are on the publishing train you have to admit, we’re living in interesting times.