From the vaults … Publishing in 2010

Sometimes I even surprise myself … I wrote this blog post in Dec. 2009, anticipating the coming new year and all the changes that were predicted would rock this book business. Many of them have indeed done just that. Please pay particular attention, though, to the third paragraph in which I discuss an aspect that is still proving to be a problem for many of us.

There was a good article in the Globe & Mail today (NB. Kim McArthur, quoted in this article, closed her Canadian publishing company in 2013) about the future of publishing in Canada, and the effect, during their very brief life, so far, that e-readers and e-books have had, are having, are expected to have, on publishing of traditional print books. Not surprisingly, it’s actually the older readers who have embraced this new technology, and for the very reasons why trade format paperbacks became a popular alternative to mass market format a couple of decades or so ago, and not only for publishing “serious” literary fiction – but because they offered bigger print for failing eyesight. Mine is also the group (Boomers) who read the most “books” (in any form), and buy the most books, because we have a disposable income; we belong to book clubs in larger numbers than any other generation; and, while I haven’t checked my facts on this next statement, I’m going to throw out there that we are also a more educated group overall, the majority of us having studied liberal arts, rather than receiving specialized learning, or job preparation, that seem to be the norm now. (i.e. We received an education that not only encouraged us to read, but also encouraged us to think about, and discuss, what we were reading, and we value print books.) Plus my peer group is proving to be lifelong learners, with many of us going back to school in order to study “for fun” and/or personal enrichment. Again, that disposable income, as well as retirement.

I was one of the most vocal naysayers, not too long ago, who was dismayed at the thought that a computer might one day replace all of my lovely print books that take up a great deal of room on my shelves. But I too have come around to seeing the many benefits of reading a book online (mainly from having read advance manuscripts in PDF format and finding that very convenient indeed, not to mention being a cost-saver for the publishers), and of having whatever I want to read next available at a click. Environmental concerns alone should be enough to send most people out to buy an e-reader. Think of all the paper that will eventually be saved.

My real concern about the publishing business, though, and where I believe we should all be concentrating our efforts, is in getting the word out as to who is currently writing, and what books are available to be read. You can’t believe the number of people who ask me, “What should I read next?” There are fewer places that promote or review books, or maybe it’s just that the promotion being done is not all that effective. Whatever the reason, the information just isn’t getting to the people who want to read. So that’s where I see the challenges in 2010. Many people still do read, and whether they read books in traditional print form or as e-books really shouldn’t matter – so long as they’re receiving the information as to who is writing, about what is being published, and what might interest them enough to want to plunk down the money to buy a print book or an e-book. It’s time to start thinking creatively here, and promote outside the box. We need people who will champion books, authors, and reading in general.

So, there you go! 5 years have passed since I wrote my thoughts and we’re still trying to figure out the most effective ways to attract readers. In the meantime, I have become a champion of other authors, through Alberta Books Canada and now with my blog Reading Recommendations. I’ve been planning to write a post (for some time now) outlining the ideas I’ve had – good, bad, successful, and downright stinkers! – over the 3 years since I launched my first eBook. Do you have any ideas to share with us? Have you discovered or instituted ways to connect with readers, champion books by other authors, and promote reading in general? Please feel free to share in the comments.

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10 responses

  1. Cats and books and change. Always change. I was adamant I would never use electronic means to read books. I use a Kindle now and have many books stored there. I still love the feel of a paper copy, but it’s true, the convenience of carrying a library with me cannot be ignored. The only drawback is battery power running out at the most inconvenient times.

  2. You indeed saw ahead, Susan. I now have a Kindle reader. A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have considered it. Thanks. 🙂

  3. I wish for the small independent bookstores to return, that’s where I used to find the most interesting books (oh, and my Dad’s library). I spent many a happy hour as a child digging through books in small bookstores around Chicago, saying Hello to the obligatory tabby cat sitting in the front window. Those were the days. The big bookstores are too overwhelming for me, too much other stuff, not enough books.
    It is true, it is hard to find the interesting, out of the ordinary books nowadays.
    PS. I actually walked out of a big bookstore the other day without buying anything – go figure.

    1. Thanks, sparkyplants! The small indies are few and far between these days. The stores that have managed to survive have all specialized in one way or another (I’m thinking of Calgary’s Self Connection with self-help, still going after 40 years, and many good children’s bookstores, or stores that offer stellar customer service and knowledgeable staff) or they own their premises or have a very good lease arrangement. I worked at one bookstore in Calgary during the 80s that specialized in literary and international fiction, Gay/Lesbian issues, vegetarian cookbooks, armchair travel (no guidebooks), philosophy, science, Eastern Religions, and absolutely no bestsellers, genre fiction, or children’s books. There was a wall of shelves down one side of the narrow space with a ladder on wheels affixed to a railing down the length of the section. Customers never came into that store to buy gifts for anyone else – they always bought for themselves. There were regular customers who worked on fire towers in the northern part of the province who would come in to stock up on reading material to while away the lonely days and nights while on watch. Local authors, many of them poets, came in to sit in one of the easy chairs at the front of the store, drink coffee, and chat with the staff about … books and writing.

      And we had bookstore cats! That was a great store, because it attracted real booklovers, people who appreciated the written word.

      1. A ladder with wheels!? That’s the best. I dream of having a wood-paneled library with a ladder on wheels. And several cats sitting on pillows in a window-seat. Maybe someday.

      2. ow you really have me reminiscing about that store. I’ll try to find the photos I have of the two cats and will write a blog post about the place. Thanks for helping to bring back these memories!

    2. How exciting!!! I can’t wait to see the post.

      1. I was writing the post in my head instead of sleeping at 3:30 a.m. this morning. Now I just have to try to remember what it was I was thinking. Definitely totally brilliant, though, whatever it was … 🙂

  4. I’ve heard rumors about a website on the horizon that will be a game changer in the promotion of books and authors.

    1. Thanks, Tim! I hope we’ll be able to make a public announcement about that very soon …

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