The State of the State (Or The Current Business of Books)

It's been awhile since I've posted on the business of books, but recently I started reviewing my past experience and how the business has changed since I got into it 20+ years ago. Here's just a few of the revelations that I've discerned.

In the beginning, (read: pre-internet) so much of the contact between authors and booksellers was a carefully constructed dance that required the help of multiple personages at the publishing houses. Promotion was based on previous sales and often those authors in the dreaded mid-list and (gasp!) below didn't qualify for much in the way of help from their publishers. It may still exist today, but for many it is a catch-22. Sales= $valuable sales promotion dollars and new authors with previous sales record = $0. From a business plan standpoint this idea makes sense, put the dollars where they will be the most effective. But somewhere along the way the authors that had to work hard for their sales and put blood, sweat and tears into promoting their babies came away with some hard won knowledge now that there has been a shift in the market, opening up new avenues with indie pubbing, etc.

With the amount of BIG booksellers, chains such as Borders and Barnes and Noble, experiencing dwindling markets, there is once again an opportunity for local venues to gain ground again and in some cases see the return of the local bookstore. Those that held on despite the presence of big box stores are seeing resurgence from customers who long for the friendly bookstore next door to get their addictions fed. But this is also the opportunity for those large chains to take a step back and appraise market needs. Clearly their sales are touched by the emergence of alternate publishing methods, but that doesn't rule them out entirely. Adaptability is the key to any business and perhaps taking cues from the rotating market will enable them to once again gain ground. Personal relationships, quality product and services and attention to detail. These are the things that hinge a great business together.

An eye on the future is what is needed if both authors can continue forward. It seems that no matter how many times I say it there is still a need to put it out there. This is a business and authors who aren't willing to learn the business take the chance of being left behind. It's more than setting a brand for yourself in this market. It's about taking the time to research and understand. I know authors who run the gamut between not wanting anything to do with the business side and those who understand it better than the experts themselves. Nina Pierce would be an excellent example. She understands markets, trends and best of all... cause and effect. She gets it better than most I've talked to and better, she's willing to share her knowledge if you ask.
So the question remains... where is the market today? It is still evolving and clearly if I knew what the answers were I'd have the keys to the kingdom. But for those with their eyes open, there is a big wide world out there waiting.

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