Book Show: State of the Industry Observations
Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Atlanta Airport
We’re done. Another ICRS under our belts. What a great show it turned out to be. I’m writing my blog on an iPad, typing slowly with one finger. (Why couldn’t I have learned to text as a teen–I’m so jealous of teen textability.) So you are the winner– I’ll keep this short and to the point.
When anyone offers to speculate on the state of an industry, your response should be to roll your eyes. It’s an exercise not unlike the blind men describing the elephant. We only know what we’ve observed. But I thought I’d share ten observations with you.
1. We sensed a whole new energy. Publishers are definitely buying books.
2. Since Christmas 2010 the velocity of eBook sales has been breathtaking.
3. In fiction, historical is still strong but we saw the beginnings of a renewed interest in contemporary. We did see that editors are looking for very specific genres or time periods or settings to fill holes.
4. In fiction, editors seem to be somewhat more open to the unusual. One editor gave us percentages– a small percentage of her line can be used to introduce debut novelists, another small percentage can be experimental, while the bulk of the line is for excellent, but tried-and-true fiction.
5. In fiction, genre is still king. Publishers have not been able to develop any significant market for literary fiction.
6. In Christian nonfiction, basic is back. We talked to editors who are actively looking for books addressing things like simple Bible literacy.
7. In nonfiction platform is more important than ever. We had an editor tell us that if they take a project to committee they are asked to give specific details about the author’s social network platform. Another editor said it takes so long to get a writer up to speed on effective social networking that if it comes down to someone who is already well-networked and someone with a limited network, there’s no question who will get the nod.
8. Brick and mortar bookstores are still struggling. Some of the challenges are:
- Discount price competition from the big box stores (Walmart, Costco, etc.) and from Amazon and CBD.
- The ease of direct eBook sales, effectively cutting the store out of the equation.
- The tough economy–unemployment and underemployment resulting in less disposable income.
- The high price of gas, meaning people think twice before getting into their cars to go to a bookstore rather than to buy online. It’s created a perfect storm of trouble for the independent bookstore.
9. We observed a proliferation of innovative new media ideas– the fusion of books with digitally delivered sound, video, extra content and interactive content.
10. It was exciting to see the birth of several new publishing houses. We had meetings with three of them– Worthy Publishing, whose inaugural list featured a breathtaking offering of potential bestsellers; eChristian who look to be a major player not only in audio and eBooks but are also doing traditional books; and Jericho books, a division of Hachette, focusing on thought-provoking books for the church’s disillusioned, disassociated and disgruntled. Here’s how they put it, “The mission of Jericho Books is to seek new, innovative authors who reflect a growing change in the church. These non-traditional voices will appeal to the fresh perspectives in today’s culture and provide an avenue for those exploring political and social issues as they relate to faith.”
There was so much more, but these ten give you a sense of what we observed. We’re gearing up to meet the challenges.