What’s Changed and What’s Stayed the Same
Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
I began blogging as an agent in January of 2008, and it’s remarkable to look back over my past posts and notice how much has changed in six years. When I started, I didn’t even have a Kindle. Now my family owns five Kindles plus iPads and various other electronic devices, and I wouldn’t want to do this job without them.
I wrote posts back then about how there was a stigma to self-publishing and I warned writers against it— if they wanted to be taken seriously. Now self-publishing is a normal and accepted option for writers.
I wrote about how e-books were a minuscule percentage of any author’s total books sold.
I was not even on Twitter until a year after I started the blog (January, 2009). Facebook and Twitter were still optional and sort of curiosities.
What else has changed in the book business?
- The closing of Borders was an epic blow to the industry, many independent bookstores have closed, and pundits frequently discuss the future of Barnes & Noble.
- Walmart and the big-box stores continued their rise and dominance in non-internet retail.
- Amazon became the proverbial 600-pound gorilla in book retailing (600-pound gorilla doesn’t even begin to capture it); made it possible for self-published authors to compete with publishers; and began competing directly with publishers by starting to “traditionally” publish themselves.
- Several small publishers went out of business; even larger publishers are at risk with the bankruptcy filing of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2012.
- E-books grew substantially in terms of their proportion of overall book sales, and the percentage of people owning e-readers is continuing to rise.
- The popularity of the iPad vastly increased the number of people buying e-books.
- The price of books became a huge issue as the low cost of self-published e-books and low publisher promotional prices began to affect consumers’ willingness to pay full-price for books.
- An ideological war broke out between some proponents of self-publishing and those who still advocate for traditional publishing.
- Small independent publishers have proliferated, as thousands jump on the bandwagon to help authors publish their books.
- Writers are expected to use every avenue of social media to promote their own books.
What hasn’t changed?
- People are still reading books. Despite the proliferation of options for our leisure time, the book still stands strong.
- Traditional publishers are still publishing books. They’re tweaking their business models and adjusting the way they do business, but the Big 5 publishers (and many others) are still bringing books to the marketplace, with no plans to stop.
- Being a writer is the same as it ever was. It’s still hard to write well, and hard to find success in publishing. You still have to spend the time in the chair. You still have to figure out how to balance writing with the rest of your life. You still have writer-insecurities and craving for affirmation. You still have to study the craft and write and write and write to become any good at it.
What other changes have you noticed over the last few years? What else has stayed the same? As a writer, how much does it matter to you?
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