Wednesday, November 11, 2009

view from the belfry

A sobering post about an issue that is constantly on my mind:
Sarah Weinman's blog

These are dire times, and I would broaden the darkness to include nonfiction. The truth is, publishers aren't buying and agents aren't selling, and this has been going on for over a year. My memoir will soon be ready to submit, and I will be dumbfounded if it sells. And how depressing for all of us to pound away on material we know doesn't have a chance in hell of selling. I'm not used to working in that mindset, and it's crippling. This has nothing to do with the book, because I think it's my best work, but it has everything to do with the state of publishing. You can look at Publishers Marketplace and see that many agents haven't had a sale since last fall. It seemed there was a slight surge in the spring. Those were probably the titles that agents didn't submit until after the holidays. (How long can these agents remain in business with no sales?) My experiment with publishing my own books and backlist in digital format has been a dismal eye opener. FAIL! FAIL! FAIL! What the hell was I thinking???? And ebooks might be the future, but they are not the present. A massive shift to digital readers (as in people) could take years, or it could happen fairly quickly. I suspect there will be a lot of Kindles and Nooks under the tree this year.

All over the web, people are talking about no longer needing publishing houses, and no longer needing agents. A year ago, after working with the wrong agent for a few months, I'd wondered the same thing. But after my misguided foray into what I consider self-publishing, I'm convinced that we NEED publishers. We NEED agents. We should be supporting them, not kicking them to the curb in these horrible times. Writers are stomping off, saying they will just publish their own freakin' books. I said the same thing, but I'm now singing a different tune.


  1. Will you still move forward with Belfry Press?

    I really hope your memoir sells, but I understand the bleak concern. Watching this happen to multiple writer friends certainly doesn't motivate me to submit. My delusions of publishing grandeur are hibernating.

  2. Heather, I've pretty much given up on Belfry Press. Glad I tested the water with PI before publishing the anthology myself. plan to shop it around. If it doesn't sell, I will publish it, but I really hope I can find a publisher for it.


  3. Maybe the business model for writing is leaving us all behind. If there is one anymore.

  4. jason, yes, and yes. and i keep wondering if this is it. have we gone through the transition, and here we are, or will things get better? or will writing become a hobby for most of us? midlist authors are the ones really getting hammered. will these writers continue to write without publishers, or will they quit? i suspect this might create a window of opportunity for new writers who haven't been beaten to death by the business. and during all of this, all agents are talking about being unable to keep up with the massive jump in queries they receive. odd times.

  5. Likari, sigh is right! :) but romance is still doing well. a lot of people say it's because people want romance in dark times. i like to think it's because of the romance business model. they pay moderate advances that earn out. their entire year isn't riding on 5 big books. Irwyn Applebaum was the brain behind the let's choose a few books to sink millions into. he started pushing that philosophy and publishing method about 20 years ago, and now it's biting everybody in the ass.

    but he was hugely successful for many years. other publishers saw what was happening, how he could pluck someone from obscurity and create an overnight sensation, and they all followed.