by Tracy Kiely
For me, an ideal future would be one in which readers still wanted my books and a publisher still wanted to publish them. If I’m being really honest, I’d add “for gobs and gobs of obscene money.” I wish I could be more precise or insightful, but that’s pretty much all I have.
I have never been someone who was able to accurately predict trends. I come by this trait – or this lack of trait, rather – honestly. I grew during the war; the videotape format war, that is. For those of you too young to remember those dark days of the early 1980s, it was when the consumer who wanted to invest in a home theater system was forced to make a choice between two completely incompatible models of videocassette and video cassette recorders; specifically Betamax and VHS.
According to my father, the Betamax was the far superior product. It offered higher resolution, lower video noise, and less luma/chroma crosstalk than the VHS (yeah, I don’t know what all that means either. Neither, I suspect, did my father. It was all Charlie Brown teacher yammer to me.). But Beta, said my father in much the same manner that guy from The Graduate intoned the immortal phrase, “Plastics,” was the system of the future and so we invested in Beta. Bookshelves full of Beta formatted movies. Two separate Beta players. It was a heady time. That is until four years later when we had to go out and buy an entirely new system and movie collection.
My father wasn’t the only one in our family who lacked market trend insight. My grandmother was sure that China held the key to our future. Or rather china held the key. More money than I want to think about was funneled into various commemorative dishes and plates, each depicting stunning artistic renderings of famous moments in fiction. I now have boxes of plates portraying such moving scenes as Dorothy skipping along the Yellow Brick Road and Prince Charles gazing serenely at Lady Diana on their wedding day.
I’m sure if I poked around enough on Ancestry.com, I’d find a relative who not only owned an Edsel, but invested heavily in the company.
As for me, I am no better. I don’t even pick up on established trends. I don’t own a Nook or a Kindle. I like holding a book. I like the smell of a new book, and I like the smell of an old book. (Well, some old books. I don’t imagine I’d like the smell of those nasty forgotten ones you see strewn about in the houses on Hoarders.)
So that said, I don’t think that I am a proper go-to person for any industry speculation, let alone traditional publishing.
All I can hope for is that in the future, there will still be an appreciation for good stories with strong character no matter what the format.
I’ll still be quite happy to curl up with a worn paperback.