Sunday, May 8, 2022

How has the book industry changed since your first release, and polishing your best crystal ball, where do you see the book industry heading in the next ten years?



I love getting my bi-annual 15% royalty checks because who wouldn’t love to line their pockets with a couple extra buckskins every six months? So, I’m not going to say anything here that could in the least be interpreted as disparaging to an industry that makes it rain (or at least lightly sprinkle) for me twice a year. And beside; I’m a relative newcomer to the publishing biz. Three-books do not make me some sort of wizened industry sage boorishly pontificating on publishing industry board rooms, editorial back rooms, fancy corporate bathrooms, reception desk hand sanitizer dispensers or the mind-boggling implications of the Gutenberg Press.

That being said . . .

. . . I have noticed just a few things that have emerged in my time as a toddler in this business.

To begin, I think the publishing industry as a whole has been led—sometimes kicking, other times screaming—into a new age of market relevance, viability and profitability. This newly realized profitability can, at least in part, be attributed to the sudden and profound awareness that stories written by Blacks, Hispanics, Indigenous People, LGBTQ+, etc. actually reach a national and international reading public that is neither “specialty” in its literary tastes or chapbook “niche” in its size. In fact, I think it’s probably safe to say there is now a heavy-breathing-400-yard-dash among publishers to find and sign such authors in order to make up for the billions of dollars that have been left on the table over the years by minimizing (or completely nullifying) the cultural and economic viability of communities-of-color, indigenous peoples and LGBTQ+ markets.

This isn’t news to many of us: the press—both industry specific and general—have reported on publishers clearly hearing and definitely responding to the cries and demands for a diversified, more inclusive publishing industry not only from writers-of-color, but from their overall reading markets as well. They’ve come to the realization that across the great reader spectrum, no avid reader has ever said, “I only want to read books by (insert race/ethnicity/nationality) writers!” And the argument once touted by some in the industry and a few bestselling elite authors that “race doesn’t matter—quality matters!” has been proven time and again to be laughably feckless. A dog-whistle that excluded any discernable inclusion of marginalized communities in its elusive, whoodoo-voodoo, smoke-mist-and-mirrors "quality" calculations.

Plus, the Wall Street crystal-ballers who predicted the emanate death of mom-and-pop/mom-and-mom/pop-and-pop bookstores in the face of a (then) emerging online giant (rhymes with Pamazon) have thankfully been proven wrong; independent bookstore growth has actually surged proving book lovers aren’t really a national aggregate, but powerfully local. As such, publishers are acknowledging the power of the press in highly localized reading audiences. Something university presses have long known.

Add to the above the proliferation of multi-billion-dollar worldwide streaming services with a near unquenchable competitive thirst for new and unique “content” and you have a publishing industry all but too willing to provide that new content through their quickly expanding catalogs. Benevolence, social awareness and pressure may have brought the publishing industry to the inclusivity table but rest assured—the aggressive and seemingly relentless streaming services’ content gold-rush is an important factor keeping them at the table.

In many ways, I think this is a Golden Age of Publishing. An age in which people of all stripes have a never-before-seen abundance of choices in reading that bring added dimension, color, heart, and intellectual perspective to the story experience. It’s an age where previously unheard or marginalized voices are now part of the expansive tapestry of American storytelling.

And my speculation as to where the industry will be in ten-years?

I have absolutely no clue.

Hell, I thought we’d have flying cars, Motel 6s on the moon and wine in boxes by now.

Wait a minute . . .

. . . what about wine in boxes?


Susan C Shea said...

Whoops, your post hiccuped its ay to Sunday but that';s okay because your message is upbeat and, where increasing the voices we get to read is concerned, it's a great - if long overdue - development. See my Monday post, which said the same thing, from my perspective.

Josh Stallings said...

Yes, the "I would publish more "xyzy" if they were only better." is now clearly proven to be crap. In movies they kept saying when ever a film by makers of of color broke out box office wise, that it was an anomaly. It is still an up hill battle but I see in publishing the tide is turning. Or I hope it is.