Today I’ll be attending the 2014 Maranatha Christian Writer’s Conference on behalf of Discovery House Publishers. In addition to giving a workshop, the conference organizers have asked me to sit in on a panel discussion. They sent us the questions we’ll be asked ahead of time.
I have written my answers and have posted them here as means for preparing for the discussion. I can’t be sure that I’ll get to say all of this today, as panel discussions ebb and flow in real time, but I thought there might still be some value in recording these answers. If you’re interested at all in my thoughts on the future of publishing, or if you are considering self-publishing or non-traditional publishing, then this post is for you. Enjoy! -AR
1. We’ve seen a lot of changes in the world of traditional publishing in recent years. What do you think the most important changes have been, and how have they affected authors? What additional changes do you think we might see in coming years?
The power of social media to sell products has changed publishing books, at least in part. Social media puts greater pressure on authors to help promote their work and to continually create new things to read. Social media, by its very nature, is personal and personality driven. Corporations (like publishing brands) are at something of a disadvantage. For instance, readers are more interested in following their favorite author on Twitter than they are in following the author’s publisher. This makes the author the promoter of their books in ways that authors were not before.
I read Amusing Ourselves to Death in the fall of 2010. I wrote the following review and posted it on Goodreads.com back then. A friend of mine was discussing the idea that “the medium is the message” yesterday on his blog and it reminded me of this book. Here’s the 2010 review:
This is a fantastically stimulating book. I read it as someone who remembers what it was like before the internet was a part of our every day lives, but who now spends much of his work days and home life online. As Postman traces changes in our culture because of the pervasiveness of television, I tried to imagine what he would say now in the internet age. Many of his principles, I’m sure, carry over into today’s culture.
This book is a classic, well worth your time. It may be more relevant today than ever. I don’t think it is written at a level that is out of reach for most average readers. Recommended for those interested in cultural values, those who might be fed up with the internet or media in our culture, and conversely, those who can’t get enough media.
There are only a few books that truly anchor themselves into my psyche as guideposts for thinking and worldview. I’m sure that all of the books I read help shape how I’ll interpret the world in bits and pieces, but very few stick out as truly influential guides. For me, this book is one of those “guidepost” books. Postman’s analysis of how television has affected our culture was like a prophetic sermon for me, a child of the TV generation. As a parent raising a “digital native” Postman’s concepts about what is gained and what is lost when we adapt our way of life around new media only proves to be more stimulating and more important to consider. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
A friend of mine recently sent me this video. It was a good refresher to see it again. The publishing team I work with at Zondervan watched it together some time ago. We’ve also spent hours discussing the future of books and different times. It’s an ongoing conversation in book publishing and retail circles everywhere right now. Before giving my thoughts on the video and the ideas it presents, I wonder what yours are?
Specifically, my question for you, the writer of a future book, does the future of books presented here by IDEO excite you? Or not? Why?
Book publishing is a business I’m idealistic about. I’m fortunate to work for a publisher right now. So when I had the opportunity to grab a free, hand-me down copy of this book from a co-worker I jumped at it.
Book Business is a memoir by Jason Epstein of his years in the New York publishing scene. He was an editor at Doubleday, Random House, and is responsible for a number of other successful publishing related ventures. During his career he worked in literary fiction (think: Faulkner and the like), academic publishing, magazine and journal publishing, and mass market trade publishing. His experience is broad, and the wisdom he’s gained a result is deep.
Amid his witticisms and remembrances Epstein also manages to weave in a bit of publishing history. He covers topics like: why publishers ever allowed returns on their product, why book prices are so high, the rise of the “quality paperback,” how the market has changed as a result of shopping malls and big box stores, and how bestsellers have changed things too. I especially enjoyed his descriptions of the New York publishing houses in the ’50’s and ’60’s. He described them with a nostalgic crush the way Ray Bradbury would describe Hollywood of the same era.