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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Do Writers Prefer 2013 Or 1988?

In a nation of 310 million, there are many people who want to write a book, but something stops most of them from following through on their desire. But for millions of others, they move forward with their dreams, and they write books that get published. The opportunity to get a book published is at its highest rate in the history of modern-day publishing, but was it better to be a writer 25 years ago?

Let’s examine six areas to see how things stack up:

1.      Compensation
Today’s author may be able to get a book out to market, but the market has gone cheap. Writers no longer command large advances but for the elite few. Book revenue is flat the past few years, in part because of the shrinking store market, and because e-books are not only lower-priced than paper, but they have been decreasing over the last few years.

2.      Recognition
It is still cool to say you had a book published but more books are getting self-published and a self-published book has less cachet unless it draws media attention or big sales. But 25 years ago, with far fewer books published, and with the vast majority coming from established publishers, being a writer seemed more important and unique than today.

3.      Influence
You no longer have to publish a book to have your voice heard. The Internet changed that. But a book still reaches many readers and can inspire, enlighten, entertain, and inform the masses. Books can be turned into plays, movies, and TV shows. They can be reviewed, publicized, and talked about -- and make a dent on society. Again, books are still culturally significant, but a book 25 years ago had more impact simply because fewer of them existed.

4.      Quality
No question, books were edited and selected for publication in 1988. Now, too many books flood the market without the scrutiny they used to receive. On the other hand, content is much more  diverse today, and the variety of stories shared and topics covered – written by a more diverse writing population – make today’s books more reflective of our nation’s realities and fantasies.

5.      Distribution
Books, in theory, enjoy greater distribution today. But many titles do not fully take advantage of this. Books can be sold in more formats than ever before – ebooks, audiobooks, hard covers, trade paperbacks, and mass market books. It can be sold online, in a bookstore, through a catalog, at an airport, and at non-traditional stores such as Costco, Target, and Wal-Mart. Books are accessible worldwide, 24/7. In 1988, this was not the case.

6.      Packaging
Through technology, books are packaged today in a way that cannot compare to other eras. First off, ebooks that can contain more photos than print books, as well as video and audio, making the multimedia experience a unique one. Second, because of design and layout capabilities – as well as changes in printing techniques – books of all sizes and shapes can be printed on all types of paper, using various bindings, and different inks. You can attach CDs or DVDs. You can add QR codes too. But 1988 packaging looks like 1988 packaging.

2013 is a time where anyone can get a book published but can they get people to buy it? Perhaps after the advent of the Internet, the second biggest change to publishing in the past decade or quarter-century, is the role and ability of authors and publishers to market, promote, and sell their books.

In 1988 you did not have BookMarketingBuzzBlog. Now you do!

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2013 ©


  1. It's "cachet", unless you mean less "cash" (that too) for writers today.

  2. Publishing Van Gogh -

  3. Wow, so true, so true. Writing a book is a lot harder today and there's a lot less glam than there used to be. It's still fashionable to write books today, but for different reasons.

  4. Plenty of food for thought here... You're right about the importance of media attention, and of course that can also be through the internet too, and self promotion, but it's hard work... and it's not just self-published authors who have to self-publicize...

  5. Very true. Those of us who have been publishing the "old-fashioned way" for many years are finding this a strange, new world. I keep thinking my time would be better spent writing my next book. But that, it appears, is old-fashioned thinking.

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