Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The State Of Publishing

Before one can predict the future, it is probably helpful to have a snapshot of the present.

According to Bowkers Market Research, as reported by Publishers Weekly, bookstore sales continue to trend downward.  Bookstore sales this February from a year ago were down 4.1%.  January and February combined book sales totaled $3.06 billion, representing a drop of 1.9% for the same period in 2011.  By contrast, retail sales nationwide from all industries were up a collective 8% in Jan-Feb 2012 vs. a year ago.  People are buying stuff, but not always books at a store.

Through the first nine months of 2011, book sales broke down as follows:

·         34% come from trade paperbacks
·         28% hardcover
·         15% mass market paperbacks
·         13% eBooks
·         2% audio books
·         2% other types of paperback
·         6% other forms

Compared to the same time period in 2010, there was a huge increase in eBook sales, a slight decline in trade paperbacks, and double-digit drops in hardcovers and mass market books.  Audio books doubled. 
Interview With Literary Agent Michael Larsen
Michael is the founder of Michael Larsen-Elizabeth Pomada Literary Agents . He is a leader in this industry for the past four decades. He shared his thoughts on the future of publishing below. For more information on his services and programs, including the 10th annual San Francisco Writers Conference, please consult

People, companies, and countries that don’t reinvent themselves every three-to-five years will get left behind. --John Chambers, Chairman and CEO, Cisco Systems
The future of publishing is self-publishing. --Editorial consultant Alan Rinzler

The one safe prediction you can make about the future is that you can’t predict it. Anyway, here goes: the three keys to the future of publishing in the next five years are mobile devices, social media, and self-publishing. Here are eight guesses about the industry’s future:
  1. Successful writers will be CEOs of one-person, multimedia, multinational conglomerates who crowdsource their needs with a community of collaborators and rely on word of mouse to make their work sell.
  2. Agents will be Executive VPs of their clients’ conglomerates, mentors who help them  maximize their visibility and income.
  3. The Six Sisters who dominate trade publishing will be fewer in number and smaller in size, and will survive by empowering their writers and devoting themselves to what they do best.
  4. Because updating ebooks and integrating all media into them will be easy, enhanced ebooks will be huge, and readers will judge writers by their ability to tell a story so compellingly that awareness of medium and technique disappear.
  5. Fans will communicate with authors at teleconferences and receive personalized autographs they can print.
  6. Barnes & Noble will be gone, and a growing network independent booksellers around the country will thrive for four reasons:
--They will be community-supported nonprofits like other cultural institutions, such as libraries, museums, symphony orchestras, and dance and opera companies.
--They will always have the book you want because they will have EBMs, Espresso Book Machines that store books and print a book in a minute.
--They will be even more needed as community centers (and a respite from staring at a screen) that respond to their community’s needs and tastes, provide events and classes, and serve as a meeting place for reading groups and writer’s organizations.
--Readers will understand that a quarter of every dollar spent in a chain store leaves the community while indies spend that income in the community.
  1. Readers will again understand that when it comes to media, it’s not either/or, it’s both and. Books will continue to do what only they can. Concern about design will make books more beautiful than ever. In a high-tech, visual culture, the physical and literary pleasures they provide will be more needed and appreciated than ever.
  2. More than eight billion web-enabled devices will help unite the global village, and the potential they will create for communication, creativity, collaboration, and commerce will open endless possibilities for writers and publishers.
What did I leave out or get wrong? In five years, content will still be king, but writers will be CEOs.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s leading book publicity firm. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person

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