Saturday, April 27, 2013

Paper Losses Decline Digitally

The newspaper industry is the healthiest it’s been in years, despite registering a decline in 2012.
Newspaper business revenues hit $38.6 billion, says the Newspaper Association of America. 

This accounts for  a 2% drop from 2011.  It was the smallest drop in half a dozen years.  Things are starting to look up. 

Print ad money dropped 9% but digital ad revenue rose 4%.  Further, circulation revenue rose for the first time in a decade.  Additionally, money from other revenue sources rose 8%.  Newspapers are learning how to leverage their assets in working more closely with local businesses and it’s paying off. 

The road to saving print rests in the digital world, but that’s good news to those who value keeping our newspapers viable and strong. 

Interview With Eric Lorberer, Editor and Robert Martin, Assistant Editor, Rain Taxi Review of Books

1. What would you say is the unique voice that your publication contributes to the discussion of books? Rain Taxi prides itself on seeking out new and innovative writing from the far corners of the publishing landscape.  Small presses, chapbooks, emerging or underappreciated writers, it doesn't matter.  So long as the work is good, we'll consider it for review.  As a non-profit, we're positioned to pursue our mission of highlighting creative work that most review outlets overlook, and we're interested in artistic merit over commercial viability.  Though we don't discriminate against major publishing houses--a lot of high-quality work is published in New York.  But that doesn't mean only companies with major financial backing can put out quality work, especially given the technological advances of recent years which have, in many ways, helped to level the playing field for small and independent presses. 

2. What do you find to be the rewards and challenges of running a book review outlet?
We do this because first and foremost we love books.  We love the written word.  One of the major benefits of an operation like ours is that we get to see so much of what people are doing in literature--we only get to review maybe 1/100 of books we receive, and wish we could give many more the attention they deserve.  We're fortunate to get to witness how thriving, and constantly surprising, writers continue to be, year after year.  As for challenges...dealing with the pettiness, egomania, and back-scratching that some writers and publishers fall into while trying to get attention for their work. 

3. What goes into your decision of whether to review a particular book? There are several factors, but our decision-making process is most generally guided by the drive to give attention to good work that other outlets don't.  If we think something is interesting and see that it hasn't garnered acclaim elsewhere, we'll assign it.  Sometimes we'll pass on a book if others are quick to discuss it, because then our job is done for us. We do try to avoid too much consecutive attention, as well--that is, if we've reviewed a couple books in a row by a particular author or a particular press, we might think long and hard about whether the work warrants such sustained focus.

4. Does it surprise you to see two polar opposite reviews of the same book between various publications? Not at all!  Reading is a personal, subjective experience.  I personally have had polar opposite reactions to the same book, depending on my mood going in.  On occasion, we've run simultaneous reviews of the same book just to give a picture of how disparate reactions can be.

5. How does one become qualified and trained to review books?
Read a lot of books, and write about them.  Part of good reviewing is knowing what else is going on, knowing how a particular book fits into the overall conversation that text is addressing.  And part of it is general command of language--syntax and structure and those goodies.  That said, we've published reviews by people just starting out in their careers, still learning the ropes, you might say, as well as by some of our era's greatest writers.  There isn't a test you have to pass to become "qualified"--it's evident in the writing and in the approach. 

6. Any advice to writers who get a bad review? I don't know about advice, but I'd congratulate them on getting any attention one way or another. As I said, we can only review a tiny fraction of the books we receive for consideration, so someone discussing your work is a payday regardless.  Of course, this won't soothe any wounded egos, so I'll reiterate my thoughts about subjectivity.  One man's Tolstoy is another man's Twilight.  You can't control readers' reactions, all you can do is work to express your authentic self in writing.  Don't write to your reviewers, don't censor your impulses. Contribute your voice to literature and don't worry about the rest of it.

7. Where do you see the future of book publishing heading? It's a fascinating time because there are so many new developments, any of which could take publishing in a different direction.  E-readers have gotten a lot of press, but this doesn't fundamentally change the nature of a person's relationship to the content--they're still reading, and writers are still writing. The self-publishing boom has caught a lot of the industry off guard, and that seems to have some sway in regard to the way people interact with books.  More than anything, I see the future of book publishing as a vast and successful enterprise, I suppose, because at the heart of all of these new developments, be they technological or grassroots or independent or market-driven, is the undeterred love of language. As long as people are interested in using language to create art, book publishing will continue to exist.

For more information, please consult: Rain Taxi Review of Books


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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 blog is copyrighted material by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2013 

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