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COVID-19 and The Digital Future of Publishing

The global COVID-19 pandemic has affected so many aspects of life, but as a reader I’ve actually felt fairly little impact.

I still read eBooks on my Kindle, and was able to order physical books online. Now that local retailers and my library are operating (somewhat) normally again, I can go buy them in person again too.

So, what’s changed? I think the lasting impact that COVID-19 will have on books and readers is a bit more subtle than how we actually purchase things to read.

Publisher’s Going Online

Like so many industries, publishing had to adapt to its employees working from home. I believe the pandemic may have been the catalyst to finally get the monolithic, and notoriously slow, publishing industry to start moving more quickly. The realization that many jobs can be performed remotely, and that customers can be interacted with directly out of necessity is a sea change. Whenever we collectively decide the pandemic is “over”, I think we’ll see these publishing industry changes as permanent, like we will in other large creative industries. I don’t think there’s any going back from the industry making a change to be somewhat leaner and more agile.

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Hachette employees stage walk-out over Woody Allen Memoir

Credit: NPR.org

Hachette Book Group employees working for Grand Central Publishing and Little,Brown staged a walk-out on Thursday afternoon after discovering that their parent company was publishing Woody Allen’s memoir Apropos of Nothing.

The controversial memoir was passed over by numerous major publishers, and Hachette group accepted and published it quietly while also publishing Catch and Kill, a book by journalist Ronan Farrow that included allegations of abuse by Allen. Farrow is the son of Allen’s ex-wife, actress Mia Farrow.

This is certainly bad form on a publisher, and doubly so not giving any notification to Farrow or the Catch and Kill team given the sensitive subject matter they were working on. The HBG group employees are walking out in solidarity with Farrow and the book’s team.

What are your thoughts on publishers making money off of controversial memoirs? This isn’t the first time a big publisher has caused a stir by publishing non-fiction centering on a celebrity with a less-than-stellar reputation.

UPDATE: HBG has officially stated they will not be publishing Woody Allen’s memoir.

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The Future of Barnes & Noble

image of people in a bookstore

Barnes & Noble Sold

I just heard that Barnes & Noble was sold to Elliot, a venture capital firm that also owns the U.K. bookseller Waterstones.

I have had a tenuous, love/hate kind of relationship with B&N, and have blogged about it in the past. I’m not a fan of the way Barnes & Noble annihilated numerous other book retailers and mom&pop shops through the late 1990’s and 2K’s (similar to Blockbuster Video), but it’s nice to have an option besides Amazon if my local indie book seller can’t get what I want. Plus, I’m still one of those weirdos who reads “enthusiast magazines” and B&N is literally the only brick and mortar retailer I know who stocks a variety of those.

Venture capital firm purchases are almost always dicey, but at least B&N will still exist.

What I’d like to see happen

  • Get some personality: The pitch is a more “decentralized” model where the individual stores have a bit more autonomy. I think this is a great idea, and knowing some actual real-life B&N employees, I think its for the best. I have three Barnes & Noble in my general vicinity, and the one that does best allows its workers to inject personality and unique style into the space. It makes the place feel a bit more like a large indie book store, and feels inviting.
  • Re-focus on books: Get rid of the toys, games, Funko Pop figurines, and all that other junk, and add a wider selection of things to read! I’m still all for book-related gifts like Moleskines, bookmarks, and reading lights. That’s fine. But if I want vinyl I’ll go to a record store. Give me a horror and expanded literature section.
  • Kill the Nook: Just do it. Please. Put the thing into the landfill with all those copies of “E.T.” for the Atari.
  • Engage local reading and and writing communities: More local author readings, more book clubs, more big names stopping in on their book tours. All of it. Give readers a reason to drop by.

Better Than Nothing

I’m still a proponent of local independent bookstores over Barnes & Noble (support your local indie!) but it’s better than having no stores at all. Amazon is just the coldest experience possible. No tactile feel, no page whoosh, no book smell.

I guess we’ll see what the future holds for Barnes & Noble, and I hope it’s a turn for the better.

article, publishing

Thoughts on Self-Publishing in 2019

animal-blur-chameleon-567540

I’ve written a few posts in the past on the “Traditional versus Self-Publishing” debate. As someone who has work released through both channels, it is something I periodically reflect on. Mostly on the self-publishing side, because it changes very rapidly in comparison to the iceberg-like pace of the traditional publishing industry.

This week I listened to a podcast interview with a small publisher, and he spoke about the self-publishing landscape as retracting. Not from the content standpoint, but from the perspective of readers becoming more selective in their purchases.

This coincides with something I’ve been feeling now for a while, which is that self-publishing, specifically through Amazon, is no longer a viable path for a majority of writers. It’s in no way a slam against indie authors. For the few who are making it work, that’s awesome, and certain segments of the industry (mainly Romance) are reaping the majority of their sales through it. But for the average “aspiring author” who is creating literary fiction or writing in a broad genre like “YA”, fantasy, or science fiction, traditional publishing seems to be the way to go in 2019.

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The Benefits of Reprints

clonedcells

I recently received an acceptance note (hooray!) that one of my short stories was accepted by a literary journal as a reprint. I haven’t seen much discussion of reprinted works on here or social media, so I figured I’d post for the benefit of other authors who might not have given them much thought.

Expand Your Audience

Reprints are an excellent way to get your existing work in front of new readers. My short story “Yard Sharks” was originally published in a print-only lit mag. That means it had a relatively narrow audience. The literary journal that picked it up as a reprint is online, so it will now exist in a whole different medium; with the power to share it more easily. Reprints can breathe new life into an old story, and you never know who might read it.

Keep Up Author Momentum

We can’t always write new stuff. Life happens, and even the best of us get occasional writer’s block or just need time to recharge our creative batteries. Submitting existing work for reprint is a great way to keep your “author momentum” going, and “make your writing work for you” as a friend of mine said. It gives you a positive goal and something to talk to your readers about in those extended periods of downtime when you are either struggling with an idea or perhaps deep in the throes of revising a novel.

Validate Your Work

What’s better than having a publication accept your work? Having two publications accept it. Or three. Or five.

Publishing is a numbers game, and a networking game. There’s clout to be had when editors or outlets look at a piece that has been picked up multiple times. It implies quality, which might mean the difference between them giving you an opportunity versus a rejection.

Seeking Reprints

There are fewer literary journals and anthologies that accept reprints than don’t. Most places want previously unpublished works. That said, there are still a number across all genres that are willing to give good stories another home. Just be sure, as always, that you read submission guidelines carefully and that all your republication rights have effectively returned to you before you seek new pathways to reprint your work.