I’m using the phrase “publishing landscape” to talk about several things that are on my mind as of late. Here they are in bullet point form:
- Self-publishing lied to me.
- Where are all the indie bookstores?
- Why can’t I find a good book?
Let’s start with point one: self-publishing lied to me.
Self-publishing made no promises to me. I get that, and this post is not about some sense of betrayal I might have as a writer. No. It’s my disappointment as a reader that I’m talking about here. I’ve often expressed my irritation at the so called gatekeepers of traditional publishing houses in New York, and my reasons for self-publishing being that I had been told several times how wonderful my writing was but that it couldn’t be “sold.” So I had high hopes that self-publishing would bring stories to the playing field that broke the formulas that New York publishers said could be “sold.”
It didn’t happen.
I’ve been feeling this way since I attended a conference late last year and listened to the buzz of what writers were working on. And it sounded like stuff that had all been done before. I was a reader before I was a writer, and when self-publishing shattered the publishing landscape, I had such amazing expectations. But it seems that writers are writing what readers have been trained to expect.
I have more to say on this, but I’m saving it for later this month. So….
Point two: where are all the indie bookstores?
There is no indie bookstore in my area. It’s a twenty minute drive at best to the closest one, and I’ll be honest. The one that’s closest I have a stark disdain for because they refuse to carry romance novels. I’m not kidding. The owner of the store has actually said to me that they do not carry such drivel. (That could be an entirely different blog post, so I’ll move on.) While I do enjoy my local Barnes & Noble and am proud to say I was once a Borders employee, there’s something about the smell and comfort of an indie bookstore. When on vacation, I always seek out the indie bookstore because I miss them. They’re like relics one visits in a museum or in my case, whilst on vacation.
What’s the point of missing these bookstores?
I would argue the point of discoverability and the lies of self-publishing and the 99 cent price point.
What am I talking about?
How many books have you downloaded to your ereader that were free or 99 cents and have not read? How many books did you pick up from the bargain table at a bookstore and have not read?
Dear Author makes a great argument about this and relates it to a possible contraction of the book market. I argue that the absence of indie bookstores has greatly hindered discoverability.
Which leads me to my next point…
Why can’t I find a good book?
I would liken this argument to a point my husband has about cable TV: there are too many shows now and no one is watching the same thing. While we have Goodreads and Amazon reviews, I would argue that the absence of bookstore tables, endcaps, and displays have greatly diminished the reader’s ability to find the next great book.
I had a conversation with my editor yesterday as I’m researching for a new project and looking for books when she told me about 3 (that’s THREE!) incredible series that I have completely missed. They were lost in the flood of content that has sprung up amidst self-publishing at the same time the ability to discover books has shrunk.
Is it any wonder we don’t know what to read and we’re not getting what we want to read?