Awarding winning author of five novels, Chris Longmuir talks about the decline of new authors' publications in High street bookshops
Do Writers Need Publishers?
Have you noticed how the numbers of debut novels in the bookshops have been shrinking recently? I used to browse book shops for new, unknown writers, mainly to sample them in order to find out what will persuade a publisher to publish. In the process I read many good novels, and one or two stinkers. But I’m not having a great deal of luck lately. So what has changed?
Well, I suppose the recession has to take some of the blame, and then there is the rapid rise of the ebook market, which many publishers never believed would happen, and now that it has, they seem to be running a bit scared.
As an author who has been traditionally published I’ve noticed that over the past few years it is getting more and more difficult to find a publisher willing to invest in new novels from lesser known writers. Their focus seems to be on best selling authors, celebrity memoirs, and celebrity cookbooks. But it isn’t only lesser known authors who are suffering the fallout, several of my friends, with more than twenty books to their names, who have in the past published best selling books have been dropped by their publishers.
A literary agent who apparently represents President Obama criticizes publishers who are only willing to buy ‘sure things’. Read the critique here http://www.dystel.com/2011/10/a-sure-thing/ and if that is the case, and I quite believe it is, then authors are on a hiding to nothing when they try to attract the attention of a publisher. Maybe we should be targeting the accountants instead?
Despite all this the publishers, or their representatives, do their best to discourage authors from taking the electronic self publishing route. Among their arguments are, that authors still need publishers to provide editorial services, cover art, promotion and marketing. The first two are blatantly not true because these things can be purchased, and as for promotion and marketing – well, all I can say is that there is no marketing budget for most authors. The budget goes on the ‘sure things’, the best selling authors who would sell in any case and the celebrity books. When last did you see any advertising for an author apart from any of these?
So I reckon it’s time to fight back. Ebooks are here to stay and it is relatively simple for an author to break into this market. Many well established authors are now publishing their backlists this way, as well as their newer works. So this is where I now look for the new authors, as well as the really good writers who are getting the go by from publishers, and similar to before I’m reading some really good books, although according to the laws of average there are some stinkers as well.
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