Posted by Melissa on July 21, 2011 in Articles, Authors, Books, Breaking News, Publishing |

Okay, so I’m up late, can’t sleep, and I thought: “I haven’t done much blogging this month.”  So I here I am with the news that is going around town:

As I’m sure everyone has heard, Borders is liquidating.  The news has been everywhere.  The New York Times, Forbes, and the Washington Post.  It also been on the blogs of Passive Guy, Kris Rusch, and David Gaughran (who just published his new book, Let’s Get Digital: how to self-publish and why you should.)  But, there’s more.  After reading Kris’s latest blog, I learned that two publishers (unnamed on her post) are in financial dire straits:

I didn’t even mention the two smaller publishers I know of who are telling their authors and employees this week that the house is going out of business or the publisher I know that is having such severe financial troubles that I don’t expect that publisher to be in business at this time next year.

… and B&N is currently reducing (again) shelf space for print books:

Those things, however, would be a blip on the publishing radar if it weren’t for something that is happening this month that most people in traditional publishing don’t even know about.

Barnes & Noble issued an order from its corporate headquarters that it wants its stores to once again decrease the number of paper books the stores are going to carry.  I got this Facebook message from a Barnes & Noble employee in Minnesota on July 10.

“We were notified at our B&N location this week that in the next couple of weeks we will be receiving a ‘massive returns download.’ To coincide with this outflux of books we will be adding 3 more of the massive toys and games displays, as well as expanding gift and the digital presence.”

Now, I can’t say I am happy about all of this, after all, I spent a good deal of my time 2008 to 2010 perusing the book shelves of Borders in Monterey on my days off, drinking a Seattle’s Best coffee and relaxing in the silence of the store.  The store was also a meeting place for events – book signings, indie musician performances, children’s activities, and meetup groups like a knitting guild (in which I did participate and actually learned to knit.)  So, I think what is happening today to bookstores is a sad thing and I am hoping that whatever model pops up in the future, it will include the social gathering and activities that were always surrounded by bookshelves in the past.

What does all of this mean?  Because these events are happening so fast, the publishing world in the next year will change dramatically, faster than anyone thought (this is why I haven’t even bothered looking into traditional publishing for my books).  The loss of print books in the bookstores will mean that people will have to buy print books online or switch to e-books.  I have a feeling this will speed up the market switch to e-books because buying them online is fast, easy, and cheap.  When it comes to a choice between the love of a print book and the love of convenience, convenience will win out.  I predicted that e-books would be the dominant form of reading by this time next year and I still hold to that prediction.  The problem is, who is this going to hurt?  It’s going to hurt a lot of people.

It’s going to hurt publishers and agents.  It’s going to hurt booksellers and bookseller employees.  But most of all, it’s going to hurt the authors who have always been and continue to be traditionally published.  These authors, if they don’t change swiftly to adjust to the new market, are going to be left out in the cold, watching the income listed on their royalty statements decrease to nothingness, and then be blamed by their publishers for the decrease in sales of their books.  Some of the bestselling authors may be alright, but most won’t.  It’s going to get ugly.  I am praying for those who either don’t see or refuse to see the tsunami coming.

Which brings me to the question: who are the writers who will not only survive but who will thrive into the future?  For me, this is an easy one.  The writers who have been successful as indies: Amanda Hocking, Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, John Locke, etc.  There are more – David Gaughran gives a big list of them on his blog (he might as well add himself to that list as well because he will be up there with them.)  Writers like these are the ones who will have an edge in the future.  They know how to write (and not write crap), they know how to publish on their own, and they know how to market on their own, and be successful at it to boot.  What was once called “newbies” and “mid-listers” in traditional publishing will be called indies in the future, especially when e-books take over.

Do I think there will come a time when there are no print books anywhere?  No.  There will always be print books even if they become a niche market.  Do I think all traditional publishers will disappear from the face of the earth?  No.  There will be ones that survive but they will be different.  There will also be new publishers that pop up.  So, dare I make another prediction?  Well, I probably shouldn’t but I will.  I predict that into the future, we will see bestselling traditionally published authors and indies.  That’s it.  No newbies.  No mid-listers.  Just the two groups.  I could be wrong though.  It maybe that something completely knew and exciting pops up that no one can predict.  I hope that’s the case and I hope that whatever it is, it finds a way to save everyone.

~ Melissa

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