So you can read my books

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Don't forget to vote for my entry in Tessa's OUTSIDE THE BOX blogfest :

Reality is a harsh mistress.

Deny ugly facts all we want, reality will sit on our porch unfazed.

Ignore her long enough, and she ends up sitting on our chests.

1.) The corporate masters of publishing houses can’t afford literature.

A.) They seem to have worked themselves into a corner as dire as that of real estate.

Their industry got financialized, and it hyper-evolved to the point of collapse.

B.) The apparent logic of maximized profit creates a gray and chilly society

where nothing pays off but banks, guns and jails.

C.) The publishing industry is in trouble—

but not just because of the digital revolution.

The real trouble for the publishing industry

has more to do with the gradual unfolding of the economic transformation that led

to this structure of publishing,

where we now have five large corporate groups and a small number of retail chains

dominating the industry.

These corporations have to achieve growth year after year,

and when that top line revenue begins to fall,

as it did when the 2008 economic recession suddenly tipped the narrow profit margins into the red,

it had devastating impact throughout the industry.

And the only way that they can preserve the profit at the bottom line is

to push people out, and to reduce their overheads and costs dramatically.

D.) So that was the real crisis in the publishing industry in the autumn of 2008 to the present.

Now, it also happened to coincide with an upsurge in e–book sales.

E.) End result? A terminally ill book publishing industry.

2.) To witness the future is to rethink the past and learn something from it.

A.) Most people are only as good as their options :

How can a 22-year-old editor intelligently bid on a book?

What does a post-graduate $32,000-a-year, fresh-out of internship, know about

what will score a huge success with the public?

Does focusing on what is taboo to say in the face of superiors cut her off

from what mainstream America is feeling, thinking, and wanting to read?

B.) Why does this frequently appear to be a case of the asylum leaving the inmates to decide?

People in publishing (except those that are up top and doing well) are not really supervised.

Unsupervised inexperience is the formula for disaster.

3.) Literary agents are not like Hollywood agents.

Many literary agents are beyond frightened of angering the editors,

so they won't fight like Hollywood agents will for the clients.

They say things like, "Well yes, it's cheap money, kid, but think of it as an annuity."

Or, "I wish I could do more but they'll never budge" or this one : "You're lucky to get it."

Even if we are,

can you imagine a Hollywood agent (lawyer) accepting that without putting up some kind of resistence?

4.) Reading for pleasure is dying.

A.) According to the NEA, less than 1/3 of 13-year-olds read for pleasure every day,

a 14% decline from 20 years ago.

The percentage of 17-year-old non-readers doubled in that same twenty-year span.

If you're an American between the ages of 15 and 24, you spend 2 hours a day watching television,

but only 7 minutes a day reading, according to this study.

B.) Timothy Shanahan, a professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago and past president of the International Reading Association says

that many young people say they don't read because it's lonely.

When they are online or text messaging, they feel involved with others, but they do not feel this sense of community when reading by themselves.

C.) Shanahan continued,

"The Harry Potter books were popular not mainly because of this wonderful story and the language,

but because it was this huge phenomenon that allowed young people to participate in it.

What was exciting was reading what your friends were reading and talking to them about it. People of all ages are hungry for that kind of community."

*) What do you think?

How can we create that kind of sense of community among young readers nationwide?

Is book publishing sliding into the sea of oblivion? Is there hope? How can we stem the tide?

When and why did English teachers stop trying to teach the correct use of our native tongue, which has a bearing on declining reading?

The two subjects are inter-related, like a dog chasing its tail.


  1. I don't know if I am just an optimist or what but I think there is still a chance for the future.

    There are a lot of people out there who love to read.

    As a parent I limit my childrens tv time, video game time, texting etc. When we go to the library I HELP them find books that they will find interesting or appealing. I will walk the aisles in the kids section with them and pull books off the shelf and say HEY what about this one it has dragons and fairies or monsters or zombies or whatever they are interested in. I would like to think that a lot of other parents do this too.

    I don't think books will go away. There has been a decline and ebooks have maybe changed the way some people read. For me ebooks increased my reading for a while because I would download them to my cellphone and read at work. I think the rise in ebooks may hold MORE opportunities for writers rather than less.

    I don't think the future is as dire as it would seem. I have faith in people. I have faith in schools too. It seems discouraging at a glance but I will remain optimistic. My kids and they children they go to school with (who compete to be on the top of the AR reader list east week) have shown me kids still love to read.

  2. I find that most of us learn by example - therefore, my husband and I read all the time and I'm trusting our children will too.

    My sister reads even more than me, and her children are very big into books, so if we start changing ourselves or continuing doing what's right, perhaps the rest will follow.

    I agree with you about the publishing industry - very much like the real estate market.

    I think this will be the best sentence I'll read all day: "Unsupervised inexperience is the formula for disaster."

    Thanks, Roland!

  3. Roland: while I'm happy to say the following doesn't apply to me: "If you're an American between the ages of 15 and 24, you spend 2 hours a day watching television,

    but only 7 minutes a day reading, according to this study."

    As I watch maybe 2 hours of television a WEEK (when I'm not too sick post-op to move, and then usually if it's on I'm not really paying attention) but the sad part is I think that study way underestimates how much time the average American spends watching TV.

    I can also report though, happily, that my child does read for enjoyment. She's coming up fifteen, and as recently as last year, she actually got tears in her eyes when she got a gift from me of a couple hardcover books she'd really been wanting. She held them in her hands lovingly, appreciated the art, and the paper...there are a few like her still out there.

    The question is, are there enough?

    I hope so.


  4. It is going to be a very interesting next 5 years for the book publishing industry.
    Sink or Swim....?

    BirthRight The Arrival, on Amazon 1.1.2011

  5. I love to read, and I do think that there is to be a way for the publishing industry to stay on its feet--even though readership is decreasing. (I didn't know that few people read!)

    There are so many outlets for getting the word out about a book, and there are so many ideas out there, it seems like something would work.

    As Nicole said, it will be interesting to watch what happens . . . while we all keep reading, of course. :)

  6. I disagree my friend. I think publishing is like the vampire. It will never be truly dead and it will always find a way to resurface! ;) Great post though!

  7. This is an interesting point of view but just like the floundering housing industry i believe the publishing industry will make it too.
    When I was growing up kids thot I was weird because of all the books I read, i think its still the same now(okay slightly worse), researchers have just decided to study it now.

  8. I'm not sure what is happening out there to be honest. I'm in a sort of a strange section of the writing industry as far as standards go. Christian publishing tends to move and change at a much shorter pace than general market. One thing I do notice is that most of the people I know want e-readers for Christmas. They aren't using them to net surf...they want them to read -- for pleasure. You got me, Roland...thought-provoking topic.
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  9. Hi,

    As you say kids in publishing will reflect kiddo desires: and what do kids want?

    1) Easy reads: (don't tax my brain cells, I can't cope with complex plots)

    2) Celebrity bios: (Wannabe like my fav celeb)

    That's it!

    What's left for the rest of us?

    Write what we want to read ourselves, if the increase in writers is anything to judge by. Yeah, okay, so there are books out there I read with relish and of eclectic in taste.

    That said, more and more I'm turning to books written twenty years ago and beyond: why? Because they have real substance with multiple characters, sub plots, and yes backstory, fabulous descriptive passages, and most of all because they flow like a meandering stream through character minds and their relationships. Too many modern novels are more like raging torrents of action, fast-talking dialogue that grates on the senses, no real sense of place and worst of all, characters that are shallow, materialistic and I often don't like them at all.

    I still enjoy crime thrillers because it doesn't matter whether you like any of the characters, it's a crime thriller!

    I love action man novels, because again you know what you're getting with action heroes!

    Romance, I don't know what's happened to romance. It's hard to find modern romantic sagas: I guess 600/700 page novels are considered unfashionable, yet if that had been the case yonks ago Gone with the Wind, The Thornbirds, War & Peace and other great romantic sagas would never have seen light of day as a book nor movie.

    The real crux is, that kiddos can't be assed with reading blockbuster novels, and "most" kids haven't read Harry Potter novels front to back, they've merely skimmed them and waited for the movies to come out. Parents, on the other hand, have read HP: the reading parents that is.

    Rant over.

  10. Thoughtful post and great insights.

    Corporate greed is killing everything, not just publishing.

    Like, Francine, I often look to older novels for substance. I need that.

  11. Yes, the publishing industry does seem to be slipping away. And self publishing is going to be huge. More authors are self-publishing on kindle with better percentages for royalties and the quality is superb. Many authors are taking the time to create and edit a fine novel. Now the expense of self-publishing is much more affordable, especially with Kindle and e-books and now Barnes and Noble and Borders are carrying e-books ... It's not just Amazon.

    The publishing houses have to be concerned about this. This just may be the kick the ass they need to change.


  12. Michael : I hope so. But Jodi Henry brought up a good point the other day : she bought for .99 a book that sold hardcover for $17.99. No matter how good the royalty is on $.99, making a living off it would be hard.

    I ended my title with a question mark because the publishing industry is facing a huge challenge and what the future holds in uncertain.

    Thanks for writing. I wish you luck in your new book!

    Terry : You're right. Greed is not good. It is a poison. Even the older Robert B. Parker books had more substance than his newer ones.

    Francine : There was an old copy of FOREVER AMBER in my high school library, and I consumed that. Today I fear it would never have been published or CAPTAIN FROM CASTILE. I agree with you entirely : you have to go back to the older novels for substance and backstory.

    Raquel : I love my Kindle. But I love large coffee-table books on art and science as well. Those are not offered for Kindle. You're right. We are at a crossroads where things will get stranger before they get better.

    Joanna : I remember the slide rule, the 8 track tape player, video arcades, music stores, and point-and-shoot cameras -- all a thing of the past. I believe publishing will survive. But it may be as stage plays endure -- through amateur efforts.

    Heather : I feel that publishing will survive, too -- which is why I ended my title with a question mark. But talkies killed many a silent movie star's career. Television totally changed the scope and content of radio. MP3 downloads have virtually killed the music stores and may kill the CD as we know it. Technology and economy will leave its mark on publishing, changing it into something vastly different than it is now.

    Golden Eagle : We may be the last generation that reads as we remember reading. I remember the world before the internet and cell phones, and it was a vastly different world than it is now. Change is upon us.

    Nicole : I'm looking forward to buying your book. And yes, the next 5 years is going to be interesting -- that is if we make it past 2012.

    February Grace : Like you, I believe reading parents produce reading children. But fewer and fewer adults are reading these days. The video, cyber, sport generation is here. I pray you feel stronger and healthier with each passing day.

    Erin : I'm happy you got something positive out of my post. You and your sister's children will be more in touch with the world as it is because of their reading. Studies show that non-readers tend to be less knowledgable about the economic, sociological, and medical trends in today's world.

    Kimber : There is always hope for the future. But the past is prologue -- and the past shows people are notorious ostrich-like when it comes to change and preparing for it.

    If you would spend two days as a substitute teacher in today's schools, you would weep at the state of confusion, muddled thinking, and stunted attention spans in most students.

    I am happy for your children and those you know that they are exception to the rule. Thanks for taking so much time to reflect, write, and share your thoughts.

    I think your optimism may prevail over the long haul. Have a great end of week.

  13. I am picking up on the english language taught in schools thought. Both my boys are grown now, but when my oldest was in grade seven we went to a parent/teacher interview and were told that he was struggling with spelling and he was below grade level. I mentioned to her (teacher) that I seldom saw him bring home reading assignments and never saw any spelling tests. She chuckled and huffed snidely like I a was an idiot saying, "we don't give spelling tests at this grade level". I said, "why not? Clearly they need it." She proceeded to tell me , not in so many words, what did I know, and we should leave the teaching to them. I think I said something to the effect that the kids were not just going to pick it up by osmosis, but again, she glazed over anything I had to say.

    What I noticed with my own childen is that as their school years went on, parents had to do more teaching than the teachers. It made me wonder why we were paying taxes and why we bothered to send them there. I don't think things have changed much.