,

That sinking feeling…and yet…

It doesn’t seem like a very good time to be part of the book publishing business. The industry is in a parlous state of flux – publishers and agents appear stressed and depressed, and many bookshops are struggling. In my local area I have watched two lovely independent bookshops open, flounder, and close in the past couple of years. And as of today, industry knowledge has become public knowledge: Borders and Angus & Robertson are in big trouble too.

E-books are on the up, and they have risen so quickly that when we were negotiating my first publishing deal the e-book portion of it proved a little bit tricky, because we were all still getting to grips with the ramifications of the format. Traditional book formats are expensive at RRP – and many of my readers are happy to tell me they got my book out of the library. I don’t mind this at all (I get some books out of the library too), and writers do earn a little bit from library borrowings. Nevertheless, I made more in my final year of editing than I have done in my last three years of writing combined, and soon I will probably need to supplement my writing with another source of income. 

It seems that for everyone in the book business it’s time to adapt in order to survive. I hope as many as possible make it through to the other side, and that diverse, original, independent booksellers can tough it out against the big discounters. And I hope that all writers, published and those to be published, can ignore this horrible blip in the business and pursue their ideas wholeheartedly, because surely, at some stage, things will settle down, and earning a living this way might get a little easier. In the meantime it’s a pleasure to be part of the book-business community, because I’ve met (or cyber-met) so many superb, supportive people in the last couple of years: booksellers, authors, readers, agents, journalists, salespeople, librarians, editors and publishers. Good luck to every one of you, and here’s to a brighter day tomorrow.

10 replies
  1. Kylie Ladd
    Kylie Ladd says:

    Loved this, Sara- you have articulated everything I feel myself (including the need to get another job soon after a year of just writing). It *is* dispriting reading about major booksellers failing, and staff cuts at publishing houses and the fall in book sales. The thing is, I can’t stop writing and I’m guessing you can’t either. Please let this just be a blip!

  2. Susan @ Reading Upside Down
    Susan @ Reading Upside Down says:

    I’d love to be able to afford to shop at independant booksellers, but I confess that I generally buy my books online at Book Depository or Fishpond, as they are markedly cheaper than in store options.

    I haven’t converted to e-books yet, although my groaning bookshelves would probably benefit from me reducing their load a little.

  3. sara
    sara says:

    Thanks Kylie – yes, I feel exactly the same, seems we’re incurable! Let’s hope it’s not too long before things are on the up again. Good luck with everything.

  4. sara
    sara says:

    Thanks for your comment Susan – I think many feel the same, that ideally they’d love to support the indies but financially it’s not always viable. Change has to come from all sides, the onus can’t all be on the book-buyer. Wishing you all the best.

  5. Susan @ Reading Upside Down
    Susan @ Reading Upside Down says:

    I guess I try to compensate for buying cheap books by buying books often. I’ve loved ‘meeting’ authors on Twitter and often try to pick up a copy of at least one of their books if I chat with them. We have so many books that more than one friend has suggested we turn our spare room into a library. :-)

  6. Linda
    Linda says:

    I LOVE books. And I love independent bookstores, or at least smaller chains. Nothing beats spending time in a book shop and leaving with a bag full of books. But I am poorer now and I don’t do that the way I used to.

    Even though I am digital in every other way, I can’t yet come at the e-book. I also can’t imagine kids’ books or design books or anything that needs to be visual in an e-version.

    I’m not sure what my point is, other than there are so many people out there who love books, and who will pass on that love to their children, so there must be hope. Bookstores might need to research their audiences and really come to grips with what they want… personal experiences with the authors, readings / signings / discussions. Much harder work for writers, but the personal and authentic will elevate the book above the e-version.

  7. sara
    sara says:

    Thanks for your insights, Linda. I agree, I’m currently reading all sorts of picture and pop-up books to my daughter and can’t imagine how you could translate them successfully into e-books. I really hope there’s a place for everything and these different formats will settle into co-existence eventually, I’m just praying the ride in the meantime isn’t too bumpy! All the best, Sara

  8. Linda
    Linda says:

    Hi Sara,

    The front page of my local paper has an interesting piece on small bookstores set apart from large chains. I tried to find it online so I could share it with you, but it’s either not going on the site at all or not up yet. (Inner West Courier).

    This is what Shearer’s bookshop in Leichhardt says (one of my faves).

    – far more diverse range of books
    – trained staff that are passionate about reading
    – strong connection to the local community and understand their needs through holding events every month
    – understand the importance of social media
    – work hard to provide as much information as possible to all customers

    And Gleebooks added:

    – strong connection with writers

    Did you also see Jessica Rudd’s piece on Mamamia?

    There’s hope!

    Linda xo

  9. sara
    sara says:

    That’s great, Linda, thank you for taking the time to put this up. All the things you have mentioned are irreplaceable and it would be a terrible thing to lose them. Jessica’s piece was great, I do love her stuff. If anything good comes from this it could just be the strengthening of writing/reading communities showing support where it’s needed. Many thanks, Sara

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *