Change, What Change?

29 Dec

It’s been a few months since I last posted here; I’ve been busy is one excuse. Another might be that, despite all the hoopla, the publishing industry doesn’t change that much. The same thing cannot be said for technology or various fads generated by technology.

Until a few years ago, it seemed likely that digital or e-books would soon overwhelm their print counterparts. Sales of electronic devices were on the rise and digital books right along with them. Bookstores were failing as print book sales fell and on-line retailers grabbed a bigger share of the market.

So you have to wonder why Amazon just opened a bricks-and-mortar bookstore in Seattle to sell print books – and not just from their own imprint. Using the massive amounts of data that consumers provided them for free, Amazon is marketing books based on their on-line reviews and star ratings. Nothing under 4 stars makes the shelves and every book is presented with highlights from reviewers’ comments. Some of the books even won awards, the retailer notes. And every book is displayed with its cover out, which has been shown to improve sales.

Meanwhile, e-book sales – especially for the big 5 publishers – have been falling. In part, this may be because of higher prices, though some studies have shown that price is the least important factor in the purchase of books (no matter what economists might want to believe). That has certainly been my experience; having experimented with different price points, I’ve found that most people are little influenced by dropping the price.

The prices of self-published e-books have also been rising though not as dramatically. The old adage rings true: you get what you pay for and many buyers have come to believe that $1.99 for a novel is in fact no bargain – if the book you get is largely unreadable. Though simple price escalation is no guarantee that the quality of the product will rise.

It is also possible that people have gotten a bit tired of the e-book experience – not everyone obviously (for those who are about to yell: But I love my e-book reader!) but enough that it has had an impact on sales. A few years ago, I did half my reading on my Kobo (never did like the Kindle, though my wife owns one) but now it’s about 10%. I spend plenty of time reading from screens for work – I really don’t want to do it for pleasure. Give me the full-meal deal of a physical book for my reading experience these days. This article on the joys of the print book explains the feeling as well as I can.

Meanwhile, the incomes of all writers – based on the most reliable data available – continue to fall to the point that some writers feel that traditional publishing is unsustainable while others desperately seek alternatives in self-publishing and reformed contracts.

Bundoran Press

We had a pretty successful year publishing at Bundoran Press (no I’m still not getting rich – but money isn’t everything) and have a number of exciting projects on the go for next year. In 2015, we published three novels: Children of Arkadia by M. Darusha Wehm; Contagion:Eyre by Alison Sinclair (second in the Plague Confederacy series) and Falcon’s Egg by Edward Willett (sequel to Right to Know). We also put together an anthology called Second Contacts, co-edited by Michael Rimar and Hayden Trenholm. It had stories about, well, second contact (50 years later) from around the world and we were pretty pleased with it. Sadly, Barry King, whose story opened the anthology, passed away just a few weeks after its release.  He is and will be greatly missed.

Our anthology, Strange Bedfellows, was nominated for an Aurora Award but finished second (by a couple of votes) to On Spec, a deserving winner. We were consoled when Dan O’Driscoll won the Best Artist Award, in part for the covers he did for our books.

TC-cover-titlesDan has recently completed his cover for Transient City, a new stand-alone novel by Al Onia, which will be our first book next year. We think it’s pretty nifty; we hope you do, too.

We just finished an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for a new anthology, called Lazarus Risen, which Mike and Hayden will also co-edit. After failing in our campaign for Second contacts, we made this a flexible funding campaign, meaning we would get all the money raised even if we didn’t reach our goal. Our instincts proved correct since we only reached about 77% — meaning we’ll be able to pay writers 4 cents a word instead of 5. Stories are already beginning to flow in. You can see the guidelines here.

Crowd sourcing has been a great way to raise extra funds for special projects but it seems – based on my experience and what others have told me – it is getting harder and harder to pull off. It may be one of those technological fads I mentioned above. Maybe the new Canadian government’s announcement of more funding for the arts will help take up the slack.

Today, I made an offer on another novel which was accepted. The contracts haven’t been signed but I’ll be making an announcement soon. I’m pretty excited to publish this debut novel, which will be released this fall. I fully expect to sign at least one more novel (and maybe more) from the latest round of submissions – but I have to finish reading them first. We’re still accepting submissions for another month if you happen to be putting the finishing touches on a novel. Though I do hope it’s one you spent some real time writing as this little screed against writing a novel in a month explains.

Links of Interest

The Return of Print

E-books suffer

The new Utopians

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