Thursday, June 12, 2014

Fears of the (Publishing) Future

Caitlin here. A few weeks ago, Dan and I were talking about the future of publishing and whether print books and bookstores are really on their way out. 

I don’t really think so, but I can see bookstores having less of a presence. This does make me sad in some ways, especially as I love the indie bookstore in my neighborhood (shout out to Hooray for Books! :)), but it doesn’t make my knees clank together in fear the same way it intimidates other writers I know.  

I read a lot of books on my e-reader and I don’t see a huge problem with readers reading my books on them. I think the growth of e-readers has helped writers more than it’s hurt them (though I get that that is arguable!). 

So, if I’m not afraid of a predominantly e-reader future, what does make me afraid?  

Well, the Amazon-Hachette stuff is certainly disturbing, but, honestly, my biggest fear is the growing sense that content in general, and books specifically, are free.  

When I got my recent book deal with a Harlequin imprint, I asked one of my friends (a non-writer) who reads a ton of romance a few questions about where she finds books, how she decides what books to read, etc. I had also heard that new writers can’t charge much more than $3 for a book and I wondered what she thought of that. Would she be willing to pay over $3 for a new author, or only on books by authors she knows? 

She looked at me confused and basically said, “I never pay for the romances I read.”


And, I guess, why should she? There are so many writers who post their books for free. Sure, it's their prerogative, but it gets consumers thinking that it’s not something worth spending money on. That a few hours of enjoyment aren’t worth even a dollar. I find it hard not to be a little frustrated at those writers.  (Though, in fairness, I rarely look for compensation for my short writing.) 

What do you think? Do you think people will become less and less willing to pay for books? Are authors who post books for free hurting the industry? Even if they are, can we really be frustrated at them for simply exercising their right to share their own creations however they’d like?  

What’s your biggest fear in regards to the future of publishing? Do you see any trends that are helping writers?
Dan here. I'm excited and a little nervous that my conversations with Caitlin can be come the subject of her next blog post. But it is a timely topic, and one that new authors should be thinking about. As (over)confident as I am about building a writing career, I'm worried that by the time my book is sold, edited, copyedited, and published, there might not be any brick-and-mortar stores left. And that would make me a little sad. Admittedly, I'm part of the problem: I had a Kindle 2 and now have a Paperwhite. That's how I do 90% of my fiction reading, and I make no apologies for it.

I'm not nearly as worried about e-books as I am about the future of books in general. It's not just free books competing with our books: it's the internet, and video games, and social media. In this hyper-connected world, people just don't have as much time to read any more. Technology makes it possible to read any book you want while on the subway. That's wonderful news. Unfortunately, that same technology also lets you play Bejeweled instead of reading at all.

On the bright side, Amazon -- no matter how you feel about their business practices -- knows how to sell things. In particular, they know how to sell books. So, while the format may change, the pricing may fluctuate, books will continue to be sold. Someone will have to write those books. That's where we come in.

Karlie: This haunts me too. Dan, you hit the nail on the head when you said free books aren't the only problem. How much longer before books are out-of-date and under little demand? But on the other hand, there are writers making a very good living. So there is hope for us. :)

I'm one of those few people who would rather have the hard copy than read from a Kindle. My brain isn't wired that way. I probably pick my Kindle up once a month, if not less. But I do buy all my books through Amazon, so I guess you're right about that, too, Dan. ;)

Despite the rise of the e-book, I firmly believe there will always be a market for paperbacks/hardcovers.     The feeling of walking into a bookstore can't be replaced by the ease of clicking the Instant Buy button.

Lisa: I'm the most old fashioned one on here, though I don't expect anyone else to be. As an author I don't mind the e-readers, and I don't feel too badly about the free books since I believe an author puts one or two books out there for free with the hopes and expectation that readers will choose to buy his/her other books. As an author, I'm really not afraid of the progress and shifting that many other writers have started voicing their opinions about. As a reader, I AM worried. I don't have an e-reader. My daughter does and tried to get me to read a series that she loves on hers. No. I tried, but I just couldn't do it. I couldn't lose myself. I must feel paper under my fingertips. I also like buying them from the bookstore too (which is where I finally bought that series my daughter was talking about). Bookstores are beautiful things. So, when someone says papers books are on their way out with the dodo bird, I'm not liking that idea at all. My copy of David Copperfield literally falls open when I get to some of my favorite passages or scenes. Anne of Green Gables has my tear stains on it from where Matthew dies. Wuthering Heights has my fingernail marks from my anger at Katherine. My eyes gleam as I look over my favorite books sometimes. My imagination says: I was in there - in that world. My books, the ones that can be held in my hands, are my imaginary world and they call to me to come e-reader can't hold a flame to my bookshelf. I could go on and on...I just like a book. It means something to me.


  1. Each of you have made great points. This is the fate of all media at one time or another. Music, meet cassettes, meet mp3. TV meet the VCR, meet the streaming internet. Videogames are the same.
    As a writer, I'm afraid of shouting over the roar of the endless river of innovative advertisers online to find a reader who is willing to spend $2 on my work, telling me that my time spent writing was worth a coffee, and that they hopefully enjoyed it much longer than that sweet caffeinated goodness.
    Like many of you voicing your opinions here, I grew up on what’s now the amazing traditionally back-list many authors are turning into their self-published rebirth. These new-again books are competing with the self-published authors as well.
    Getting a free book has two results according to the voracious readers on my Facebook feed: sometimes we read them. Sometimes we stockpile them and in this abundance we become what we fear most: critics with too many books and not enough time. The readers I’ve talked to are library and free ebook readers. They will give a book up to three pages, maybe, and make a decision on whether to go on.
    I’m glad for my ability to pack a library in my purse. I’m glad for the library in my house that my kids can pick up a random book and see a new world…and that because I have books in the house the children can see these worlds. I’ll keep reading at the library and drive a long way to make it to a bookstore to buy the book I’m looking for and have researched. I drive longer to find the resale shop where I might take a chance on an unknown author and then, if I liked what they did, I’d go to the bookstore for the next, but I’ll also give almost any unknown author in my chosen genres a chance if they offer a free book. If I like their short story or their novel, I’ll be back for the next one.

    Take care and good luck finding your audiences and next books to read.

    1. Thanks for commenting KariAnn. That's what I had been thinking about those free books. But I believe the free books are free because there's a sequel that will cost. I'm sure this type of situation works well for the author. But I don't write sequels. Of the seven books I've written only two are related but in an original - prequel sort of way. So, if that's the best way to sell a book (by series) then I'm not going to do as well. Hopefully, it's like you say: you get a reader interested in your work and they'll want to read your other books, not just a sequel. I'm still not overly worried, though. Call me an optimist :)

  2. Yes, thanks for chiming in KariAnn. While I still have my fears, I think ultimately the answer is to just keep writing if that's something you enjoy. (But I have to remind myself of that :) )