Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, November 10, 2008

Tough Times and the Publishing Industry Stimulus Package

The publishing industry is so vast and varied that it is often difficult to get a true pulse of the industry. Often one genre will do really well while another one is suffering, or one agent will struggle while another is having an auction a day, and particularly when you're down in the trenches it's not easy to get a sense of the bird's eye view.

But these days it's pretty much inescapable: these are tough times.

Now, first of all, we must remember the advice of the late Douglas Adams and Don't Panic. The book industry has been through worse times than this, people will always read books, books will still be published, and until that changes most of us will still be here.

But any illusions the industry might have had about escaping the recession are going the way of a Bachelor engagement.

On Friday GalleyCat reported that Borders has told an anonymous distributor that they will not be paying them for two months, and this has forced that distributor to ask publishers to decide whether they want to ship to Borders. The distributor is nevertheless recommending that publishers continue to fill orders, but this is undoubtedly prompting all sorts of contingency plans at publishing houses.

Also last week, Moonrat posted about the October publishing crash and the factors therein (and October numbers didn't even factor into some disappointing end-of-quarter results).

My fellow book lovers, let me just second Moonrat and endorse her Publishing Industry Stimulus Package: buy books, and buy them often.

Most importantly: BUY NEW BOOKS

Sure, not everyone can afford books, and I understand. That's why we have libraries. But the best way you can help the publishing industry and the authors you love is to buy their books, and to buy them new.

This isn't a time for cheaping out on the authors you love. Publishers are going to be making very tough decisions about which authors are going to survive and which will be dropped. They're being extremely selective about supporting new authors. You can do your part by buying new, asking for new books for the holidays, and encouraging your friends to do the same.

So my 2008 holiday season campaign slogan: BUY NEW BOOKS? YES WE CAN.






76 comments:

Ryan Field said...

Everyone has different tastes, but THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN is a wonderful book to buy right now.

Kiersten said...

Yes, please, buy new books. And make those publishing houses really, really willing to sign newly agented authors, okay?

Please?

Aubrey said...

We could not agree with you more Nathan! I think I have been buying more books the last few years. I'm getting 2 new books in the mail today! Thank you for encouraging all of us to buy books!

Juliana Stone said...

Amen to that Nathan! I read Moonrat's blog and I blogged about it on my website as well. I went out and bought two new books on the weekend and am happy to say that several fellow writers/readers went out and spend some coin as well...

Stacey said...

One of my favorite things to do for the holidays is buy books for my neices and nephews. We have 26 of them!

I am a liscenced Elementary School Educator (eventhough I am not working to stay home with my baby) and I cannot tell you how important it is to have books in the home and be reading lots as an adult to show children that reading is important!

So this holiday season when you are thinking of what to get the people on your list, I will add my sentiments to Nathan's...there is a book for everyone!

Adaora A. said...

It's great that you can put a dose of humour into a serious situation.

And yea, there isn't anything that's going to stop me from buying a book I love. I buy and I always buy new.

Perhaps ironically, the place where I buy books the most (my university) is unofficially locked out because there are teaching assitants lining the entrances and any free grass space on campus. They want more money to meet the sinking economy and they want to not have to pay for school fees. I see their point, but I'd like to not have to pay for school fees and get a pay raise (hell a shift raise) at work too. Anyways, point is, I do think it is important to invest in the industry you love (and hope to be a part of).

Cheers.

Other Lisa said...

Done!

I am almost embarrassed to list the number of books I've bought the last few weeks.

And I added to that today - Mom's birthday is coming up! Mom of the "So Many Books, So Little Time" T-shirt. She's getting a gift certificate at her favorite independent bookstore.

Jeanne said...

It's amazing how quickly this economic bug infected even areas that seemed insulated. Since the price of oil has dropped BMW sales have slowed dramatically. We are in a state of denial.

We will buy new books for the kids for Christmas. One teen wants the "Twilight" series. The school library always has a book fair at the first of December, too.

Guess I picked a bad time to "go for it" and get busy with my own book. :)

Hope your industry bounces back quickly.

Justus M. Bowman said...

I ordered eight books from Amazon two days ago, and I think seven of them were new. I'm doing my part!

Anonymous said...

i really appreciate the sentiment but you can't just put the onus on the readers. the publishing industry has been doing business the same way for decades and has refused to change in response to the expressed demands of their market. it's time for publishers to get creative when it comes to making use of digital technologies. furthermore, perhaps they could consider opening up the industry a little to find new voices instead of holding to the unrealistic requirement that every book become a blockbuster or spawn a franchise. i'm from a family of bookworms and we're all going to continue to buy books, regardless. but what do you think the publishers need to do to address the problems within their industry?

Scott said...

Bought the Churchill book today, Nathan, which brings my total to probably five new books in the last month alone. I seriously have no idea how to stop, frankly, and the only comforting words I could give the publishing industry is to have faith that there are still lunatics like me out here who MUST have new books, good books, and more books.

And cool covers are nice.

the Amateur Book Blogger said...

Is it of equal value to books from your local bookstore on the corner, Borders or Amazon? Do authors get a different return of royalty depending on the discount the book is sold at, or is it based on cover price?

Sara Merrick said...

Just as I was heading out the door to drive to Book Passage I took a moment to read your blog. Nothing like a little friendly encouragement to spend more money.

lotusloq said...

You're preaching to the choir with me. I spent 45 minutes of book buying bliss at BN this morning and left with 11 books in tow. They were all new. With Nov. birthdays and Christmas coming up and, you know, my voracious reading habit that has been on hold while I was writing heavily, I was like a junkie getting her fix. I have to do it at least once a month and this week is the book fair at the school. There's no telling how many I'll buy there. So much for new clothes.

Here's to keeping the biz in business.

Ahhhhhhhhh!

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

I'm 100% for change in the publishing industry that results in more sales, and I especially think publishers need to take a hard look at how they market books. When publishers are focused on a book they can work wonders.

But paradoxically, a renewed focus on creative and effective marketing is also resulting in the blockbuster model that we're now entering. Not every book that a publisher pushes is going to sell, so they're increasingly investing in the sure thing. Marketing and publicity is expensive. It needs to pay off.

So yeah -- I'm all in favor of more creative marketing and also in favor of new voices. What we're seeing in the industry shakeout, however, is that those two things don't always go together.

ChrisEldin said...

I'll second Ryan--LOVED that book!

Every little bit helps...

I have a question, and I hope it doesn't sound too ignorant, but what is the financial calendar year for publishing houses? Does it begin in January or July?

Thanks!

Nathan Bransford said...

chris-

Oops, I think Harper's was actually 1st Quarter results ending 9/30, which means July. I'm not sure about the others off the top of my head.

Lorelei Armstrong said...

You can buy mine. : ) Release date October 1, 2008, which might as well be Disaster Day, it seems!

ashley said...

Have no fear! I have not stopped buying books. In fact, my book purchases have increased dramatically over the last 3 months.

I actually dipped into my clothing fund to pay for books.

Apparently I'd rather have a good book to read than a nice outfit to wear. :)

Kalika said...

The publishing industry has been throwing money into the fire for decades with its ridiculous, flawed business model. Now that it is getting really hard to survive while wasting so much, the solution you people are giving us boils down to 'please give us more money to throw in the fire.'

No. That's enough. Stop hurting the environment. Go POD, encourage ebooks, whatever. Get smart already.

Steppe said...

I write because nobody writes the stories I need to read. So I write them.

I do have a asbesto flame retardent poodle suit which is flexible enough to allow me to jump through 100 flaming metal hoops in front of as many spectators as my blog, myspace, and twenty other key widgets attract. I am ready for my journey through modern publishing. (Total fiction...)

When you posted on this blog that they arm twisted Danielle Steele into writing a blog it was like the iceberg that struck the Titanic.
Not railing against you personally Nathan you provide clear concise difficult to find info in tight little packages. A value added experience... But I heard something along time ago that haunted me about the internet. Paraphrased...
"The internet is second rate attention in a third rate medium."
I have never read a Danielle Steele romance novel but her name recognition value penetrated to me. So it just seems like a lack of direction on publishing's part asking someone like that to put on a poodle suit and jump through a hundred flaming hoops. Its just another tolling of the bell.
There's no leadership and people are to quick in all businesses not to invest in the future. That's why the world is panicked.
Sort of like that "Death" submarine that had a little problem with the fire extinguishers this weekend. Make a plan, adjust the plan, but stick to some basic sort of strategic overview. The publishing business shall find new highly talented writers or like every other form of economic ecology they shall hit the adapt or perish barrier.
Maybe I'll get pubished maybe I won't, but I'll keep on observing exploring and writing while refining my skills.
Your site is appreciated.

Nathan Bransford said...

kalika-

Uh..... e-books exist and they are a growing market share. But loads of people still wanted printed books. How is the publishing industry supposed to push something that the vast majority of people don't yet want?

Heidi the Hick said...

VOTE WITH YOUR DOLLARS!

I've got my list all ready to go. Three shiny new books that I must have. And about twenty more that I'd like to have.

Books are so great. They can be re-used.

Marilyn Peake said...

I purchased three books this week and, of course, will be buying more. However, I have promised myself that I am going to spend much of this year completing the novel I'm writing before I return to buying huge numbers of books. When the writing's done, my plan is to read voraciously. I normally purchase many books: paperbacks, hardcovers, and eBooks from both small presses and large publishing houses. I must admit, though, that I wince every time I read a "popular" book from a big publishing house with grammatical errors and soap opera themes just because it has a "hot topic" that sells well. Wince. Thank God for all the incredibly good books that get published, many making the New York Times Best-Seller List.

Richard said...

It's easy for a literary agent to tell people to buy books, but how is that different than President Bush telling Americans after 9/11 to go shopping? And it was debt, to a large degree, that got us into this mess.

Lots of people are losing or have lost their jobs. Many are in danger of losing their homes. Others of us fear unemployment or foreclosure or other problems (say, a catastrophic health event for the growing group of uninsured people) and so we are cutting back on our spending.

Obviously, the costs of housing, food and transportation come first. It would be irresponsible to put lots of books on your credit card when you need to write that tuition check for your kid or to buy groceries to feed your family.

Saving money is a good idea.

Books are a luxury for many, if not most Americans. As an author whose first four books were published in hardcover, I have to say that I stopped buying hardcover books years ago. I borrow from the library.

As a college teacher, I am definitely aware that assigning books (either text or sometimes, as for literature classes, trade paperbooks) is a big expense for my students, many of whom come from families who are struggling financially.

I expect Borders will probably disappear in the next year, most likely after a disastrous Christmas season, just as retailers in other areas are doing and will do.

It would be interesting to hear from you, Nathan, how the American publishing industry fared during the Great Depression. What can today's industry learn from that experience in a worse economic climate?

Yeah, books will always sell. I had books published during the last bad recession (1982-83). In the intervening quarter-century a lot has changed.

Are you old enough to have experienced previous bad economic times? What do you hear from those in the industry who have been through this before?

Nathan Bransford said...

richard-

I don't really know how publishing fared in the depression except that I seem to recall that it factored into the policy of returns. But I'm afraid I'm not a publishing historian. If I had more time this week I'd delve in further, but things are very hectic.

And honestly, I wasn't really expecting recriminations against the industry with this post. Let's not forget that a lot of industries are hurting, whether they were geniuses or dunces. Lots of people are tightening their belts, and the economy as a whole is shrinking. Books, it turns out, aren't immune.

If you don't have it, don't buy it. But lots of people I know have enough money to buy books but buy used or go to the library instead. All I'm asking is that if you want to support authors and publishers through a really tough time, buy new books. If you're not swayed, that's fine too. But while the publishing industry could do some things better, it's not like they created this mess.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else feel the forthcoming fatalistic doom of the world and escape by climbing into a cave and getting lost in adventures and stories?

I do!

My book spending is way up. I'm buying ten to twelve books a week. It's pretty hysterical to come home and see my husband lose it as I unviel the latest hefty bags from Barnes and Noble.

Not much he can do about it. I'm a trust fund kid. And when the stocks are crashing I go a-shoppin! It's the only way to help. Savin the world one credit card swipe at a time!

But hey, I'm a writer, too (in my wildest dreams).

So I gotta support my favorite writers so they don't disappear from the shelves. And I'm increasingly taking chances on previously untouched authors because I'm so scared it's all going to go away!!!!!

I haven't read everything yet! Please, don't go away!

I gotta stop reading this blog. I'm getting hysterically sad over here. It's like terrorism all over again but with books...

Where's the valium!

Jeanne said...

Nathan- I wouldn't feel badly about hitting a nerve. Money is the #1 cause of divorce - an adds stress to every area of life. Tensions are so high right now. I heard on the news that domestic violence is up 30% in Tulsa since the economy went into the dumper!! I guess just the mere mention of money and spending can touch a nerve.

I'm too young to know what a true recession is like. We've lived through some minor ones but nothing major.

My best guess would be that this downturn could be good for all of us, and every industry. Crisis is opportunity. It will be painful but we may find better ways to do things and come out ahead when it's all over. :)

Kimber An said...

I'm afraid I have to chime in with the more cynical bloggers. I have a book review blog, so I see some of it up close.

People need stories, especially during difficult times. At Enduring Romance, we encourage readers to buy their favorite authors' books new. Buying new is how authors make money and if they don't make money they don't get future books published.

However, at times I feel like the publishing industry is working against the readers and those who are trying to help them find the books they love. Sometimes I wonder if they really do want to make money?!?!

Erotica takes off, so now you can't find a New Release romance novel without graphic sex scenes, unless it's Inspirational or Young Adult.

Vampires take off and suddenly every other Paranormal has blood-sucking dead guys in it.

Some readers have a hard time finding the books they love in New Releases because it's labeled as something else in an attempt to lure new readers or to avoid a geek label. *As a result, the very readers who would love the New book cannot find it!*

It's frustrating.

Okay, so here's my mega-point.

Many readers don't buy New because they can't find books they love in the New Releases. Instead, they find an Endless Parade of Sameness as publishers try to cash in on the trends.

Disenchanted readers go to the library and used bookstore and some never come back.

Think about it. By the time a book's been around long enough to end up in either place, it's been thoroughly reviewed. The reader will know if a book really does have a naked Bolian in the story like it does on the cover. They'll know if it really is Young Adult Science Fiction or not, Erotica or behind-closed-doors sex Romance, or something-other-than-vampires Paranormal. They know their money will be well-spent because *they know what they're buying*.

In hard economic times, readers have even less money to spend well. If publishers want to sell more New books, they need to get out in the trenches and find out what readers really want. Send scouts to the libraries and used bookstores. Haunt blogs set up for hard-to-find subgenres, like Science Fiction Romance. Ask the kid sitting next to you on the bus. See how Tor's interactive message boards are working or how well their TorTeen MySpace page is doing. Find out what's going on in Harlequin's forums.

Readers are smart and sensitive. They'll tell you exactly how they feel and what they want. All the publishing industry needs to do is make the time to ask.

Nathan Bransford said...

kimber an-

Forgive me, but I'm not sure I understand. If I can't find a book I want I ask an employee. If the bookstore doesn't have it I ask them if they'd order it for me. How do people find books easier at used bookstores and libraries?

And then of course there's Amazon and bn.com

I'm not knocking used bookstores and libraries because they both have their places in the community and I wouldn't ever want them to go away. But I guess I don't understand how they're beating actual bookstores on the "finding books people want" front.

Lynnea said...

I'd like to chime in with the book buyers. I've always been a buyer - habit and the obscene love of books. But I'd like to point out that books make great gifts and as gifts go, they are very affordable. Two birds in one stone there!

Chris said...

Buy New Books is one of my personal mottos. Just told my husband the other day that if we were faced with having to choose between buying food or new books, I was choosing books...

acpaul said...

Doing my part and buying new books. Bought two this weekend, two more are due to be released tomorrow.

Not only am I buying new, I'm buying (gasp) hardcover.

Even took a chance on an author I haven't read before. Loved it, too. Hope there's a sequel.

I am keeping it in my genre, though. Since I write SF&F, I will support the publishers and authors of SF&F.

jnantz said...

Mr. Bransford,
I think Kimber An was talking about readers finding a new author they might like (following the "save the midlist" cries, since the publishing houses give less and less of a shit about midlisters).

In other words, it's not that readers can't find a SPECIFIC book, but that they can't find a new author that writes what they like, because everything is marketed to fit the latest (and therefore, in the pub industry, outdated) trendy idea. Lately it's vamps, it seems.

Me? I have my Christmas list all set. New hardcovers of Sean Chercover, Marcus Sakey, J.D. Rhoades, J.A. Konrath, Zoe Sharp, Tess Gerritsen, Jason Pinter, Brett Battles, and Sandra Ruttan. Oh, and JT Ellison and Michelle Gagnon in mmpb.

Just_Me said...

As soon as Jack Campbell gets a new Lost Fleet book out I will!!! Him and Terry Pratchett are the only authors I'm madly in love with that I know are currently active.

But I'm open to suggestion. What new author writes fantastic sci-fi and comic fantasy?

jnantz said...

Oh, and yes I'm aware that I snuck in a NYT Bestseller or two in there, but they need some love too. If I have room, I might try to help out a few of the other names with a buy, like Eisler, Crais, Bruen, M. Connelly, and Lee Child.

Marilynn Byerly said...

When I blogged in June on the state of publishing, I included a section on how the reader and writer can fight to get the kinds of books they like to be published and carried by book stores.

The advice is certainly relevant to this topic. Here it is.

HOW DO THE READER AND THE WRITER FIGHT BACK?

The reader is the writer's best friend. If the writer educates her readers about the publishing business, the reader will help the writer fight back.

Here is the "Book Biz 101" fact sheet, I share with readers.


•Thank the bookstore manager for carrying the kinds of books you like.

•If you can't find a book, ask the bookstore to special order it for you. If enough people do this, they'll order the author's next book.

•Don't pass around new books to friends. A bookstore and the publisher can only tell how popular a book is by the number of copies sold. If you share your one book with six friends, the publisher and the bookstore won't know this. Get those six friends to buy the book themselves. And give good books good word of mouth so others will buy it!

•Buy the book new, not used. If you buy the book used, you won't be counted as a reader. It costs more money, but you will insure that more books like it will be printed.

In the days before the paranormal romance became popular, a used bookstore owner told me that the average paranormal romance was traded at least 10 times before it disintegrated. It rarely stayed in the store more than a few hours because readers were on waiting lists for these books. The readers said they couldn't find the books anywhere but at the used bookstore, and the regular bookstore said no one wanted to buy these books so fewer books were sold new, and fewer books were published. A very vicious cycle.

•Don't take a book to the used bookstore until it is no longer on the bookstore shelves. Two to three months from the time you buy it is a good rule of thumb.

•Paperback books without their covers are stolen books. Tell the person at the flea market or used bookstore that it's illegal to sell and show them the legal note to this effect at the front of the book. If you continue to see books like this sold, send a letter to the publisher and tell them.

•If you absolutely must choose two books, one new and one used, buy the "name" author used and the unknown author new. The name author can survive a few used books, the new author may never sell another story because her first book sold poorly.

•If you see an electronic version of a copyrighted novel available for free at some website or on a newsgroup, contact the publisher or author immediately and tell them. Not only is this illegal, but it is the financial murder of your favorite authors and the end of the kind of books you love.

•If you like a book or a publisher's line, write the publisher and tell them. (The publisher's address is in the front of the book.) The people who usually write are the ones who don't like that kind of book. In your letter, tell the publisher how many books a month you buy. If you are a younger reader, tell the publisher that you'll want to read these books for a long time, and you recommend them to your friends.

A fan letter to the author also works.

Authors remember to send copies of these letters to your editor and agent!

•If you hear a line is closing, write the publisher and complain. Don't let that vampire or sf romance go gently into the good night without a hardy complaint or indignant werewolf howl of unhappiness.

•Buy books from the small presses and e-publishers who are publishing the kinds of books you like. Continue to buy from these small publishers when the major publishers move into this market to keep the small publisher alive. Major publishers are notoriously fickle about remaining in certain markets.

•It may be simpler to buy all your books at Amazon or Fictionwise, but you can often save money by buying directly from the publisher's site. At most epublisher sites, the author makes a higher percentage of the sale.

Amazon is trashing the publishing industry and its authors because the buyers have given them that power. Take it away by spending your money elsewhere.

•Buy from local independent bookstores.

•Give books and bookstore gift cards as gifts.

MA Fat Woman said...

I know books can get expensive but brown bag it to work once a week. Give up a latte every now and then and go buy a new book with the money you've saved.

Dan said...

Nathan,

Would you "support" a minor rebellion against the MEGA BLOCKBUSTER BOOK SYSTEM by encouraging readers to buy lesser-known authors so that perhaps the publishers start diversifying again?

Furious D said...

Just in time, I usually buy books for people as Xmas gifts. And this year I actually have some money to do it with!

So I guess I'll be buying some new books.

Nathan Bransford said...

dan-

I'm happy for people to read what they want to read. The world is big enough for all types of books.

A Paperback Writer said...

Like I need an excuse to buy books!
Geez, my house is already overflowing with them and I have to budget myself.
Sigh.
And now you tell me to buy more....

Kylie said...

I'm glad my Christmas list os over 50% books then :) I'm supporting my favorite industry.

Nathan -

I can guess the answer is "no", but on an off chance, do you know if any certain genre is floundering or going strong compared to the rest of the industry? Or is it all declining evenly?

Lorelei Armstrong said...

I can attest that it is a bad time to be a new novelist with a first book.

Caroline Steele said...

I bought three new books on Saturday. :D Doing my part. Actually, I've been trying to buy more books in the past year or two; i used to be a major library fiend, but then figured out I preferred to own the books I love.

Nancy D'Inzillo said...

I am already endorsing your plan: I bought several new books this past weekend at Wordstock, one of the local book-lovers festivals. Nathan, is the impact the same across all levels of publishing? Small publishers included?

Kristin Laughtin said...

The main reason I primarily buy new books in the first place is to support the author, and I'm not planning to do differently in a recession. They need it more than ever now.

Elton A.R. Alwine said...

Very good point. I've read a few Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse books, but I have a renewed love for these stories thanks to HBO's True Blood series. What a remarkable translation!

So, payday I will support Mrs. Harris and buy the following three books I've yet to read.

Gerri said...

*picked up the new Steven Erikson book in trade paperback from Borders today*

Doin' my part!

Word Verification: Dialiqui

French, anyone? :p

mkcbunny said...

This is incredibly depressing.

jbsjohn said...

The economic stimulus package has kept orders from falling in the first quarter, but the full impact of the package won’t be realized until the fourth quarter when the deadline for stimulus benefits and the International Manufacturing Technology Show 2008 will likely pull equipment investment dollars from the first half of both 2008 and 2009.
---------------
Jbsjohn

Buzz Marketing

Jonathan Dozier-Ezell said...

When has publishing ever been a largely profitable enterprise? Writing has always been hard; selling good writing has always been hard. The problem lately seems to be buyouts that were less profitable than these large corporations expected. The current trend points toward things getting worse with the economic climate, but it doesn't have to be that way.

To answer a previous posting about publishing and the Depression: all arts experienced an upswing during the depression. Think Steinbeck; think Hemmingway. Think Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and the burgeoning foundations of the Beat era. What happens in a depression is cruel but simple. Most attempts at success are crushed, but those that break through succeed powerfully. The only job you have to do is make sure you've got a spot in the latter group.

As far as this "buy new" push goes, I'm going to take a hard line on the publishing industry for a moment. Nathan (not picking on you, but this is your blog), what should we do with the books once we've read them? In a culture that is slowly coming around to the idea of reduce/reuse, it seems culturally irresponsible to advise against reuse. I am well aware that authors only make money off of the first sale, but as an aspiring author, I think that putting such emphasis on that sale is something we should work to change. I confess that I don't know yet how to go about affecting that change, but I am thinking and working on it. And let me tell you, the person who figures that out, the person who discovers how to recycle books and make that a profitable endeavor, will bring the publishing industry back from whatever form of glory it has apparently fallen.

Nathan Bransford said...

Jonathan-

Not to be too contrarian, but Steinbeck wrote his best books post 1940, Arthur Miller wrote his great plays in the 1950s, and Tennessee Williams in the late 40s and 50s. Hemingway actually didn't even publish much of anything during the Depression except for short stories (which were admittedly some of his best work).

Richard said...

Back on the first Earth Day in April 1970, I heard Gov. Nelson Rockefeller say in Prospect Park, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the pollution." (Hey, we were hippies then!)

If you're not recycling books, you're part of the global warming problem. It is irresponsible not to sell, trade or give books away unless you intend to use them in some way (reread them).

Perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court needs to revisit the first sale doctrine in order for publishers and authors to recoup money from subsequent sales. That would allow them to share the bounty. If I were a smart lawyer (I'm just a stupid one), I think I could make a case that the first sale doctrine is no longer productive in the current environment.

M Clement Hall said...

The banks have problems which they brought on themselves -- and consequently us.
How much of the publishing industry's problem is due to the industry itself?
A five million dollar advance for a ghosted memoir of a very tedious man??
How many books are being bought compared with a decade ago? How many publishers are there? If the big fish go on gobbling up the little fish, can one be distressed on behalf of the big fish?
Unfortunately publishing has ceased to be an "arts" industry and has become a "botton-line" industry. It will undoubtedly get worse before it gets better, and the weak and humble will go to the wall.
Reasonably one can then expect a phoenix, but that bird only rises from ashes.

Jawahara Saidullah said...

I would think in tough economic times more people would buy books because (a) they're afforable and wonderful gifts (b) they're cheaper than a family trip to the movies or going on vacation, etc. (c) in tough times people tend to (or so I've heard) hunker down at home and there's only so much tv you can watch, right?

I know the economy will affect every part of our lives, but really isn't this the time for bookstores and publishers to review their return policies?

Scott said...

Of course, there's a lot of preaching to the choir here. People who visit a lit agent's blog buy new books shocker! ;^)

What might be a good idea is getting to the tens of thousands of schools and universities across the country and telling them to assign new books by new-ish authors for their students to study instead of the same old classic retreads. Classics are great, but are dinos like Camus, Joyce, Fitzy, Orwell and their ilk really any more relevant and accomplished than Dick and Disch (both of whom are dead, but you get my point) Gibson, Tartt and Ellis?

Not trying to create a pissing contest, but an infusion of newer authors might not only benefit those properties, but also ignite a hunger for contemporary works across the board.

Lorelei Armstrong said...

Actually, Richard, a printed book is an excellent sequestration of carbon, if you want to be green. Recycling the book merely uses energy to convert it to another form. Passing the book along reduces the likelihood that another reader will purchase a book and capture a bit more carbon.

Zoe Winters said...

I think Borders continues to do stupid thing after stupid thing. And I think they will be the first major chain to completely crash and go the way of the DoDo. Which is an apt term.

Also, I think we all should blog about this and start a blog chain/meme. Maybe someone could design a graphical banner people could put up to show their support in the "buy new" concept.

This idea should go viral. Because so many people are talking about how they're going to the library more, or buying their books at the used bookstore, and yeah, that's not going to work well.

Anonymous said...

I get what Nathan is saying. I do support the authors I love by buying their books, in hardback. I also try to give new authors a try, and also buy them in hardback as I know how much the push of sales can mean to an author trying to establish themseleves.

But I'd also like to put a comment out there to the publishing industry itself. I think readers and writers care FAR more about the fate of writers than publishers do, by this one simple fact: "Lead titles" authors -- get all the buzz, advance money, and marketing. So called "mid-list" authors, get tossed by the wayside when it comes to promotiion. It's this lack of marketing that makes authors irrelevent.

James Patterson who stopped being relevent years ago, and now has a "co-author" write at least half of his books gets DISPLAY TABLES. TV COMMERCIALS. That Daniel X book of his and a "co-author" was a joke -- the vomit-inducing amount of money spent on marketing that vapid book could've provided a decent advance and some marketing to 5 new YA authors.

I recently read a YA book that received a starred review, and came out in hardback by a major Pub. I had to order it from Amazon because both B&N and Borders opted not to carry it because it didn't have enough publicity. So a starred review debut author gets screwed by her own publisher while Daniel X gets a display table?

(rant over)

Jonathan Dozier-Ezell said...

Nathan--
Sorry, I should have clarified. The writers I mentioned got their starts during the Depression. Miller particularly credits the Depression with starting his career, basically insinuating there would have been no opportunity for him to write without the government projects instituted by the New Deal. Now that I think about it, those were probably bad examples since we're talking about established writers, but since I'm an up-and-coming, I guess that's where my mind went.

jawahara is most likely spot on in her assessment that cheaper entertainment will likely prosper during these times. That said, I'm still not convinced the solution is to encourage people to purchase the most expensive form of writing, i.e. the new book.

richard, too, might be on to something with the subsequent sales issue.

Agreeing to disagree, and all that, I'm really enjoying the conversation. Congrats on getting all these voices out there.

Zoe Winters said...

Jonathan,

Interestingly enough, the depression brought us the hated "bookstore returns" policy, which makes the entire publishing industry basically sell to bookstores on consignment rather than wholesale.

It's a goofy idea that sounded good at the time, but here it is 2008 almost 2009 and we're still following this system. It's a big waste of money and trees.

PETA people are protesting practically everything. If you put eyeliner on a rabbit, they're protesting it.

But where are the environmentalists on the book pulping issue. Trees are dying here. All for books that get returned by the bookstores.

AC said...

Just bought a friend of mine two new books for her birthday present. At least half of my Christmas list (in my family, we do lists)is books!

Anonymous said...

I never read a book unless it is a library book, a free download, or an Aftermarket Wonder. I just simply absolutely, positively, no-two-ways-about-it don't like for authors and publishers (and agents, too!) to get any of my money. If God wanted agents to make a living, He would not have invented the After Market. It is a theological matter, an expression of personal piety, not to buy anything new.

I don't read new writers at all. Drop all of them is what I say.

May every month from now on be another October, 2008.

Scott said...

Easy, Ms. Palin. We're bi-partisan here.

Crimogenic said...

I brought some books (new) over the weekend. I don't know if my purchases will really help the industry at a whole, but it's helping me. I love to read, and I love to write, and I realize that reading is apart of being a good writer. Will my purchase save the publishing industry, no. The publishing industry has a long outdated broken model, that it needs to fix, and what can't be fixed can be replaced.

Binnie said...

Every year I choose one of my favourite books and buy it new for special people on my Christmas list. In spite of the economy forcing the reins in on spending this year, I'll keep up my little tradition. This year it'll be Boys in the Trees, by Mary Swan. The other stuff can wait until better times. Books can't.

Deborah K. White said...

This whole year I've gone out of my way to buy my books new instead of used. I just bought 8 new books this week, and a record (for me) 16 new books last month. It doesn't seem to be helping the overall scene, but hopefully my favorite authors will at least get to keep on writing.

Tom Burchfield said...

"Poe's Children" (Peter Straub, ed.) and "More Information Than You Need," by John Hodgman, will be purchased this week by self, brand-new

A. J. Nyte said...

believe we are all on the same page when it comes to helping out the Publishing Industry. I also read Moonie's blog, and forwarded a link to all my friends, encouraging them to buy books to give a presents for the holidays. I included this information on my blog as well. Thanks Nathan, for mentioning it on yours. With the traffic that visits your blog, and the word of mouth from all your followers (and Moonie's), maybe we all can collectively influence people to buy more books.

Marti said...

Yesterday you mentioned that you weren't sure about how well books sold during the Great Depression, and today GalleyCat had an article mentioning that Gone With the Wind sold a million copies.
Here's the link:
http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/bookselling/gone_with_the_wind_will_save_us_100259.asp

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Regarding Borders. I held a signing at a local Borders store. Great event and sold out of the 20 books they had ordered for the event in the first hour. At their request, I had brought a supply of books and brought them in.

I invoiced the store on August 6th, 2008. I have yet to see payment. I even tried to get the store to re-pay me in books, but for some reason they were unwilling to do that.

My publisher mentioned the payment delay and it doesn't only come from Borders, but other big chains as well.

Zoe Winters said...

anon, you don't want AUTHORS to get any of your money?

Seriously?

Do you understand how much work it is to write a book? How much crap most authors have to go through? And you think they shouldn't be paid?

Maybe you should just watch TV instead.

Writers deserve compensation for their work. Most of them have full time jobs AND they write and market.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Zoe said, "But where are the environmentalists on the book pulping issue. Trees are dying here. All for books that get returned by the bookstores."

While paper does take resources (energy, chemicals, etc.) the trees, themselves, are renewable. All or most paper companies in the US, like the lumber industry have re-planting programs and set aside enourmous plots of land for regrowth.

In commonly used buzzwords, the trees used for the industry are sustainable.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Lorelei Armstrong said...
Actually, Richard, a printed book is an excellent sequestration of carbon, if you want to be green.


Ms Armstrong, I'd like to know a bit more about your method of CO2 accounting. Sounds a bit like Reganomics to me.

Anonymous said...

FYI

8. USE LESS PAPER. The third largest industrial emitter of global warming pollution is the pulp and paper industry. Use paper made from post-consumer waste, and recycle your newspapers.

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