Adjusting To The Paradigm Shift

Writers in the Storm would like to thank Linda O. Johnston for her gift of HOWL DEADLY, her latest release in her Pet-Sitter Mystery series.  Our lucky reader and commenter on Linda’s blog on Networking and Writing Organizations is (drum roll here) Jamila Jamison.  Congratulations, Jamila.  Happy reading!

And don’t forget to tune in on Friday when we’ll announce the winner of Michelle Diener’s debut release of IN A TREACHEROUS COURT.  It’s not too late to read and comment on Michelle’s blog about Using Real People and Events in Fiction.

And here’s today’s offering, Adjusting to the Paradigm Shift.

By Laura Drake

Writers with an ear to the ground have heard the rumble for some time — the thunder of change, barreling toward the publishing industry like a huge herd of bulls down Wall Street. We all know it by now, but I’m constantly surprised by the speed at which it is coming.

I’m a CFO, which is a glorified numbers geek. So I did a bit of informal research recently, digging through my old RWR magazines. I looked at the ‘First Sales’ listing for the past two and a half years. I arbitrarily chose the July and November issues, noted the number of titles sold, and how many were to traditional NY publishers. I thought I’d see a decrease in the percentage of sales to NY. The results stunned me.

MONTH                      NY SALE/TOTAL SALES                 % OF NY SALES

Nov 08                                     5/12                                                     42%

Jul 09                                       5/12                                                     42%

Nov 09                                     3/10                                                     30%

Jul 10                                       5/13                                                     38%

Nov 10                                     2/17                                                     12%

Jul 11                                       2/21                                                     10%

Now, we can split hair about Carina, or Dorchester, but bottom line is — NY publisher first sales went from 42% to 10% in TWO years!

I don’t know about you, but for 13 years my goal has been to hold in my hand a paperback book with my name on it. I now have to accept that this may not happen. I’ve been told by my agent (God, how I love writing that!) that the majority of debut books are coming out in ebook format. These numbers sure seem to support that.

I was bitter. Don’t get me wrong – I want to sell a book. In any format. But old dreams die the hardest. I want that touchable in-my-hand book.

Then I looked at the numbers again and noticed something else.  More debut books are being sold in a given month than they used to. 43% more. In TWO years!

Is this shift a boon or a bane to aspiring authors? It seems to me to be two sides of the same coin. Heads or tails? I think it depends on your dreams, and how open you are to changing them.

What is your dream? Are you setting your sights on a “Big Six” publisher, an indie press or self-publising? Do you feel energized or let down by the paradigm shift I’m describing?

We’d love to hear all your thoughts on this!

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23 Responses to Adjusting To The Paradigm Shift

  1. Laura, when I first started trying to get published in January 2009, I was just the same. I’d always wanted to see that book with my name on it. In fact, it wasn’t until earlier this year, with the explosion of the self-pub market, that I had a shift in paradigm. Things are drastically changing, and instead of lamenting the loss of the old publishing system, we can participate in the expansion of the new one. I’ve since contracted with a boutique press whose focus is digital products; what I find fantastic is that they also have print products for those who haven’t yet switched to ereaders. So after two and a half years, I finally got to hold a book with my name on it.🙂

  2. Stacy Green says:

    Here’s what I don’t get: if agents and NY are losing people to self-publishing, why aren’t they taking the leap and taking a few more risks? Don’t they realize that part of the reason they’re losing is because they need to broaden their horizons?

    Like you, I’ve always dreamed of holding my book in my hands. I’m still going to query traditional, but these number loom large in my head. It’s not looking very promising for us newbies.

    • Laura Drake says:

      No, but some ARE getting published, Stacy. I think we just need to do what we do – and keep our minds openand our heads down, writing. People will always want stories – whatever the format.

      You have to understand – as a market gets tighter, and profits go down, a business wants less risk, not more. After all, they have less money to be able to withstand making mistakes. I do feel for NY publishing – they’re under seige, and the correct course isn’t clear…yet. I hope they’re all here when it does become clear.

      • Stacy Green says:

        Thanks for the response. I have decided to pursue the traditional route for now because it’s always been a dream. I’ve also been told that successful self-pubbing needs several books to put out in short amount of time, like every 3-4 months, and I don’t have those yet. So as I’m writing, I’ll query my current novel and see how it goes.

  3. Edie Ramer says:

    I’ve self-pubbed 4 books, and I’m not waiting for anyone. I’m empowered, and so much is wrong with traditional publishing, I’d have to be offered a very good deal before I’d take one.

    I’m not self-supporting yet, but I can see it coming. And I know quite a few indie authors who are self-supporting. These are exciting times!

  4. Hi Laura,

    Great topic. I’m with Edie on this one. I’ve worked for over ten years to gain acceptance in NY to no avail. Agents would say, “The writing is good, the characters are good, the story is good, but it’s just not for me.” Publishers (after 18 months of having the ms) would send me a form letter rejection.

    After self-publishing my book, the readers have decided my book is good enough for them. In fact most of them rave about it. I’ve been compared to Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, and most recently, James Patterson!

    My dream was to go into a brick and mortar bookstore and have my picture taken pointing to my book on a shelf. That’s probably not going to happen – but that’s okay because there are people that think I’m good enough I COULD be there!

    • Laura Drake says:

      AND you’re in control of your destiny, Kathy. There are a lot of sucess stories out there – and there are going to be a lot more!

      I’ve also gotten the same type comments, and it’s so good to be able to go directly to the readers and have THEM decide what they like!

      Congratulations on your book!

  5. Linda Burke says:

    Isn’t the most important thing is that “our” book is being read no matter what format, what publisher, or where it is published? And that more good books are available to readers regardless of the format?

  6. Laura Drake says:

    You are absolutely right, Linda. The problem isn’t with the vehicle – it’s with my brain. Just takes some time for me to digest change. Those who know me will be shocked to hear this, but i can be a bit….
    Stubborn.😉

  7. Sarah James says:

    We live in interesting times and from my point of view I would have to say very exciting times. I heard someone in a radio interview compare the emergence of the paperback – I think back in the 70s, to the emergence of eBooks and self publishing as a force to be reckoned with today. Those that didn’t embrace the paperbacks, resisted them, drowned; those that did went on to heights they never imagined possible.

    I’m like everyone else, have been dreaming of that fiction book on a bookshelf for many years, but now, when I’ve got a m/s at final edit stage, an agent in London who is interested to see how the m/s has been reworked I’m thinking of skipping over the whole publishing industry and going straight to self published. Some people are telling me I’m crazy and I’m still not sure but when I really listen to my gut it’s asking the question ‘Why wouldn’t you?’

  8. After banging my head against NY’s doors, I went the small press route years ago when that was not popular with RWA–in fact a number of authors looked down their noses at me for my career choice. I’ve never regretted it. For one thing, my longer books are in print and I’ve autographed them at book signings. And I have several short novellas out as e-books books only. Either way, they’re real books that real people read. And at the accelerating rate book stores are closing, I’m feeling much more secure that readers have digital access to my books.

    Heading off to send my edits to my editor for a book coming out next month.

    • Laura Drake says:

      Good for you Sugar – good illustration of my point. . . .if you can’t break down the front door, go in the back! Sucess as you define it is what matters.

  9. Very thought provoking post, Laura. Like you, I hold out the dream that once I do have an agent, my book will find a home with one of the NY pub’s. Why not? I have a thought that we can get “stuck” in a Johnny-one-note rut that can ruin those dreams. My plan is to continue sending my current full length novel to agents for placement with a traditional publisher. However, I am at the same time sending out a novella to small press lit. pub’s because of the different nature of the work.

    I intend to send to Midnight Ink, Poison Pen and Kensington the first of my Third Eye Mystery trilogy as they read entire MS without an agent and have two other projects that once I am published in any way, I will self publish. The times are changing and some of those changes are depressing, but we can use those times (like being a real estate broker/you get paid no matter if the market is a seller’s market or a buyer’s market). There is no reason why I can’t travel in a bus, plane or train as long as I get to my destination🙂

    • Love the analogy, Florence – that’s so true. The main thing, like Kitty said, is to get your work in front of readers, wherever they are. You go girl – can’t wait to buy one of your books!

  10. Pingback: Random Thoughts August 11, 2011 | Kitty Bucholtz, Writer

  11. Interesting post, Laura. I’m a numbers girl, too, and loved seeing them here. I just never thought to go look them up in all the magazines. Good on you! Thanks for doing that. Though it’d be fairly awesome to have a printed book in my hand that I wrote with my name on the cover, I’ve always been more focused on getting people to read my work, and wanting to know if I wrote something they wanted to read. I don’t care if it’s in the church newsletter, a national magazine, or a printed or digital book. I just want people to read my work. (John says I’m a ham and love to be the center of attention. Well… LOL!)

    What’s been particularly interesting to me this month as I put school out of my mind and re-start my career is how much FUN I’m having getting back into the business side of things as I prepare my first novel for self-publishing. The only reason I’m considering not sending my work to New York again is because I’m SO HAPPY to be using both sides of my brain again! I’d even considered getting a part-time job for a while so I could use my numbers brain more. But now I’m getting a full-body workout and I love it! LOL! I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂

    • I’m so excited for you, Kitty! And so glad someone out there has another goal than just “being published.” You’re absolutely right – it’s all about getting your work in front of readers eyes – no matter what format, or where is is.

      Come guest blog with us at WITS when you publish your novel! Can’t wait to read it.

      If you’re a ham, and John’s your husband and biggest fan – that makes him…
      I’m just saying!

  12. I’m not sure what your numbers mean now. I see NY publishers versus everything else. Then everyone talking about not seeing a print book in their hands as if only NY publishers print on paper. Are your numbers showing all books, print or electronic, published by NY based publishers over all books print or electronic published by companies not in New York? Are you talking books printed by small presses vs. self-published? It got a little confusing here. I’ve been published by a POD/E-book publisher and self -published. Right now, my sites are on a traditional publisher who happens to be in Pennsylvania.

    • Cynthia,
      Unofficial gathering of info from the RWR, which is the magazine of Romance Writers of America. Only romance, obviously, and only first sales by new authors.
      Good luck with the publication – I’ve got my fingers crossed for you!

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