It’s the summer of 2010. Gas costs $8/gallon. Air fares have nearly doubled. Hundreds of thousands of books have been published. Hundreds of thousands more writers have published books themselves.
The American Booksellers Association has lost more than 50 percent of its membership. The biggest national bookstore chains have merged into one super corporation AND this new entity is now in the publishing business too. AND it’s only carrying its own products or those produced by "affiliates."
Sorry to be a bummer, man, but the landscape is changing.
When things look bleakest, I am an optimist. Maybe it’s my contrary spirit. I just don’t like being told that anything is all gloom and doom. In the middle of great change, great opportunity exists.
What will our brave new world of literary livelihood look like? With the millions of voices sure to be flogging their works in the near future — and doing it to a shrinking market — how will we writers continue to build careers, to make enough to send our kids to college or pay for that pesky root canal?
Believe it or not, I’m not upset or even worried . . . not yet.
My agent, who has been in the business for more than 20 years, talks about how people have bemoaned the demise of the industry, of books, for as long as he’s been selling manuscripts. Yet, books and the biz are still around.
I suspect that staying power will still be the name of the game. That, and sheer determination.
But I want my crystal ball to start working NOW! I want to find the mechanisms to meaningfully connect with potential readers even if I don’t travel to their neck o’ the woods. There must be new ways to engender that personal touch besides "Friending" or "Guesting on Blogs" (Virtual book tours, as they’re practiced today, are the same kind of thing).
Do you remember when acclaimed Canadian author Margaret Atwood came up with the LongPen? Everyone scoffed. Not so, now. Virtual book signings — real events with interactive video — may be the way of the future. They’d certainly be greener.
What about the authors who have managed to turn their websites into entire and vital communities? Charlaine Harris has done it. I met 16 of her fans who traveled from as far away as Texas to attend Malice Domestic this year. She’s got a message board and all kinds of conversations going with her fans. Now the fans are taking some of the load off of her, but she still visits and posts often.
Are there media out there that we haven’t ever discussed, only dreamed about, that may truly aid us all? What about holographic book tours? Why not? How about books you can talk with — and where the author answers back?
What else is out there — or might be — if we just let ourselves have fun and imagine?
Come on, jump in and let’s see what we can come up with. It’s time to have some fun.