(Thursday style, which you KNOW means naked, but I may not have edjudamakated all of you about the fact that Thursday is also DELUSIONAL)
Book Publishing Predictions
It got me thinking, which we all know is dangerous. So I invite you now on a little speculation ride, based on some of these predictions.
With the idea in mind that the big publishing houses are going to put a lot behind ‘branded authors’ I looked up the top American sellers, just out of curiosity… then I looked up their ages and publishing house, so we could do our supposing with a little information at hand.
The first thing I noticed was an unnatural number of best sellers born in 1947, so noted because my mother was, so it is a year that pops out for me.
1. Dan Brown Age 45 Doubleday (two years and one day older than me)
2. Mary Higgins Clark Age 82 Simon & Schuster
3. Michael Crichton Age 67 Harper Collins *cough* and sadly. Dead.
4. John Grisham Age 54 Doubleday
5. Stephen King Age 62 Scribner
6. Sophie Kinsella Age 40 Black Swan
7. Stephenie Meyer Age 36 Little, Brown
8. James Patterson Age 62 Little, Brown
9. Jodi Picoult Age 43 Simon & Schuster (one month and 4 days older than me)
10. Nora Roberts Age 59 Penguin
11. Nicholas Sparks Age 44 Grand Central Publishing
12. Danielle Steel Age 62 Random House
Notice anything? I did. Lots.
* The best selling authors are pretty darned spread over the publishing houses
* If you drop Mary Higgins Clark, there are two fairly clearly defined generations of authors here. I have no clue why, but it seems John Grisham is the only mid-aged baby boomer writing—you have several first wave (all those born in 47 and then Nora) and you have the post-boom (the ones about my age and younger). I have no clue or speculation on why this is, except maybe the people compelled to write in this age range spent a little time being groovy, instead of finding formulas to become super-hits.
* In twenty years, there will maybe be ONE of those early boomers still writing, but like poor Mary, now, she will be alone on the chart—only saying she because the life expectancy for women is longer…
Now lets be morose for a minute and start killing authors… Crichton is already dead… Harper Collins is out a top 10. Knock off Stephen King and Danielle Steele and you have two more houses with no top authors.
Are these houses REALLY going to put on their eggs in so few baskets? It just seems baffling from the perspective of a rational thinker.
I searched further and from Wikipedia looked at the best selling authors ever. Of those that have sold over $100 million in books only JK Rowling is under 60 (she is 44) (Meyer may have been in that group, but I keep thinking someone will realize she can’t write).
In about ten years these publishing houses, if they really follow the predictions set out in the Huffington Post, are going to realize they have an insustainable model (because their reliance on OLD talent will stop being ‘proven’ and start being ‘DEAD’. They will come begging the Burrow and friends to let them buy their novels.
I will of course hold out for a lot of money—they deserve to suffer for being so short sighted, just like the American Auto Industry refused to make small, economical cars in the 80’s and 90’s because they were stubborn, when any idiot could have told them that conservation as a value WOULD return (they killed themselves in the same way many people do—by enjoying their bad habits without thinking about the future) THEN, I will give in, because I will think retiring early from the day job is DEFINITELY overdo, and I will have a stack of twenty or so great books that I’ve been polishing, so I will know I only need to work part time forever more…
At that time, when I am richer than Bill Gates, you are all invited to a really great party on the island I intend to buy in the Caribbean (no clothes allowed, of course).
I would sure love to see a… co-op of authors put together a publishing house that published based on peer review (to be reviewed, you have to review), so there was a quality assurance to customers, and credibility that the books are good, but that it was really about GOOD BOOKS.
I don’t believe for a second that there will be fewer readers in five, ten or twenty years. There should be MORE readers—yeah, I read the failing eyesight of the boomers—so there is an increased market for audiobooks. Bad eyes doesn’t mean they suddenly don’t want a variety of choices. It doesn’t mean they want to turn themselves over to brain-dead TV (heck, they can’t SEE it!). So this idea that it will be HARDER for the public to sort the good from the bad because only a handful will get decent publicity is just a BAD business model.
Another Better Plan.
What about if the PUBLISHING houses gave over to the idea of the print on demand model—they print small runs of LOTS of books, give them some publicity, and give the book stores the ability to print more if they run out—displays hold the ‘store copy’. Customers say, “I want this one,” and everyone is happy—or book stores that see they are running low on a display can print more that night and the next day they are stocked again, but not with so many that they have to DO anything with them.
Because let’s face it, the BIGGEST waste is in those books printed, shipped and not bought, and therefore returned and destroyed. Take that piece out of the business model and we are in profit range again.
I agree with getting rid of huge advances to untested people. Heck, I don’t think TESTED people should get huge advances. I think the money comes when the books sell—that is what is fair. The advance DOES give assurance of promoting, because the publisher wants to make sure they get their money back out of it, but it is GAMBLING. So it seems to me they’ve put the kitty way too high for those big books. I’m just FINE with a five figure advance, thanks.
Dan Brown’s first three books didn’t sell 5000 copies in round one. DiVinci Code came out and suddenly they all start selling. You know what. That is when he SHOULD get paid—when they start selling. It keeps all of us trying for that GREAT book that will get the rest of ‘em reprinted.
What I want to know is, if it is this obvious to me, why is this industry not all over this?