Did the Mayan 2012 apocalypse refer to traditional publishing? Or not?

Joe Konrath blogs at A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. He’s been predicting the downfall of traditional publishing for a while. But recently he wrote one called,

The End is Nigh. Read it, if you haven’t already.

Honestly, I don’t know what to think. I feel like the whole issue is a merry-go-round. Some, like Konrath, adamantly proclaim why traditional will fail. While others say publishing is alive and well. Agents are selling books. People are buying books.

But this post was different. John Locke recently signed a print deal with Simon and Schuster but he kept all his erights. From there, Konrath predicts other big authors will demand the same thing and then the Big Six won’t be able to recover. It’s just a matter of time.

I hear the stats about more ebooks selling. But I don’t think that holds true for kidlit. I don’t think the majority of kidlit books being bought are ebooks.

This post is not about whether self-publishing is the way to go or not. I’m not going to pretend I can predict the future. Some say the writing is on the wall. Yet many, many people are silent, not saying anything.

What do you think about this? The only sure thing I know is that we need to be informed. We need to hear the worst prediction and the best. And we need to focus more than anything on our writing.

, , , , , ,

31 Responses to Did the Mayan 2012 apocalypse refer to traditional publishing? Or not?

  1. Katie Ganshert August 31, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    Hmmm….yeah, I have no clue. I will say that I hope it’s not the end! Because I fear what will happen to books if we don’t have at least some gatekeepers in place making sure well-edited fiction gets put on the shelves (virtual or otherwise). I’m not saying self-pubbed books can’t be amazing or that all traditionally published books are amazing, I’m just saying there’s an amazing benefit to books when you have a team of professional editors scouring it. As I’ve learned these past few months! I just wrote a post about my experience with line-edits, actually.

    • Laura August 31, 2011 at 11:28 am #

      Recently I’ve read some terrific trad. pubbed books after a reading a bunch of self pubbed. I enjoyed both but I did see a difference in the level of writing and storytelling with trad. pubbed. Some really are better. Maybe others not so much. But I’m hoping both can work together somehow.

  2. Donna K. Weaver August 31, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    Funny. My blog today is about one of Joe’s posts, too. Small world.

    As for ebooks for kidlit, I agree with a comment David Farland made about it at a conference. He said it’s just a few years before the ereaders that parents are currently buying for themselves get upgraded and the older models get passed down to the kids. He believe the ebook future for kidlit will take off then. He’s working on projects for things he calls enhanced books that include text, graphics, audio, and other stuff. That would really appeal to kids, I think.

  3. Ansha Kotyk August 31, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    Kids are usually the first to adopt new technology so although I don’t think traditional publishing houses are going to disappear the tradi-pub model is already changing.
    The idea of an enhanced book definitely has my attention. How cool would it be to read Jane Erye and at the bottom of the scene click a button and view that scene from one of the movie versions? Harry Potter?
    Play a game at the end of a chapter related to the mystery you’re trying to solve?
    Right now, kids don’t have access to the kindles and nooks and the market isn’t ready for them either. But when the two meet I think we’ll see kidlit take off in enhanced e-form. And I think it’s gong to get a lot more kids reading.

    • Laura August 31, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

      Ansha – I wish I agree with enhanced forms of reading but I guess I”m a purist. Yeah, sure, kids will eat them up, but will the be reading? Or clicking on things to be entertained. I’ve seen it. My kids had Leap Frog but they used it purely for the entertainment factor. I’m not saying it won’t be popular but how much reading will actually happen? I don’t know and that’s what I’m afraid of. Kids will learn by pictures and people talking to them instead of actually reading. HOpefully I’m wrong.

  4. Laura Marcella August 31, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    It makes me really sad to think traditional publishing is on the way out. I hope I don’t see that happen in my lifetime. So I maintain that ignorance is bliss in this case, LoL. I’m just going to keep writing and not worry about it. What will happen will happen.

  5. Susan Kaye Quinn August 31, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    BTW I love your titles! LOL

    That Konrath article hit me (hard) too. He is right that the John Locke deal is solid evidence that things have shifted in a major way, and the ripples of that earthquake are going to race through publishing and topple some chairs. Which ones? Maybe the traditional print deal will change; maybe everything will be on the table (a la carte) in negotiations; maybe sky high advances will dwindle (wait, that’s already happening). On the self-pub side, I think the writers will go where the readers are, and vice versa. I’m not afraid of that connection – it’s the trend that digitalization has brought every other industry (eliminating the middle men, bringing producer and consumer closer).

    My brain hurts from trying to figure it all out. The best advice I heard recently was from Jane Friedman: “Just have fun with it. Be creative. Because you can’t be afraid of making a mistake, since no one knows what’s “right” anymore.”

    Words I can live with. 🙂

  6. Matthew MacNish August 31, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    I’m concerned, but honestly the only thing I can control is to just write great books. I’m trying to focus on that, so I don’t go crazy.

  7. anne gallagher August 31, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    I don’t think print books will ever die off completely. With technology today moving at the speed of light, sure it looks all doom and gloom. But just because people are buying e-books at a rate faster than trad pub books, doesn’t mean it’ll always be that way.

    We’re missing two very important demographics here, old people who don’t know about technology, and children. Some older people still get there books from the library and bookstores the old fashioned way. They’re diehards and will never use a reading device.

    Children are taught to read with board books. Would parents really let them teethe on a Kindle?

    Print books might take a hit, but I don’t think they’ll ever go away completely.

  8. Jessica August 31, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    Honestly, I don’t know what to think. I’ll just ride along and hopefully make good choices. Maybe paper books will morph into something else but there will always be books and authors, imo.

  9. Susan Sipal August 31, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    Laura, thanks so much for a good chuckle this morning. I LOVED your title!

    As for the divination — I suck worse than Trelawney. Though, actually, she got quite a few right. All I know is that Story will always sell through whatever format is most popular at that time. So, for now, I’ll continue my stories and then try to sell them through whichever method is paying. 🙂

    • Laura August 31, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

      I think you’ve all got it right! We can control our writing and improving and writing the best story. And to some degree we can control how we publish. Lots to think about.

  10. Loree Huebner August 31, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    Hard to say…but we need to keep a close watch on things.

  11. Ava Jae August 31, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    Honestly, so much could happen, it’s hard to predict what the future will hold for the world of publishing.

    I think John Locke’s publishing contract is certainly the first of many. I know when I read that I thought, “Well, it’s finally happening.” His contract sounded pretty ideal to me, and I’m sure other big-name authors like the sound of it too. It’s the best of both worlds.

  12. write-brained August 31, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

    Okay your title cracked me up. Yeah…sigh! I had a whole post ready to go on this kind of topic but never got around to pushing publish–b/c it’s a tricky and hot topic. I’ll just say I agree with Katie and Matt and my goal (and dream) remains the same for now about trad. pubbing!! Here’s hoping!

  13. Susan R. Mills August 31, 2011 at 6:07 pm #

    Honestly, I don’t like to think about this issue. I would certainly hate to see the fall of traditional publishing. I’m not going to speculate. I’m just going to sit back and watch to see what happens.

    • Laura August 31, 2011 at 7:11 pm #

      I have not come to any decisions. But I agree with all of you. I’m going to watch and listen and keep writing. And yes, I hope it survives this revolution.

  14. Sherrie Petersen August 31, 2011 at 10:58 pm #

    People are always predicting the end of something and with the exception of the horse and buggy, most industries adapt to change and find a way to survive. Yes, digital is making huge inroads. Yes, traditional publishing is changing the way they do business. But as long as there are humans on the face of the earth, we’ll be reading books. How they are delivered will depend on the marketplace. And what’s true now will be different in five years. For now, I’m an observer, trying to write the best books I can, waiting to see what the changing market brings.

  15. Elle Strauss August 31, 2011 at 11:51 pm #

    It wasn’t too long ago when the powers that be poo-pooed (I can say that here, right) e-books (not to mention severely poo-pooed self-publishing) boldly stating that people will always love real books and it will take years before e-books catch on.

    Ahem. Border management believed that lie and waited too long to produce something competitive enough to stand up to Amazon’s electronic muscle. The management of B & N had the foresight to roll up their sleeves and enter the race in time to at least have a fighting chance of survival. Sure, Border’s finally saw the writing on the wall, and rushed to get on board with the Kobe, but it was too late for them by then.

    I think we’re seeing the same thing now with traditional publishing and specifically the Big 6. For so long they were impenetrable. They were too busy being the Big 6 to look low enough to the ground to see that their foundations were starting to crumble.

    I think we’ll find in the future that traditional publishing will still exist, but it will be the Big 3 or the Big 2. Whoever gets their heads out of how “it’s always been done” and figures out how they have to change to keep it working will survive. But there will be one or two or more who will take too long to act and be the “Borders” of the traditional publishing world.

    The question really is who will be left standing? And if we go traditional publishing now, will we be aligning ourselves with the ones who live on or the ones who die.

    (Sorry, that was rather long winded, wasn’t it. :))

  16. Lydia K September 1, 2011 at 12:26 am #

    I think ebooks are taking off in a huge way but that print books are here to stay…unfortunately, they’ll probably grow in price. I have no evidence for this, just guessing.

  17. Elana Johnson September 1, 2011 at 12:46 am #

    I saw this on another blog today, and while I think there are some valid points, I don’t think the traditional publisher is going to die out soon. I think people who are writing now (like us) should keep writing the stories we want to write in the hopes that someone will publish them. If not, we CAN self-publish, e-publish, or any number of other options. I think just because there are more options, doesn’t make the traditional one obsolete.

    • Laura September 1, 2011 at 1:28 am #

      Great thoughts everyone! Just the kind of discussion I was looking for b/c I really am curious what people think about these extreme predictions. Thanks!

  18. Karen Strong September 1, 2011 at 2:52 am #

    You are right about focusing on the writing but still it’s good to know what you could be getting into.

    I agree that the YA/MG market may be a little different. I remember reading something this past weekend saying that kids/teens still like the actual book instead of the e-book.

    Maybe this is just an adult thing? I’m sure e-books will make a difference though.

    Buy hey, everything is always changing.

  19. Marcia September 1, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    I agree that we have to concentrate on our writing more than anything.

    I’m still meeting people in their 30s and younger who do not give two figs for e-readers.

    I’m not going to name titles, but all we have to do is nose around online a bit to know that people are rushing to self-publish horribly written stuff, and in some cases getting mega-publicity. Which does make me fear that, yes, some people may make plenty of money on junk writing, and marketing IS the thing in self-pub.

    I agree that enhanced or interactive “books” are not that likely to promote real reading. I forget the title of the book, but I think of the child who asked, “Can I watch the ____ book?” referring to a picture book that played on some sort of device. Yep, the verb was “watch,” not “read.” I think this is real cause for concern. And nobody’s going to pay attention. Until 30 years from now, when kids REALLY can’t read. I suppose I’ll sound old and cranky now, but it’s just like I saw today’s crisis in school lunch programs coming 30 years ago when they started serving “foods kids like.”

  20. Lisa Green September 1, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    I think it’s a really important point you’ve made – remembering to distinguish between kidlit and publishing in general, because though it may ultimately follow, they are not the same. And YES writing is the most important thing, we still want it to be our best no matter what method of delivery.

  21. Angela Ackerman September 1, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    I think now more than ever we need to stay aware of what’s happening rather than stick our heads in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening. 🙂

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  22. Margo Berendsen September 1, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

    Absolutely – keep writing! But good point: we need to see both the worst and best predictions.

  23. Karen Lange September 1, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

    Will check it out, thanks for the link. I am not sure what to think sometimes, but I agree with you. We need to stay informed.

    Have a great weekend!

  24. Eileen Astels September 1, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

    I sure hope it’s not the end. I love books, real books, to hold in my hands! I’ve not bought one e-book yet on my kindle, only published ones, so I’m thinking you may be correct in that.

  25. Christy Evers September 1, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

    Interesting post. I really have no opinion on the subject. It’s all a hodgepodge of scary uncertainty to me. I’m enjoying reading the comments!

  26. Leigh Moore September 2, 2011 at 2:13 am #

    *shrugs* I dunno. I’m kind of on the fence, too. I feel like if ebooks become the norm, I’m probably in a pretty good place coming from an editorial background and being sort of naturally comfortable talking w/folks. I also have some close friends who work in marketing/PR who’d probably want to help me if I needed it.

    I’d still like to go through the traditional route, though. Just to say I did. And b/c I still think it’s more legit. For now~ :o) <3

Leave a Reply