A golden age for writers?
When I was a kid, there were multiple bookstores in every mall. People couldn’t wait to the get to the library and you could find anything you wanted to read there. The publishing industry had more than five big names and there were agents and editors making a healthy living, rather than being terrified at their jobs going away. People read, instead of watching Netflix or posting stupid cat pictures on Facebook. And Amazon wasn’t about to gobble up the industry and books had paper, dammit!
This were better.
Or were they?
According to a recent Esquire article, this is the golden age for writers. (I don’t subscribe to Esquire, but someone at the blog Where Writers Win does, and referenced the article.)
Here are the numbers:
- Revenue for adult hardcover books is up 8.3% from 2011, and paperbacks are up 8.2%.
- Book sales for young adults and children grew by 12% last year.
- The average American read seventeen books in 2011, the highest number since Gallup and Pew began tracking the figures in 1990.
Revenues are up. Kids, who we all thought were busy playing Murder, Death, Kill III: Zombie Firing Range on their SuperPlayStation12, are actually reading. In fact, people are reading more than the have since the 80s. The eighties!
A few thoughts:
- Because of e-readers, books are cool again. I know, you’re a purist and you like the feel of paper. But if you’re going on a cruise or a plane you can use the airport’s wifi to download and read a book you heard about from a friend or co-worker. And you can load a mess of books on an e-reader and they don’t fill up your carry-on.
- There are opportunities to check out books. Sure, the libraries are cash-starved. And there might not be a book store in your city. But you can still go online and check out new books. In fact, you can sit in your house and sample a book you’ve heard about before spending money on it–even if you want the hard copy. Again, you can do this without leaving the house.
- Social media is making it easier to find out about books you might want to read. 50 Shades of Gray started as a fan fiction book. It was posted on a forum and people liked it. Then it was an Indie book. There was no marketing effort. It was work-of-mouth, much of which happened from behind a keyboard.
- There are more choices now. People have bought a lot of self-published books by people like Amanda Hocking, EL James, and John Locke. None of them used the big publishers to get their work out.
Sure, 50 Shades of Gray isn’t high art, but it’s a book. And people are reading it. So were the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo books. So were the Twilight books. But crappy books aren’t new. People have been pulling crap off the bookshelves since the advent of the paperback–and before.
It might take extra work to get your book noticed, but the opportunities are there. And you don’t necessarily have to paint by the numbers to get there.