Launching into 2011
It’s pretty much commonly accepted now that 2010 was, as Sourcebooks Founder and digital media maven Dominique Raccah has stated, the year when publishers finally really woke up to the extraordinary potential of digital media. Sales of e-books soared in the second half of the year, and with a record number of e-readers sold this past Christmas, we can only expect this explosive trend to continue exponentially. What also became clear in 2010 was that authors (and therefore, their agents), were in general making less than before; earnings on e-books are generally a fraction of what they are for print books, especially given price-resistance from consumers who view much of digital content as “free.” Bricks-and-mortar bookstores continue to struggle, with chains like Border’s lagging in payments to publishers and closing a record number of stores, and B&N seeming to stock more toys and merch than books. 2010 was also the year when publishers (and authors) fell in love with “apps.” Suddenly, it seemed that everyone was asking or stating that any and every book could also be an app. Of course, that brought up many questions such as: Is a book really an app? What needs to be added to book content? Who produces the app and who pays for its production? App developers come from a different world in which the word “advance” is not always part of the vocabulary. And my question, too, is how will we market all of these apps successfully? If we can’t get readers to physically visit stores, how in the increasingly complex online and app world, do we draw attention to any given app/book?
So as we prepare to return to work in 2011, how shall authors and their agents spend their time? At the end of the day, most industry professionals seem to agree that it all rests with the quality of the content. Finding, curating and packaging outstanding content, whether or not it will be presented as a beautifully bound book, parsed into bits in online content or downloaded onto a Nook, Kindle or other device, is going to continue to be the key.
So as I return to my submissions and works-in-progress, I will try to remain in touch with my inner critic, to continue to seek interesting new ideas, great plots, brilliantly drawn characters–in short, the things that make us want to read whatever the form that experience will take. Bring it on!