In a recent essay, Mark Tavani weighed in on the doom-and-gloom headlines that are swirling around (shrouding?) the publishing industry of late (hat tip: The Handbasket, via The Swivet). As a senior editor for Ballentine, Tavani has an insider’s view of the book business, and he doesn’t hesitate to speak the truth as he sees it. “I would be handing you a nicely cut gem of understatement if I were to say that things are not good in the world of publishing," he says. But he’s not squawking about falling skies, thank goodness.
I like that Tavani points toward sunnier days ahead. It’s not surprising, though, that the writing community is anxious. Tavani offers this analogy, by way of explanation:
“A few months back I read about how Starbucks was shutting down a few thousand locations. I can say I didn’t notice anyone freaking out and running around, screaming about how coffee was going out of fashion. That’s because coffee’s fine, as we all know. People love coffee, and coffee will almost certainly be around for a long time. But the industry had outgrown itself…plus, they were charging something like twelve frickin’ dollars for a grande whatchamahoozit…. But I digress…”
Most writers understand (and have accepted) the financial realities of this industry. Even in the best of times, publishing’s not a particularly profitable business. Still, it’s disheartening to measure our long-held dreams (our passions!) against the daily influx of grim economic facts. Some of us are suffering, and the future’s uncertain for all of us. No doubt about it, we’re living through scary times. And yet…it’s impossible to break our creative spirits. We’re writers: It’s what we do, yes, but it’s also who we are. From the beginning of time—before ink and paper, before query letters and acquisition committees—we’ve created fire pits around which to tell our stories. As Ursula K. LeGuin once said, “There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.”
Colleen Lindsay,* an agent with FinePrint Literary Management, shared her own perspectives and predictions. “Things will be confusing for a while, yes, but publishing will not implode, explode or fall apart utterly. It’s merely evolving, as all businesses do," she said. "And more importantly, the sky continues not to fall!”
Take heart, all ye chickens of little faith! ♥
*If you aren’t already following her blog, go now! You’ll love her style and sensibilities. Here’s her LJ- syndicated feed.