“The sky continues NOT to fall!”

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 areFrom 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.

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  1. Yep, things are tough all over. But I especially hate hearing about people in the industry being let go. I hope they land safely soon.

    Off to check out those blogs. Thanks, Melodye!

    • “But I especially hate hearing about people in the industry being let go. I hope they land safely soon.”

      Your mouth to God’s ears. I think we’re all in agreement about that!

  2. This is a great post but I especially love the Chicken Little pic. Sometimes I feel as if that’s how I walk through life. Not so much waiting for the sky to fall but watching wide-eyed, mouth agape.

  3. Great post Melodye! And I love your chicken little guy!

    I was struck by what Mark had to say about big business. It’s true that when mega corporations enter any field there is a boom but the bust is sure to come after a while … it’s inevitable.

    But when he talked about technology and books, I shuddered. I know that e-books will certainly grow by leaps and bounds as it’s the wave of the future. But I do not want to see it happen, even though looking at it from strictly an economic standpoint it’s the way to go for publishing houses as they get more bang for their bucks.

    But who wants to take a Kindle to bed with them? Not me!! Call me an old foggie but there is something about snuggling up in bed with a good book that is so comforting, and besides there is nothing like the smell of a new book.

    • I think that’s the Disney-fied Chicken Little. I couldn’t find the Golden Book version, which I love, but this one struck my fancy. πŸ™‚

      Like Mark (and many others who’ve written on this topic), I believe that this industry shakedown was necessary, and that the publishing world will rebuild itself better and stronger than before. Certainly, they’ll have to develop a business model that’s better suited for the 21st century. I’m optimistic that they will.

      I’m with you on books vs. electronic reading devices! Nothing’s cozier than snuggling under an afghan with a cup of tea and a delicious book! I’m looking for articles/studies that show whether the techno-savvy generation(s) feels differently. Familiarity doesn’t equate to preference…or does it?

      • If my son is any example, books will always have a place. J is as techno-savvy as they come and has been in love with computers, gaming consoles and techno-gadgets ever since he was 10…but he also loves books!

        • *happy sighs*

          It’s especially meaningful (read: heartwarming) to see our loved ones cozied up with a book. You raised him right, Mama, and he’s obviously inherited your book-loving sensibilities. πŸ™‚

  4. Just spent the day at a few malls doing all types of shopping. There were very few people in the stores, even the discount ones like Filene’s Basement. HOWEVER, I went to Barnes and Noble to pick up a gift card and it was full of people, the line was long, and it was heartening.

    There are some comforts we won’t give up and I believe that reading is one thing we’re going to turn to more and more for understanding and escape, and during difficult times economically, books are much less expensive than other forms of entertainment.

    (Love the chicken, BTW πŸ™‚

    • Everybody loves the chicken! πŸ™‚

      I’m really happy to hear that people are buying books as gifts!!! And better still, there will be a lot of happy recipients on Christmas morning.

      And you are so right about the power and importance of books. As a child, reading was my salvation (pun intended). As an adult, books are an escape from reality, but they also provide me with a lifeline to a better here-and-now. Dollar for dollar, they return the most value for any discretionary purchase I can think of.

  5. Thank you for the link, I’ve added it to my Bloglines feeds.

    Also it’s wonderful to have my instincts confirmed, that the sky is structurally sound. Publishing may at some point metamorphose, but that’s not a bad thing when caterpillars do it…

    As long as there are people, there will be a market for stories, I’m sure.

    • Hurray for trusting your own instincts, and for having them confirmed by those who are In the Know!

      Also, I think your caterpillar analogy is a lovely lens from which to view all of life. It’s realism, with a Pollyanna twist.

      (P.S. Your icon makes my heart smile. The gilt-edged pages are scratched, did you notice? Someone’s reopened a much-loved book…love that imagery! )

  6. Now that chicken little was looking up in the Texas bright night time sky as we all know the stars are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas. He was giving thanks for the bright stars so that he could read his wonderful book.
    nothing like a good book when settling down for a good nights sleep under the wide open spaces with all of the good lords little night lights sparkling high above.
    $12 for a cup for coffee? Maybe those folks need to run some more water through the coffee pot to make the grounds last longer.

    • I share your Texas chicken’s wide-eyed sense of wonder about the night sky, and also his love of books. I’ll take star-gazing stories over sky-is-falling narratives any day! πŸ™‚

      “Nothing like a good book when settling down for a good nights sleep under the wide open spaces with all the good lords little night lights sparkling high above.”

      Why PapaDan, that’s pure poetry! I love, love, LOVE the way you think.

  7. It breaks my heart to see the publishing industry going through rough times. It’s just another symptom of the non-reading disease that is infecting this country. I really hope that reading comes back into style around these parts, y’know?

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