Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wednesday Writing Workshop

(Today is another Insecure Writer's Support Group with Alex J. Cavanaugh! Wander over and check out the wonderful posts, share your insecurities and get encouragement. Me? I suppose, in light of what I'm posting on today, I'd say my biggest insecurity right now is learning to navigate the changing world of publishing.)

Yep, another cheesy title that plays on the first letter of the day of the week. Hey, it helps the brain remember what it needs to writer about :D

I got to thinking (frightening, I know): I'm taking these writing classes so why not share some of the things I'm learning? Not to mention I've got LOADS of questions to ask you guys as well. Especially in my current class.

The title of the class is Context of Writing. What it revolves around is something on the mind of ever writer, published or not: the current state and future of the publishing industry. I spent an hour yesterday reading the first chapter of Jason Epstein's book "Book Business: Publishing Past, Present and Future". It was written in 2001, but it so far appears to have a good handle on the issues of today.

Epstein has been in the publishing industry since the 1950s so I'd wager he knows what he's talking about. The Preface and first chapter talk of the grand old days of publishing, when Dr. Seuss would just show up at Random House and chat with the editors and publishers and W.H. Auden would wander in with another draft. He goes from that to now, where authors work through agents and if they were to show up unannounced and actually make it past the security on the ground floor of the building, they would be thrown out faster than you could say "three book deal". He talks of e-books and the changing landscape of bookstores.

And you know what? I'm encouraged. That is not to say that I think it would be great if we could make appointments with publishers and speak to them face-to-face without the threat of a security guard flinging us onto the pavement in front of Scholastic. I have been very skeptical (and frankly annoyed) at e-books. Bookstores are Mecca for me and the thought of them all closing in favor of a handheld screen seems to me a dark dystopian future indeed.


Epstein said this that stuck with me: "Nonetheless, a civilization without retail booksellers is unimaginable. Like shrines and other sacred meeting places, bookstores are essential artifacts of human nature. The feel of a book taken from the shelf and held in the hand is a magical experience, linking writer to reader. But to compete with the World Wide Web, bookstores of the future will be different from the mass-oriented super-stores that now dominate the retail marketplace. Tomorrow's stores will have to be what the Web cannot be: tangible, intimate, and local; communal shrines...with coffee bars...."

He proposes that the big chain bookstores are struggling to compete with e-books. I agree. E-books are convenient and may offer more advantages to authors than traditional publishing. BUT with the lessening of big chain stores, there is a possibility that the independent bookstores could see new life. This is, of course, my opinion, but one I wanted to put out there for whatever it's worth.

I leave you with this: Do you think that the advent of e-books could be a renaissance of independent bookstores?


  1. OK, I'm no expert on this but I think it's possible. Look at records. They've been replaced by cassets, cds, mp3s, and probably more. Still there are independent stores that cater to those who like Vinyl. I think books will be the same, but hopefully with more demand.

  2. I think independent stores that offer environment, like a coffee shop, will survive.

  3. I agree with Alex. Environment will be key to the future of retail books. (Which is circular, actually, as that's how it all started out.)

  4. Yes. To all of what you've written. I agree. I see the pendulum swinging back to local and friendly, a place to hang out and browse, drink coffee and interact. We need community and bookstores know how to provide it. They'll have ways to browse and download ebooks right there, as well as have paper books to hold and smell.

  5. I'd certainly love if independent bookstores could flourish in this environment! They are such wonderful places to spend an afternoon.

  6. I've heard that it's possible that e-books will open up a new life for independent books stores. Certainly, the one we have in town has survived while the Borders chain has shut down.
    I used to be the bricks and mortar sort (and I still wax sentimental about book stores). But I love the advances of technology. Honestly, I only buy e-books now. No more tangible ones for me anymore. I've crossed over to the "dark" side.

  7. In today's retail climate I think anything independent is facing a real challenge and needs to be exceptionally innovative and/or be relevant to the community where they are.

    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog
    Twitter: @AprilA2Z


Well, hello! I'm so glad you made it. Come inside and sit by the hearth. I'll take your coat and hat. The kettle is singing and there's cake and candles and good conversation. Settle in and make yourself at home. Don't mind the wolfhounds; they're friendly if you give them a bit of lemon curd.