Climbing the Publishing Ladder: To print or not to print! That is the question!

There’s been speculation about the future of digital and printed publishing. Skimming quickly through the news, you’ll read about decreasing printed book sales and the rise of the machines e-books.

Gives ya a general impression that going digital is the future of the written word doesn’t it? But it isn’t as simple as it seems.

There are articles out there discussing the demographic implications of these changes as a way to predict the future of the industry. These demographic changes are important for any writer to understand, why? It’ll probably affect your future contracts, royalties (for sure), and how to manage your own personal brand and PR.

For example, if you are writing  for say, the baby boomers, they grew up on printed books. However if you want to write for a younger audience, the little spoiled brat next door already knows how to use a tablet better than you. That kid will grow up with a preference for digital books.

Or so it seems (Mwhahahah).

This week at Publishers Weekly, an article stated that according to a recent survey 47% of children aged 6-17 have read e-books, a 25% jump from 2010 statistics. However, according to the Children’s Publishing Goes Digital Conference held in New York (On Jan 15th), stated that the transition from print to digital is still at its experimentation phase.  The conference revealed some surprising details:

  • There was a ‘shift’ back to printed books among teens since last spring.
  • Unit share for online sellers is 41%, however, discovery share is 5%. 81% of discovery still comes from a person, in other words, word of mouth.

The article (links below) continue to highlight a series of mixed results. In terms of education, children’s books seem to be doing well. But in terms of discovery…eh, not so much. If the industry, regardless of market or genre, was that predictable or easily observable in any survey then…well Climbing the Publishing Ladder is useless and a waste of your time.

What am I getting from reading this post?

  • Writing full or part time is still a career. It’s affected by the structure and form of the industry. Just as the market changes, so do careers and it’s important to keep track of the industry so any writer can be prepared to face changes in their contracts, royalties, how to manage their ‘brand’ (pen/real name, image, etc.) and their PR (whether it be offline or online).
  • My terrible and lame attempts at humor.
  • Knowledge is power. From my experience, knowing the market means you can navigate better in the sea storms of uncertainty.
  • Join me in this wonderful experience of not using in-text referencing.
  • See what publishers, editors and agents are reading and observe their concerns.

I highly recommend this podcast to get an overall feel about the changes in the industry as a whole.

One final note, I greatly respect Donald Maass’s classification of writers: the status seekers and the storytellers. Although paying attention to publishing news can easily be interpreted for status seekers to get the most out of the market changes, I write these articles for the storytellers so they can learn how to speak the business lingo and jargon so their books can come out faster.

That way, I can read your books at 2AM and have the best internal debate ever.




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