Saturday, May 28, 2005

Nobody’s buying fiction?

That’s what my agent said this past week. OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration.

No, it’s not hype! Hype is defined as, “exaggeration to an extreme; over the top; bordering on outrageous.” (Source: John Earle’s “Dictionary of the Moment.” I use that at my convenience to back up any questionable definition I want to use at the time.)

He (my agent, for those of you with a short attention span) elaborated that the larger publishers are buying fiction mostly from established authors. They are also buying non-fiction (mostly how-to books).

Where does that leave all of us GREAT writers with potential to become “established authors,” if only given a shot? I’ll tell you where it leaves us.

It leaves us waiting patiently for the next rejection letter. But with HOPE (“That which springs eternal;” same source as above) that somewhere out there a publisher is willing to concede that this new manuscript CHERISH IS THE WORD by an unknown might actually earn a profit. It’s fun to read. It’ll create a following. Hey, this author might become the next “established” one!

Ah, Hope! Without You, where would we be?

Anyway, all that to say this: In the past year or so I’ve traveled quite a bit (by my standards) for business. No, not the writing business—my day job! I’m a Human Resources Manager, remember?

I’ve flown from South Texas to L.A. (twice), San Diego, Dallas, Louisville, Albuquerque, and Chicago. One of the tings I do during a flight is see what people are reading. Try it the next time you’re walking the plane’s center aisle to the rest room in the back. Just walk slowly and glance from side to side. Pretend you’re looking out the window, if somebody gives you that “What are YOU looking at?” look.

It’s hard to catch the titles of some books, but others are obvious. According to my informal survey (CAUTION: these results are not scientific and may not be truly representative... There, feel better? An official disclaimer!), many of those books are from authors I’ve never heard of.

Question: Where are these travelers finding these books by other-than-established writers?

Is there a secret source out there that we don’t know about? Are these “P.O.D.” (Publish—or Print—On Demand) books? Are they from a local library?

Ah, there’s a point! I use my local library a lot. I usually stop for a while in front of their “New Releases” section near the front door. Yeah, there are always recent books in there by “established” authors. But there are always “first time” books as well.

Yes, I know; that means those books were bought by a publisher two years ago, because it takes that long to get a book out the door and promoted so libraries will buy copies. But I borrow and read mostly those first-time efforts. A lot of them I like. I will then note the author’s name and look for a second book by him/her.

But darn it, those books are getting bought (by libraries, at least) and read. And by other people than just me—they ALL have multiple “due date” stickers on the cover.

I know, I know; library sales do not generate enough $$ to make it worth a publisher’s while to invest in buying and printing and promoting a book. And maybe our society is shifting sufficiently (check out that sillibance, will ya) in its leisure-time habits that reading print novels is easing into a long-term or permanent decline.

If so, this will be yet another trend or opportunity that I have attempted to become a part of too late. I’m still hoping (here’s Hope again!) that, if the above decline be true, it’ll be slow enough that we’ll have at least several decades ahead before all the print publishers go out of business or shift their production to some new, popular, iPod form of electronic fiction delivery method.

Hey, I listen to recorded books on long road trips when I’m driving. I’m not against alternative delivery methods. I’d just like some of MY fiction to be made commercially available to consumers in whatever format is popular.

Is that asking too much? (That was rhetorical. No answer required) (Yes, you nit-pickers, I realize those sentences were redundant.)

Thank God for Hope!

12 comments:

Hamel said...

My gosh, do I love this post. I wrote a book and finally gave up on finding a publisher and self-published. All I ever wanted was to see my book in print. Publishers buy established authors *or* established names who aren't authors, such as presidents or athletes or stars, etc.

I thoroughly enjoy searching out small presses, and picking up something by a first-time author or something from a small press.

The last book I read, which was non-fiction, by such an author was a wonderful surprise. But it will never sell widely, because it's too articulate, too insightful, and too intelligent and true.

Duke_of_Earle said...

Ah, Hamel. "Too articulate, insightful, intelligent and true."
Well said!

But of course the publishers are only evaluating the money-making potential, as they perceive it. Intelligent, articulate, insightful and true doesn't necessarily translate into $$$.

And that's the editor's job at a publisher: to make money for his/her employer. I'd just love the chance to have a book published so i could go out and market the hell out of it and try to accomplish that very goal for them!

Karyn Lyndon said...

Re: Authors you've never heard of. I belong to the Dallas Area Romance Authors and there are about 150 members. About half of those are published. None of them are named Stephen King or Nora Roberts but they are multi-published authors that you've probably never heard of.

Re: Sillibance. Huh?

Re: Hope. There is an interesting string of blog articles at Code Code World (billcoupe.blogspot.com) on hope. I think that more than in any other field, successful writers are the ones who refuse to give up. Persistence pays in publishing. (alliteration)

Duke_of_Earle said...

Karyn,

1. Point well taken about authors I've never heard of. Doesn't mean OTHERS haven't heard of them. Stiil I see a lot of books in the library at that "New Releases" sections by first timers. So; "nobody's buying fiction?" Now THAT might be hype.
2. Sillibance? A good word. My reliable source "Dictionary of the Moment" (DotM) defines it as: "A series of 'ess' sounds, as in hissing."
Example from Literature: Poe's "The Raven."
"And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain..."
3. Another good point. And yes, good alliteration. That point (about persistence) is what has kept me chasing this dream for years, with no sign of giving up in the near future.

Karyn Lyndon said...

I agree with you (can you believe it???) I hear it over and over again at conferences and on e-mail loops. Agents and editors are always looking for a fresh voice and a great story. After all, it's their job to replace the authors who are burnt out, finally admit they can't make a living as a mid-list author or dying off.

(Anyone know how Nora Robert's health is...lol)

They are also looking for someone who they can market over the long term...not one-hit wonders. (I can just hear them turning down Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind.)

Recently there's been a lot of action in the Young Adult market. But just the other day I heard that sales aren't as expected so we should look for a decline in YA contracts offered.

Personally, I don't think YA sales were ever that good...the publishers were all just trying to make up for the fact that they TURNED DOWN Harry Potter (it ended up being published by Scholastic)...and looking for the next big kid's hit.

Hamel said...

One other note on this. I used to subscribe to Writer's Digest. They once had an article by gosh knows who, who said the best thing an aspiring author can do is look at what's selling at the local bookstore and then write something in that genre.

NEver mind being true to yourself, and gosh knows that by the time your write said book, find an editor, get a deal, print the book, and get it in the stores, your book is stuck on the shelves as part of a trend already gone by.

Geez.

Michelle said...

Damn - I want you to be published so I can come over for your book launch and then to sit in on the Oprah show when she interviews you and also to collect my copy of your book.

Who do I have to speak to? Give me your agent's name.

Okay, jokes aside. I do hope you get published as I am sure it is a great book.

Christina said...

yes, I'm a perfectionist, but the word is "sibilance"!

Duke_of_Earle said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Duke_of_Earle said...

I was sure someone would point that out. However, if you'll Google the word "Sillibance" you'll see that it is an alternate spelling of the older "sibilance."
Same definition.
Again, my source is John Earle's "Dictionary of the Moment" (DotM), which is never wrong.

Michelle: Thanks so much. My agent's name is included in the banner at the top of this blog. But he's already agreed to try to sell the book, so it's the publishers you/we/I have to convince.

Karyn Lyndon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
VikiBabbles said...

Why don't you stop calling it fiction, and instead label it as Creative Non-Fiction, or Autobiographical Fiction, or Creative Autobiographical Non-Fiction?

It is true that the current trend is non-fiction, particularly creative non-fiction. (Although The DaVinci Code is actually Fiction, most people seem to believe it is true, for some reason???). People are in to reality, or what they can be convinced is reality. Cherish is based on truth, why not call attention to that?