Is it the end of publishing as we know it?
From Publishers Weekly, it appears that bookstore sales have jumped 9.3% in February (to an astounding $1.11 billion). Of course this reflects sales through college and trade bookstores, so maybe we're just seeing a lot of folks buying textbooks for the spring semester. :)
However, despite all the folks predicting the triumph of independent publishing over traditional publishing, there's still room, and a need, for both. Yes, e-publishing is growing by leaps and bounds, and writers are finding it enormously freeing to take control of their work and publish it themselves. All kinds of "cottage industries" are starting to sprout up to support this, including editing services, graphic artists (cover design), and even formatting services.
Ironically, I think the first group of publishers to feel the squeeze might not be the big traditional NY publishing houses, although they are certainly struggling to figure it out. The first casualty may be the smaller houses. If you can hire an independent editor and graphic artist, why go to a small house? The ultimate product will be priced much higher than the standard ($.99 for novellas, short stories, and the first book in a series/$2.99 for standard novels). Those books will be unable to compete since they are up against: backlist books of established authors that have the advantage of having gone through the editing process at a traditional NY publishing house; and indie author books.
The thing that smaller publishing houses can give an author, however, may be sufficient to keep them going for a while. That thing is: credibility. Someone else thinks your book is worthy of reading.
We can't entirely discredit the desire for credibility or the even more compelling desire to be able to brag that an editor thought your writing was good enough to offer a contract. For some writers, even if they never sell more than 10 copies, that's reason enough to go with a publisher--any publisher--small or large. They want credibility as an author.
That's the one thing I haven't quite been able to wrap my head around when it comes to indie publishing. Humans naturally want to be able to categorize things and people. There are a lot of psychological reasons why and I won't bore you with all of them. But it is convenient to have various strata in any industry, because it gives you a "short-hand" to kind of know what you're dealing with.
Let's compare Publishing to Acting, because a lot of folks can relate to that, and it will show you want I mean.
Publishing Arena Acting Arena
Indie Authors Indie filmmakers, actors in commercials/supermarket openings
Small Press Authors Actors in bit parts
Mid-List w/ Trad. House Actors in the soaps/Made-for-TV Movies
NY Times Best Seller Movie Star
Mega-Author A-List Movie Star
If you remove the publishing houses from the mix...it's weird to see how it would all shake out. I mean, how can an A-List Movie Star get to be a movie star without a studio to produce the blockbuster movie.
And yet...you have Mega-Authors like Amanda Hocking come along as an indie author...and yet... She just signed a contract with a major publishing house. Just like any A-List Movie Star would.
In the end, I'm glad to see the good news from the publishing world, but I also think we don't really know how this is all going to shake out in the next several years.
Amy Corwin writes mysteries and romantic mysteries. Her latest "The Vital Principle" is available through Amazon and other online bookstores.
The Vital Principle
In 1815, an inquiry agent, Mr. Knighton Gaunt, is asked by Lord Crowley to attend a séance with the express purpose of revealing the spiritualist as a fraud. The séance ends abruptly, however, and during the turmoil, Lord Crowley dies. Gaunt is left to investigate not only fraud, but murder. Suspicion turns first to the spiritualist, Miss Prudence Barnard, but as Gaunt digs deeper into the twisted history of the guests at Rosecrest, he discovers more deadly secrets. Inevitably, long-time friends turn against one another as the tension mounts and Gaunt is challenged to separate fact from fiction.