More articles and blog posts about the future of the publishing industry have been written in the past two weeks than I can ever remember reading (and I spend 2-3 hours per day reading industry news). The massive layoffs at the major houses, cutbacks or freezes on manuscript acquisitions and gloomy sales reports have many predicting the fall of the industry and the end of books.
Considering that I have been in this industry over 30 years and love books, these gloomy forecasts might have made me sad, but I'm not. Not at all. I am JUICED at the prospect of some real change in an industry that has operated in an outdated model for years. (Of course, I am compassionate for those who lost jobs, but there are other jobs, and much work to do for those who are committed to their own success and the future of book publishing.)
Looking to other creative industries, we have the models for change. I believe the salvation of the industry lies with the creators of the written word, not the publishers. Publishing has been slow to recognize the value of independent authors, unlike the music and film industries where indie artists are revered. I've attended writers conferences for decades and the message was always that it's hard to get published, but follow our rules, even though we probably won't accept your work anyway.
Faced with that bleak advice, many authors looked to other outlets for their message and found them in the form of self-publishing via print on demand, ebooks, blogs, spoken word, podcasts and books on cell phones. Yes, in the beginning quality was shaky and not of comparable quality to what the big houses put out, but all that has changed. "Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come," said Victor Hugo. The technology has made it possible and now authors finally have the opportunity to connect directly with their readers, a strategy that has been hugely successful in the music industry.
When I look ahead my vision is clear and hopeful about the direction of the industry and the future of publishing. We are entering the Age of the Author. Whoohoo!