Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Don't Panic

One of my favorite writers for science fiction, Douglas Adams, wrote the book Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Across the front of the guide is written in big friendly words, "Don't Panic."

This is good advice for all of us. I know a lot of people are worried right now about the economy and what the economy is doing to the publishing world, but I think we are like chicken little running around saying the sky is falling when we're just getting a little rain. I know there are many would-be authors who are rethinking finishing their books because they think the market is too sour right now and no one is acquiring new work.

Dave Wolverton (aka David Farland) is a friend of mine and he has a "daily kick in the pants" email he sends out for writers on writing. Last week he sent out an email regarding the state of the publishing world in these economic times. I am going to paraphrase him and outright quote him here, because he had some good logical things to say. Have the bookstores and publishers taken a hit recently? Yes. Of course, they have. We have all the bad news about the layoffs and book returns flooding in. However:

A decline will occur any time that a huge national "event"
occurs. if you had a book that came out during 9/11, your sales
dropped through the floor. I had a novel that came out during the first
Gulf War, when pictures of missiles exploding over Baghdad played on television
every night. Sales were down by more than 32 percent across the country on
books, and I took a hit. If your book comes out during the Olympics, you
need to worry. Similarly, when O.J. Simpson was on trial, people were
glued to the television, and book sales plummeted.
In short, any huge, extended national event like this will cause
authors some grief: but it has nothing to do with the recession!That's why in
Canada, sales were up modestly at the same time they were down in the United
States. The Canadians weren't glued to the television trying to figure out
which politician to vote for.

There was a report recently that a large book chain that services the
airports had disappointing sales a couple in September and October―about a 12.6%
decline that affected mostly nonfiction, while fiction sales were actually up by
one percentage point.
But guess what? Another report by
mainstream news organizations mentioned that air travel in the United States was
down that month by about 12.8 percent. So of course book sales were down
in airports proportionally!

Thanks, Dave. This is all very good information to help give us perspective. In essence, the message is, "don't panic."

The market will bounce back; it always does. And editors at publishing houses ARE acquiring new work. I'm part of an email list for youth writers and I swear, every day, someone is writing in about their new book sold.

But if you're still worried, may I suggest you contribute to the solution and buy someone you love a book this year for Christmas? My kids get books for every Christmas and Birthday. And I usually get them signed books (this is a benefit of having lots of friends who write for the children's market). Check out your local bookstore and see what authors are going to be signing over the next couple of weeks. Stop in, say hello and get a perfect gift.

Save the industry--buy a book.


Charlie Moore said...

People are buying books. I have several books on my Christmas "wish list" and hopefully will get a couple of them. Glen Beck did a signing at the local Deseret Book in Pocatello tonight for one hour and easily signed hundreds of copies of his new book. I wasn't able to go but saw long lines on the news. I agree that a book makes a great gift.


hi, it's me! melissa c said...

This was a great post. I figure I will just keep writing and have a lot to sell when the market picks up!