Thursday, October 16, 2008

Books and the Economy

I’ve been holding off on publishing a post on the economy and how it might affect you, since it's something we just talked about in a July post. I think I’ve been in denial, hoping we’d all wake up from this bad dream or wake up to discover a huge jump in market points and world order restored. Alas, one quick call to my financial advisor and I’ve learned that doesn’t at all seem to be the case. Well, the final turning point for me was this article in The New York Observer. Really this article says almost everything I was hoping to say, but to make it easier for those who hate clicking over, let me put it to you in my own words.

The economy stinks and for all of you that stinks. Heck, for me that stinks. From the first drop in the market I’ve already started changing my thinking. I’m eternally grateful for those authors who are in the beginning stages of a new contract or securely under contract. While books are selling and BookEnds has in fact made a number of deals in the past few weeks, publishers are understandably going to start getting tougher and deals are getting smaller. Authors are going to start to seeing lower advance numbers and, yes, lower royalties. And everyone is going to take fewer risks. It was hard to sell a new unpublished, unproven author two months ago, imagine what it must be like now.

I haven’t heard yet that publishers are cutting lists (the number of books published each month), but we’ll see what happens when home budgets are cut and that means book budgets are cut. In other words, you find yourself buying fewer books each month and instead going to the library, or borrowing from friends. When that happens, watch the lists tighten up as well.

In plain English, it’s going to get a whole heck of a lot harder to get and stay published. Agents are going to take fewer chances. We’ll only be looking at authors who we feel are an almost sure thing and we’ll be carefully watching the careers of our clients, prepared to make quick adjustments as necessary. As it is now, when I take on a new client I need to really, really fall in love with the book. With the economy the way it is I think I need to fall dead in love with the book. For published authors, don’t be surprised to see your royalty earnings drop. Read my previous paragraph, but the more budgets tighten up the fewer books you’re going to sell.

The fact of the matter is that this economy is going to affect the way books are published and the careers of many authors. We might also see certain changes, like electronic books, take over faster than was originally predicted. Ebooks are cheaper to buy and cheaper to produce, publishing more books in ebook format would allow publishers to continue publishing more books, and it would also allow readers to continue buying more. I don’t know for sure, but it’s certainly a possibility.

So the economy stinks, but we all still need good books, especially now. So just make sure your books are really, really, really good.