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Writing, FF Sparks (Writing)

[Writing] Market Musing

Okay, the 'oh, my god, my insecurities are real, my writing is fundamentally flawed' moment is past. However, there's some other stuff I've been thinking about.

At the workshop, Anna Genoese and Beth Meecham noted that sales are down in all book markets; people are more interested in paying for gas for their cars, etc., and so are watching more TV (as that's a cost they're already paying, whereas books are an additional cost per book). As such, the cost of producing books has gone up. This has been a real hassle for publishers, and also means they can accept less books than they'd like.

Similarly, short-fiction venues are also failing to be profitable. People aren't buying the print ones, and people aren't advertising in any of them. As such, a number of short fiction markets (Lenox Avenue, SciFiction, etc.) have closed down in the past few months. Others are not accepting submissions right now.

There was some talk about how writers can still succeed in such a market, as well as how they pick which manuscripts are accepted, etc. Luckily, I'm not trying to make my primary living at this (yet), but it's sobering.
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Have you been reading Cory Doctorow's serialized novel on Salon? It's called "Themepunks" and it's quite good. Reminds me rather strongly of Gibson's "Pattern Recognition" but it's an interesting take on the evolution of markets and art and journalism.

I personally think that writers will always be able to find work, because they in essence pull our collective dreams down from the sky and bind them into corporeal shapes -- they take stories from the collective mind and make them real. The only thing that changes is the form which those stories take.

Look at Sean Stewart, for example. Did rather well at traditional publishling (at least critically, if not monetarily) and is now a founder for a successful ARG company. Stories find a way to be told and storytellers find ways to tell them.

It'll just mean changing the mode. :)
Also, is the fountain pen in your icon a Cross? It's got that look to it, the sort of chunky new-metal fabrication from their ATX and Century II models.

(God. I'm such a pen nerd.)
You know, I have no idea what it is? I just did a Google Image search for 'fountain pen' and grabbed one that looked like it would fit into the drawing style. I didn't want to draw the tool again like I did with that wrench.

It does vaguely resemble an ATX, which is a pen that's caught my eye a few times, but not enough to really be one. Further, the site I grabbed the image from... whatever the pen was, it's discontinued (and thus no longer in their catalog, though the image was still there), but they don't carry Cross. Go figure. :/
Ah, technology and the web. How they change the face of the world!

This is why the push for online publications bothers me - not only do such electronic works further isolate people from society, they undermine so many parts of the working sector.

Another problem book publishers - primarily research-type book publishers - face is that they can no longer afford to print copious numbers of volumes then simply keep surplus copies in a warehouse, because they are now taxed on said copies. This has caused my library problems whenever we've had to replace a damaged or missing book; we can't just order a brand new copy. A lot of our replacements now come from used booksellers.
Online electronic publications in eBook format -- pay-to-download -- don't seem to have succeeded very well. The sales in a genre tend to be in the 100s, total, across all titles.

Though interestingly, the Tor folks said that when they release a book for free online (something they've been experimenting with), the book sells better. They assume this is because people are discinclined to read an entire work sitting at their computer monitor, so they read enough to be interested and then go buy the real book.

However, it's a difficult tactic to gain support for at the uppermost levels ("give it away for free when we're already having trouble making a profit?!"), and the sales boost isn't dramatic enough to make it easy to justify in terms of impact on the bottom line.