Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Publishing and the Booksellers

It's no secret that the publishing business has been in trouble for a long time. Just last week, McGraw-Hill announced that some 550 people would be losing their jobs. Of the many people Laurie has dealt with in her long career as a writer, very few are still gainfully employed in the publishing business. Book packagers and publishing companies have closed up shop as their work dwindles down to nothing.

One of my close friends, a printer his entire life, closed his family-owned printing company more than a decade ago and went to work as a sales rep for another printing company. That company was bought out by another printer and was then sold to yet another firm. He retired this year and is quite happy that he no longer has to deal with the daily grind of pursuing printing work in an ever-shrinking market.

In the comic book business, sales have been steadily dropping since a peak in the mid-1990s. Unit sales that fifteen years ago would have been considered too low and grounds for cancelling a title are now hailed as best-seller numbers. 

Bookstores have been victims of this as well. Local book shops succumbed to the big-store chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble, which in turn were undersold by Amazon. Borders is now gone, leaving B&N as pretty much the only brick-and-mortar franchise left.

But you have to wonder how much longer they will be around when you see their current TV commercial. It features Jane Lynch of "Glee" fame and a crew of B&N "staff" singing about how you should come into the store and buy a Nook. Of course, once you buy one, you never have to go into the store again because you can then order all your books (and plenty more) as downloads!

While you're there, wish the salesperson good luck in his or her new career outside the bookselling business.


  1. I think one of the reasons why comics today are doing so badly in sales - besides the bad storytelling that's been plaguing the mainstream items - is because the publishers remain glued on the monthly pamphlet format instead of switching to a trade-style format. Why, those books called "prestige format" could be just the perfect way to publish a comic book story, and 50 pages is a pretty decent amount in which to do it for starters. Yet they flatly refuse to consider those kind of options, possibly because they think the still shrinking audience cannot get used to something far better. If DC and Marvel's comic-based properties were sold to a different owner with a better sense of how to write and market them, I think that could lead to some much more impressive franchises that people might be willing to check out. But who knows if that'll ever happen?

  2. Good news to us about this -- Eliz figures she can edit for those writers seeking to go the self-published route. Brick and mortar won't die -- people still need to see a bunch of products -- but publishing will be 330 degrees different before the end of this decade.