Feeling lost and confused? Swamped by the tidal waves of change in the writing and publishing world? Me too. And so, I decided to look for some answers.
Today, I had the great pleasure of speaking with Edward Nawotka, the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives, an online magazine for the international publishing industry that has been called “the BBC of the book world.” Having read Publishing Perspectives since it began in May 2009, I, an indie author, thought Ed would be a very interesting person to interview. I certainly was right!
Since Ed reported from the Frankfurt Book Fair in October, I asked him what he thought were the greatest concerns today in the publishing industry and also what he saw down the road. I found his answers very thoughtful.
Definitely, the digital revolution, [the ebook vs. the paperback] was right there at the top of his list. When you look at the figures of increased sales of ebooks vs. paper, it may not seem so tremendous, but those figures, he says, are calculated on the basis of just the United States market. When other markets are taken into the mix, the sale of ebooks is rapidly gaining on paper book sales.
He says the market is growing globally. For example, the Frankfurt Book Fair is partnering with The Abu Dhabi and Cape Town book fairs. Consequently, the reach and the interconnection of book fairs will be much greater and will continue to expand the industry globally. I guess this is no surprise given the trends toward globalization of just about everything.
Another big issue for publishers is how to get more out of the content which is produced. The content producers are, of course, the writers—the creators. If an author has written a novel, the publisher is always looking for new ways to use that novel. Of course, filmmaking is a traditional route along with television. But now the potential for making video games from novels is being explored. As a novelist, it’s a stretch for me to think of the novel translating into a video game, but if a movie can be made from it, why not a game?
Along those lines, according to Ed, publishers are now exploring different dimensions, in ebooks. He mentioned Sebastian Junger’s novel WAR and his 96-minute documentary “Restrepo” that won the 2010 Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. The ebook format of the novel contains footage of the film—a good example of what can be done with ebooks to combine various media. Of paramount importance is how to engage investors at the earliest stages of this expansion and multi-use of content
But, he points out, that our imaginations may have outstripped our abilities to execute our ideas. In addition to different uses of the content, publishers want more from their authors, perhaps turning them into celebrities and have them out on speaking engagements etc. This made me think that not only do we want to interact on the internet with the book, but we want to interact directly with the authors whether in person or in social media.
Ed sees the issue of distribution as one of the biggest areas for dramatic change. Some books you can only get on the web, such as the self-published ones. They cannot get into the bricks and mortar stores. You have, on the one hand, the disposable ebook. On the other, there is the short run collectible. Most sales of disposable ebooks are Harlequin romances. And of course, the short run collectibles from letter presses are very popular but expensive. They certainly seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. What changes will occur in distributing these radically different forms?
I couldn’t resist asking how effective he thought the use of social media could be for an author—blogging, using Twitter and Facebook. He views it as a double-edged sword. After all, the writer’s job is to write the books in the best way possible. He/she has to be pragmatic about the world of social media. It is time-consuming, but if you are going to develop an audience for your work, you have to have something of substance and significance to say. If you do, you’ll find your audience.
We spoke about the traditional world vs. the indie and DIY world. I was interested whether Ed saw any areas of co-operation or partnering between the two worlds. He thought that there would have to be some real readjustments in attitudes on both sides. On the traditional side, there could be need for greater respect and on the indie side, less complaining. Amen! After all, he went on to say, more established writers show signs of moving to the DIY world and as they do, the traditional world will need new talented authors.
Right near the end of the interview, Ed raised a great question. Is the novel still an appropriate format for storytelling in this new world of publishing?
I was so taken with this question that I asked if I could call him back for an interview on that exact question. And he agreed. So, that’s the topic for the next time. Thanks Ed.