Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Brave New (Virtual) World

Romantic suspense author Pamela Loewy shares her thoughts about our new wired universe and the challenges it poses to writers, publishers and booksellers. She'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic as well. Welcome, Pamela!

As a newly-published author facing the daunting proposition of marketing my book in our 21st century virtual landscape, I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of books and the publishing industry in general.

Ebooks increasingly dominate the market, and with the advent of POD (print-on-demand), self-publishing has grown exponentially. Even as they jump on the electronic bandwagon, conventional publishers must deal with a decreasing customer base, and many bookstores face that same problem. And public libraries – in the next decade or two, will such entities still exist, at least in physical form? For those of you who are Star Trek fans, think of Captain Jean-Luc Picard (to my mind the most philosophical of Enterprise captains) caressing that rarest of antiquities – a hardbound book.

Consider the millions of books (and trillions of words) floating about in the virtual world. If you write a book and want to publish it, no problem, but marketing and selling that book are quite another matter. Those of us who have found conventional publishers are still expected to take on much of the marketing work. And self-published authors bear a stigma due to the perceived marginal quality of self-published writing. Beware– the sharks abound. Vanity and subsidy publishing companies charge authors from hundreds to thousands of dollars to publish their books, and may offer questionable marketing and publicity packages as well. (If you’re an author who’s considering self-publishing, be sure to do your research before you leap, so you can choose your best option.)

Here’s the conundrum – most of us writers aren’t marketers, but if we want to sell our books, we have to be. Establish an Internet presence, we’re told. Blog. Twitter. Set up your Facebook account and befriend the world.

Oh, man. I’d so much rather work on finishing my second novel, or read a good book, or sit on my back deck and stare up at the trees. As I set up my website and blog, I wonder, with websites and blogs proliferating like viral bunnies, how many people are actually going to take a look at mine? Information overload, my tech-savvy daughter calls it. The data available to us on the Web seems endless, but our capacity to absorb information is obviously not.

Back to the physical world - I visited my local bookstore earlier this week. There were hardly any customers, and I suspect the place would have been even emptier if it didn’t have a cafe. Part of a nationwide chain, the bookstore anchors one end of a mall that’s seen better days. Empty storefronts abound; if you’re in the mood to get depressed, our mall’s a prime destination. My husband and I haunt bookstores almost every weekend, but he finds better deals on Amazon, and I’m starting to lust for an e-reader.

We’re all of us trying to find our way – publishers, booksellers, writers, readers. My job is to take advantage of the marketing opportunities the virtual world presents and not get overwhelmed by them, and to remember that no matter how many books I sell or don’t sell, I’ve already won the prize – the joy of creation, of putting part of my soul into print. It is (forgive the pun) beyond words.

Pamela's novel, Saving Jemma, was published by The Wild Rose Press this September. Saving Jemma may be ordered in both paperback and digital formats from The Wild Rose Press, Amazon.com, and Digi Books Cafe. And please stop by at her website and blog: http://pamelaloewy.weebly.com.


Mason Canyon said...

Pamela, it is a scary thought that the bookstores aren't as crowded as they once where. I know modern technology is a wonderful thing, but just think about when there's a storm and no power. Sure e-readers will work for awhile but their batteries die. Give me a good old fashion paper book and I'm in heaven. Enjoyed the post.

Terry, thanks for introducing me to a 'new to me' author.

Thoughts in Progress

Pamela Loewy said...

Hi Mason,

Thanks for your comments. And I agree - physical books are so satisfying. I can't imagine a world without them. And you're right about the power issue. Pencil and paper are dirt cheap, and never crash. For all the wonders of modern technology, I think it's made our lives much more complicated.

Linda Leszczuk said...

My local bookstore will have one regular customer until it goes out of business (God forbid). I have no interest in e-readers. I like a 'real' book. I hope I'm not alone.

Kathy Otten said...

I love my e-reader and I love my books. Both have their advantages, but it's apparent that electronic formats are going to swallow the mass market paperbacks. Owning an ereader, I have purchased books that were so poorly written I wanted to throw them against the wall--something you can't do to an e-reader. Personally, and there are certainly exceptions, I think self-published books are out there because the authors got tired of rejections. And for me I've become a lot more discerning before I purchase. I check out the publisher, looking for those that are reputable and I read the reviews. I think readers are going to look for quality and over time much of the self published people will be passed over for better written ebooks.

Pamela Loewy said...

It will be fascinating to see where we are ten years down the road. Like Linda, I intend to frequent my local bookstores as long as they're in business. I wonder if small, independently-owned bookstores, which have been a dying breed, might reemerge as viable enterprises in the new virtual world, particularly if they can offer customers a place to physically browse books, a cup of coffee, a social destination - kind of like a Starbucks for books.

Jill James said...

I love my ereader and I love books. But, my house isn't going to hold any more physical books. I've been donating 50 a month to Goodwill and it hasn't made a dent on my garage shelves. I just wish my ereader had a way to mark 'been read' on it. I love going to the bookstore and browsing.

Unknown said...

We agree, there's nothing better than the smell of a bookstore, the feel of holding a book in your hand, especially if it's yours, but we understand that the world is changing. Ereaders are growing in popularity. Our books are available in both, and we might feel differently next year, but right now we're still voting for the printed book. Thanks for the great blog, Pamela.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Nice post, Pamela. Thanks, Terry, for hosting this discussion. I don't know if I'll ever give up holding real books in my hand while I read, but I am also lusting after an e-reader. E-book prices are very appealing when compare to the cost of hardcovers.

Alison Henderson said...

Pamela, your post echoed everything I've learned in the past year. As a fellow new e-pubbed author, I couldn't have said it better.

Jemi Fraser said...

I love bookstores and hope they never go out of business!