Publishing versus the economic crisis

by Ginger on December 2, 2008

in Inside Book Publishing, The 9-5

This post is going to be a trip into my professional world, and what has been on my mind regarding the economy. Just to forewarn anyone who isn’t interested in that stuff.

So, in case you don’t know, I work in book publishing. I have worked in publishing for several years now–I moved to New York to get a job in publishing, worked for two major publishing companies, and even managed to find a job in publishing when I moved out to the west coast. I’ve worked on teeny tiny books that sell less than 1000 copies, and I’ve worked on some of the biggest books of the past few years that sell millions and millions of copies (I can promise you that you’ve heard of at least a few of them, since Oprah is a fan of them).

I say all that to not to brag, but so that you understand that I have a little knowledge when I say this: this Christmas is going to hurt for publishers. Which is really problematic, since this is usually a kind of key quarter for profits, like most industries that sell goods into a retail space. People will buy books, they always do, but numbers are already way down and they show no real signs of perking back up too much.

One of the main reasons this pains me so much is that it will mean that independent stores will be closing. I hate to be a downer, but if the largest book chains in the country are struggling through this time, then local indie stores are going to be even harder hit. And that’s not even taking into account the credit crunch & the real estate issue. The little bookstores, that give so much of their hearts and souls, just won’t all be able to survive if the holiday season is as bad as indications show.

Publishing is an industry that is touched by, and touches, many more folks besides just author and publisher. Freelancers, designers, bookstores, libraries, distribution companies, small gift shops, stationary stores, mail order catalog companies, printers, agents, sales people, and the employees for any retail space that sells books. When any of those have problems, it will affect publishing…and vice versa.

Look, publishing is a weird industry. In some ways it’s the stupidest possible business model (anyone who knows about the returns issue in the industry will understand what I mean). At the same time, it’s an extremely old-fashioned industry. Some publishers have gotten on board with things like online marketing, ebooks, digital content distribution, but it’s been a long slow fight for most. And some still aren’t coming along very quickly. This holiday season may serve as a wake-up call for some publishers: adapt and change for the times, or die living the old life. For many, though, it will be time when they hunker down, layoff staff, stop buying so many manuscripts, and cut marketing budgets, hoping that the end of this economic valley comes soon so they can get back to business as usual.

I don’t know that I had a point to this post, other than to try and walk through my thoughts about this. I don’t really feel like I’ve captured what I want to say, but this will have to do for now. It’s a complex bunch of thoughts in my head, just like it’s a complex set of issues in the real world.

I’ll just leave with this…if possible, support your local, non-national chain shops this holiday season. Whether you’re buying books or other gifts–they’re going to need it.

Single December 2, 2008 at 11:55 pm

Reading this brought a couple of thoughts to mind for me. First of all, I was trying to think of my favorite independent bookstore. I have never found one in San Diego. But the one I’m pulling for this Christmas is Bookmans in Tucson. My brother and I went there when I visited him and traded in a bunch of books and I just thought it was a great place.

Sadly, since I’m not working (and even when I am again, I will be on a strict budget), buying books is more of a luxury for me right now. I bought several used books this weekend at the thrift store and I’m going to use the library a lot in Hawaii. I wish I could help out independent stores more but right now I’m having a tough enough time myself. I hope things getting better soon, though it’s not looking good.

Single´s last blog post..Happy Thanksgiving

Tough Girl Kat December 3, 2008 at 4:48 am

Aww, but i love local mom and pop book stores.

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