Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Future of Books

This past Sunday, I attended the Heart of Texas Sisters in Crime chapter meeting. The speaker, David Heavener, talked about screenwriting and the film industry. Heavener is an award winning filmmaker and actor. He’s also an speaker and singer/songwriter. Although his focus was on screenwriting, it was easy to translate his comments to book writing.

He talked about the importance of having a goal, of knowing what you want to do and where you want to be in your career. With that “end” in mind, you establish smaller steps to get to that goal. This is true for writers. What is your ultimate goal? Write it down. Then find out what you have to do to reach that goal - write those steps down. You can divide that into many smaller goals, each with its own steps. Perhaps your overall goal is to become a best-selling author. What are the intervening goals? Write a book. What are the steps to get to that? Edit the book. Again, steps. Find an agent. Steps. And so on, all the way to your ultimate goal.

One thing I found especially interesting about Heavener’s talk was his prediction about the movie industry. He predicts that, basically, it’ll be gone as we know it in five years. Hollywood is already losing more money than it’s making. With the economy the way it is in California, there’s already talk of taking away the help the movie industry gets, such as not having to pay property taxes. He says movies are moving to Webisodes and perhaps much shorter movies supported by advertisers.

As I listened, it made me think of books. The book industry is changing - reluctantly - but changing nonetheless. Self-publishing is bigger than ever now that you don’t need a major house to sell your books on Amazon or B&N online or the myriad of other outlets. E-books are growing in popularity, especially among the younger generation, which, incidentally, is the same age group changing movies to Webisodes. Book promotion still takes place in brick and mortar bookstores, but not like in the past. Internet promotions are just as important, if not more prevalent, as actual tours. More and more people are buying their books online or downloading them to reading devices.

I find it hard to believe we’re nearing the end of print publishing or actual bookstores. But then, I’m old enough to have trouble imagining not going to the movies and sitting with my popcorn to watch a movie on the big screen. My kids are used to watching movies or Webisodes on their computer screen. What will your kids’ kids watch? What and how will they read?

(Speaking of speakers…After you leave us a pithy comment here about the end of publishing as we know it, drop by The Blood-Red Pencil. I’m doing a 4-day series on Public Speaking for Authors. Yesterday, we talked about Organizing Your Talk. Today, the topic is Practicing Your Talk.)
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22 comments:

  1. I know publishing has to evolve like everything else, but I think it will be a sad day if there aren't any print books in brick and mortar stores. I do have a Kindle, but I still buy paper books.

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  2. As some of you may already know, I've taken the self-publishing leap, with the very capable Helen Ginger as my editor.

    I'm learning a lot in the process and it's not as expensive as it used to be.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
    http://www.morganmandel.com

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  3. I think the dire prediction about the movie industry is a bit pessimistic. I'd gladly see an end to big budget tosh with over-paid stars, and more of a focus on thoughtful, intelligent films that don't require 100 million dollar budgets. John Scalzi's blog often has acommentary on how film writers' work gets chewed up and spat out by Hollywood.

    I've been following the series on public speaking, the prospect of which horrifies me, and even now the model described doesn't so much apply to the niche genre markets that are going to become more viable as internet distribution and e-books take off.

    Worldwide you might be able to sell 5000 copies of your "female vampire detective who's in love with the ghost of a werewolf" novel but in your local area, or state, or even entire country, it would be futile trying to tour your work around because the fan-base is so diffuse. So, you're going to have to target Conventions, OR set up your wares on the web and attract potential customers, like a pot of jam attracts wasps.

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  4. The prediction about movies makes me sad, as does the direction paper books are heading. I love the benefits of technology like computers--I still remember typing on a Selectric II--but somehow the tought of no movie theaters and watching episodes with commercials is not very appealing.
    Karen

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  5. Heavener, the man who spoke at the meeting, is still an independent film producer. I don't think he wants this radical change he's predicting, but feels it's coming.

    Karen, have you tried to type of a typewriter lately? I have. It'll make you really appreciate your computer!

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  6. It definitely makes me sad. I think the biggest change for me has been the constant shrinking of my local newspaper. But I do think we'll have to embrace the changes. My kids see nearly everything online--their favorite TV shows, their music, etc. It's the natural next step for movies and books, I'm afraid.

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  7. I have to admit, Elizabeth, I'm probably one of those causing the decline of newspapers. I canceled my paper subscription years ago. I still occasionally look at a paper when my DH brings home one from a trip. Otherwise, I get my news online.

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  8. I LOVE going to movies so I hope there's never a day when movies don't exist. Although they SHOULD pay property taxes.

    I think blogs are going to eventually hurt the book industry, as well as the magazine/newspaper industry. The younger generations are spending more time online than they are reading books already. Why pay when you can get anything you want online for free? But there will always be books...it's just that only the strong will survive.

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  9. I hope the news outlets will survive online. I'd hate to think that some day our "news" will come from bloggers and tweeters and radio personalities! (And I'm two of those things.)

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  10. Re Newspapers
    I get my news online, too, but we take the weekend papers because they're filled with local events and a lot of photos. It's also nice to share a little of that morning time.

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  11. I don't even want to think about the demise of movies as we know them or books. I also enjoy my morning coffee while reading the local paper. I think I'm going to go and stick my head in the sand (right after I visit Blood Red Pencil) and pretend it could never happen!

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  12. I'm with you, Helen. I did away with print newspapers long ago, and with it the ink stains, piles in the garage, and running out on the lawn to pickup a drenched pile of paper I could neither open, nor read. I'm wondering, however, how long it will be before newspapers charge for site admission. A few do now. I'll bet more of that is on the way.

    Best Regards, Galen
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

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  13. Industries change but demand stays the same. There will always be a demand for entertainment so the movie industry will always be around perhaps just in a different form. In my opinion the thing that will keep traditional publishing alive is the human habit of collecting. We love having things to look at and I don't think a list of books on your hard drive is going to fill the need.

    And Galen...I think you're right about the newspaper sites.

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  14. Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if newspapers begin to charge for online content. Then we'll have to read their teaser tweets and consider it news. I agree, Elspeth, I don't see the movie industry disappearing, but it may be radically changed from what we know today.

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  15. Oh, pertinent post as there's a script writing element in the second part of my OU course. I can't imagine the end to films or books, but then I couldn't imagine blogging or having internet 'conversations' with people I've never met. (Hey! Perhaps I have no imagination.) I think Elspeth is right that the demand won't change but just as I was getting round to think about ebooks there was all the fuss about '1984'. I'd feel uneasy about the thought that my reading material was about to be censored or changed on someone elses' say-so.

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  16. Wow, my Friday post is going to be so full of info!

    Set those goals, Baby! Yeah! Sorry, slipped into Spunky mode there...

    From a lot of personal experience with appearing in bookstores, it's slowly slipped to the bottom of my list of effective ways to move books. Few people are buy beyond that one book they have to have and came in to get. Besides, bookstores mean RETURNS - the evil of the industry! And returns take such a bite out of royalties...

    L. Diane Wolfe “Spunk On A Stick”
    www.circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com
    www.spunkonastick.net
    www.thecircleoffriends.net

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  17. I'm still bemoaning the downfall of drive-in movies and the fact that nobody can spell or do basic math anymore what with all the technology. So it's just one more nail in the coffin of the "good old days" - the world will go on, I'll just have to get over it.

    The Old Silly

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  18. Sometimes things come back, Marvin. A few of the drive-ins are making a revival and LPs are hip again. If you add those together, that's three things that are hanging in. ;-) (You can forget about the revival of math.)

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  19. I just can not imagine a world without printed books and looking around me I know I never will... the thought of no more books going to print and it is all on your computer or downloaded on I PODS and Kindles really tugs at my heart.

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  20. I'm with you Sheila. And I think we will have print books. And not just in museums. But I do see ebooks edging their way in and taking a huge chunk of the market.

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  21. Seems like TVs were going to stop our kids reading books, and computers were going to pirate all the movies. Maybe we'll just add ebooks and webisodes to the list of available options and gain instead of losing.

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  22. Good points Sheila. The world never stops revolving or changing!

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