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The Sydney Writer's Festival is a fantastic experience for authors, readers and literary lovers in Australia. I have been there for a few days attending workshops and sessions so there will be a few posts on what I have learned. Yesterday I went to the US Publishing Trends session and wanted to share what I learned.
The speakers were: David Kent, CEO Harper Collins Canada, Nita Taublib from Bantam Dell, Catherine Drayton from Inkwell Literary Agency and Charlie Conrad from Broadway Books, a division of Random House Inc.
Here are some of the points discussed – paraphrased from the speakers:
- “Flat is the new up”. The industry is flat as a whole or declining, so flat “growth” is actually great! David Kent said “Take away the blockbusters [like Stephenie Meyer] and you can see the skull beneath the skin”. Good news is that children and YA books are still selling, so continue to write into those genres. You can't go wrong with books aimed at the women's book club market either.
- Nita Taublib read out an article on the genre of ‘literary fiction' and the ‘pen envy' over Dan Brown's soon to be blockbuster book and movie. Lit fic may be considered far more ‘worthy' than mainstream fiction but the publishers would generally rather have something that sells in the millions of copies as opposed to the thousands. Please write more blockbuster fiction!
- Publishers can no longer nurture new authors for several books or years prior to a bestseller because of the financial investment. Publishers need to pick sure fire winners in order to stay afloat so there may be no more room at the top in genres like crime.
- Ebooks are being given away successfully in order to promote a new print book. Lee Child's book downloaded over 50,000 times. It is a model that publishers are looking at.
- Catherine from Inkwell pointed out that authors need to ‘take care of themselves now' and build their own platform prior to pitching an agent or publisher. Authors need to develop their audience themselves rather than expecting the publisher to do it. It is a great thing for publishing that marketing has gone digital as it means authors can blog and twitter and get an audience themselves. [If you don't know how, check out Author 2.0 Blueprint!] . Books based on blogs are interesting to publishers as they have a ready-made audience.
- There will be new models of risk and reward sharing in the new publishing economy. Publishers will give fewer advances but give a greater % of sales instead. However, top, proven blockbuster authors can still expect the same advances. New authors cannot.
- What's in? Transparency, conservation, barter/savings, shared voices and the blogosphere, as well as small indie publishing and bookstores who are able to survive the global downturn.
- Questions were raised about digital publishing and the new Amazon Encore publishing model. If authors could use digital publishing to publish, and they have to promote themselves, then what is the future for publishers? The main answer seemed to be the quality of editing and the gatekeeper role. I agree that publishing houses have editing experts, but there are also increasing numbers of these professionals available for hire freelance. If all self-published authors committed to hiring a pro editor, what is left then?