The word has hit the street. Tough economic times have the publishing industry cringing as they await the holiday season. In USA Today they quote an internal B&N memo by chairman Len Riggio that says the chain is expecting "a terrible holiday season" and "never in all my years as a bookseller have I seen a retail climate as poor as the one we are in.". Publisher's Lunch newsletter, quotes USA Today, says there's more "competition for attention and dollars".
Literary agent Richard Pine says (according to USA) that B&N is limiting its orders "on titles other than the big, sure-thing best sellers".
HarperCollins "reported that fiscal first-quarter operating income had slid to $3 million from $36 million a yer earlier,"
Today reports the grim news that layoffs have already begun. Doubleday made a 10% cut in staff (16 employees) and Rodale a 7% cut (14 employees).
This news comes on the heels of the earlier rumor that Borders was looking for a buyer, and then (as reported last week) informing their distributor that they'd be witholding payment for a certain period of time. Competition from online booksellers and the other discount outlet stores are putting Borders in the hot seat, as the industry watches nervously to see what becomes of the giant.
Beyond the hope of holiday sales, the future looks even grimmer. According to The New York Times, Jamie Raab, Grand Central publisher says, "You know to a certain extent people will be in the stores during the holidays. What will happen once there is no reason to be in the stores?" Although she adds that "A book is still this incredibly lovely, respectable gift, and a lot cheaper than other luxury items".
Times further reports that "royalty advances for so-called midlist authors could come under pressure." and that Christy Fletcher, Manhattan literary agent says "Something may sell for $50,000 that would have sold for $100,000 a year ago."
Others in the industry are taking a more optimistic outlook, however, such as BookReport.com's Carol Fitzgerald, who told USA TODAY: "Books could be one of the few categories that could be even, and even is the new up." And the NY Times pointed out that books can provide an escape from financial misery." And quote Larry Weissman, literary agent, as saying "I think there is a yearning for authenticity out there, and peolpe are going to go back to the things that really matter, and one of those things, I hope, will be reading books."
SO, folks, all we can do is fasten our seatbelts and prepare for the bumpy ride. You can help yourselves survive and with luck thrive, in this recession, however, by making certain that you are taking advantage of your platform, and your business savvy. When publishing budgets tighten, so will marketing budgets. Be prepared to be your own sales agent and learn all you can about the advantageous ways you can promote yourself and your book.
Investigate on-line marketing and a web presence. Some possible sources to help you are GET KNOWN BEFORE THE BOOK DEAL by Christina Katz, and her site (see it at right). Penny Sansevieri of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. has several titles FROM BOOK TO BESTSELLER: AN INSIDER'S GUIDE TO PUBLICIZING AND MARKETING YOUR BOOK! and RED HOT INTERNET PUBLICITY. Her site is listed on the right as well. I've heard the lady talk and she is excellent.
Besides optimizing your platform and learning how you can market yourself, the last best piece of advice is: Write the absolute best book you can.
Then strap on that kevlar, heft that shield, load that six-gun - and prepare to brazen out these tough times until Happier Days are Here Again!
Good night and (as Edward R. Murrow said) Good Luck!