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Friday, November 07, 2008

Surviving the Doom and Gloom

Have you noticed the subject lines of PW Daily lately?

11/7 2008 Scholastic Buyout Draws 100
11/6/2008 Profits Stink at Harper
11/5/2008 Trade Sales Dip in September
11/4/2008 B&N Unhappy Forecast


Equally as cheerful is this little article on New York that asks ‘Have We Reached the End of Book Publishing as We Know it’—the article is happily named “
The End.”

It reminds us that our biggest advocator of books, Oprah, will be off the air soon, rings the death knell of Borders Group while calling B&N stingy. Amazon, it appears, is trying to take over the world (publishing that is.) The article also states their opinion as to how things got into this mess.

Right now isn’t exactly the most encouraging time for aspiring novelist. This week someone jokingly called me and asked if I’d look over their work. They wanted to pitch it before the entire industry collapsed.

Ha, ha. Funny. (I hope.)

But this week I also read something encouraging. Something that reminded me that writers write, whether any one is buying or not.

Here’s a query from the 18th century:

Sir, I have in my possession a manuscript novel comprising 3 vols. About the length of Miss Burney’s Evelina. As I am well aware of what consequences it is that a work this sort should make its first appearance under a respectable name, I apply to you. I shall be much obliged therefore if you will inform me whether you choose to be concerned in it, what will be the expense of publishing it at the author’s risk, and what you will venture to advance for the property of it, if on perusal it is approved of. Should you give any encouragement I will send you the work.

The proposal was rejected and this book had to wait 16 years before finally becoming published. That book was Pride and Prejudice.

Jane Austen also sold another book to a publisher who didn’t bother to publish it. After thirteen years passed, her brother purchased the rights back, and the book, Northanger Abby, didn’t release until after Jane was in her grave.

Her books are still in print, and probably doing better than most.

Austen, it seems, loved writing for writing sake. My guess is that if she were alive, she’d simply skim the headlines, and then go back to writing her books. Guess I will too.


  1. Amen to that, Jessica - I remember when it looked like the plans my husband and I had to go to Bible College had suddenly "gone south." He came home with the bad news as I was packing and I barely looked up. "I don't know what God's plan is," I said, but I'm going to keep packing! Three days later, after a whirlwind series of amazing events we were off.
    So yes, let's just keep writing!

  2. People don't stop reading, maybe especially readers of novels. Could it just be it's time to cull the mass production and scrap the selection by committee approach? And maybe, just maybe, readers get tired of paying $14.99 for a 270 page novel? No matter how good a writer is, that's just wrong. JMO


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