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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Preaching in the Desert

The New York Times Sunday Book Review has an interesting piece on the book trade:

In 2007, a whopping 400,000 books were published or distributed in the United States, up from 300,000 in 2006, according to the industry tracker Bowker, which attributed the sharp rise to the number of print-on-demand books and reprints of out-of-print titles. University writing programs are thriving, while writers’ conferences abound, offering aspiring authors a chance to network and “workshop” their work. The blog tracker Technorati estimates that 175,000 new blogs are created worldwide each day (with a lucky few bloggers getting book deals). And the same N.E.A. study found that 7 percent of adults polled, or 15 million people, did creative writing, mostly “for personal fulfillment.”

A recent survey found 53% of Americans admitting that they had not read a book in the previous year. But hand in hand with this we have what The New York Times calls collective graphomania.

IUniverse, a self-publishing company founded in 1999, has grown 30 percent a year in recent years; it now produces 500 titles a month and has 36,000 titles in print, said Susan Driscoll, a vice president of its parent company, Author Solutions. While some are “calling card” books that specialists sell at conferences and workshops, most are by ordinary people who want to get their work in print. The writers tend to be on both ends of the age spectrum. “As people get older, they have more time and more money and something to say,” Driscoll said, while their grandchildren are often driven by “that need for fame,” she said. “They may not be avid readers, but they certainly are writers.” Not that anyone is necessarily paying attention. Driscoll said that most writers using iUniverse sell fewer than 200 books.

2 Responses to “Preaching in the Desert”

  1. Elysabeth says:

    This is an interesting article but seems unfinished. This topic of POD technology seems to come up on almost every forum out there. I think with the technological advances we have that is why we are seeing so many books being published. Unfortunately a lot of those books are going unread. So sad that we have advanced to have a book printed in a matter of minutes and yet no one seems to have the time to read the books being produced. And it is sad that there are so many not worth reading books being published nowadays. That is the one of the biggest obstacles about the technology – because of the quickness of being published, the quality has gone downhill. Some people just want their 15 minutes of fame. So goes life. Oh well, can’t win them all – E 🙂

    jb says: Hi Elysabeth. Looks like we’re going to have to hone our critical skills more and more in the future. There were always people around willing to sell us rubbish, but sometimes it feels like there are more of them than ever.

  2. The idea that much of what gets published is ‘garbage’ or at least less than best-seller status, is not new. Traditional houses publish bad novels and non-fiction every year. New technology, such as POD, is not the culprit. The culprit still lies with the human being choosing the books.

    Yes, it’s easier and faster to get a book to print today — than ever before. And, yes, there are some books which shouldn’t be printed. But, who’s to make that decision?

    Some of the books likely included in your stats are books printed at places such as Lulu, where new authors publish books about family, or create a cookbook because they can. These are not books even meant for mass distribution. They are not necessarily going unread – they are being read by the small group of people for whom they were created.

    Also, an area new authors who choose self-publishing and print-on-demand struggle with is marketing their book. They go into the process without a clear thought of how they are going to present their completed project to the audience it’s intended for.

    Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Bad books are nothing new. The ‘quality’ of printing using POD is dependent upon the publisher using POD and the amount of time, effort and investment the author wishes to make to the project – we aspire to very high quality. The quality of printing using traditional houses depends on… how much they think they will make on the book. Their ‘bad’ eggs are just as bad as anything coming out of a POD house.

    In the end, with the new technology today, with user-generated content like this blog, the world of publishing is wide open for success. Like any other endeavor, it takes work.

    jb says: Thanks for the comment, Yvonne. I’m in no way anti-POD and intend to use the new technology myself.