Jul 21, 2011

The Borders meltdown and a reality check

I'm a bibliophile. My family will tell you I'm never without a book nearby, usually at most five feet away unless it's in my car while I'm out and about. Bookstores are my idea of heaven on earth and must be avoided unless its Christmas or my birthday because I cannot go inside one without buying something. So as a reader, the news Borders is moving from Ch. 11 to Ch. 7 and liquidating everything makes me measure how much space I have on my bookshelves. Liquidation = tons of book on sale. New books, not the ratty used ones with mysterious stains, bent pages and wrinkly spines. I hate shopping but book sale shopping...that's a jacket of a different color.

As a writer and fellow human being, Borders closing is BAD NEWS. (Eleven thousand people are now without jobs!!) The chances of a new writer breaking into publishing are already only slightly better than winning the PowerBall lottery. Now publishers have just two major marketplaces to sell: Amazon and Barnes & Noble. (There are many indie booksellers out there but a few close every day.) The flood of printed books from Borders on the market means prices drop, profits drop and so do acquisition editors' budgets. Ironically, it's never been easier for a star to make money bc of all the virtual connections out there, but I don't think it's ever looked more glum for an unknown. And even established authors can't quit their day jobs. I saw a post on an agent's blog by one of her authors (I think it was BookEnds but it's been a few weeks). This author writes mystery books and has been around for a while. She's midlist, I'd say, perfectly respectable with a book or two out every year. Her writing income last year: $18,000.

These facts definitely temper my enthusiasm for publishing. Will I still write with an eye to someday see my name on a spine? Yup. But a lot of the anxiety is gone from the process for me now. I'm learning to enjoy the journey because, chances are, I may end up being the only one who takes it. Each project deserves my best but I'm starting to see each MS as more of a pet than a child.

So my question is: How does the current financial climate affect your dreams? If not, why not? I'd love to know the Secret of Eternal Optimism!

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