Friday, February 12, 2010

Repeat After Me: Change is Good

First, a big thanks to Rosemary Harris for a terrific guest blog yesterday. I wonder how well she’d write in a blizzard? After reading her blog, I have no doubt she’d do pretty well.

DSCF1009  Second, a snow update from the D.C. suburbs: Shoveled snow for seven consecutive days. Measured 27 inches over the weekend, another 6 or 8 or 10 inches on Tues/Wed (I lost track). Damage report: one broken snow shovel, trunks of two small trees snapped, power out for two hours overnight (we were lucky), minor muscle aches and pains. The kids have been off school since last Friday, and, miraculously, no one has been strangled. All in all, we weathered the storm just fine. Of course, I made awful use of my snowbound time, once again failing to do my taxes, clean the basement, and learn how to juggle. On the plus side, I did dabble in a new genre, snow fiction.

(Whining Disclaimer: Yes, I know that for many of you living in the wilds of Colorado or Minnesota or Canada, three feet of snow is no big deal. But the Nation's Capital is not used to it, nor are its residents prepared for it. We're equipped to handle inaugurations and partisan muckraking and political scandals. And panda bears. Not snow.)

Now, today's blog entry:

I'm still a relative newbie in the world of publishing, but even I can sense a tidal wave of change in the offing.

Just a sampling:

Consolidation. Book retailers have been consolidating (and shutting down). Hardly a week goes by without another independent store closing its doors. Of course, financial troubles aren't limited to the independents (Hello Borders).

Industry layoffs. The big New York houses started downsizing in earnest when the economy went south. How they will recover remains to be seen.

Tales of the shrinking midlist. If you believe the (thousands of) publishing blogs, it's still a dandy time to be a best-seller, but pickings are slim for everyone else.

Going digital. If you've cruised the blogosphere lately, you know what's been garnering the most attention--the potential onslaught of ebooks. How will their increasing market share affect every aspect of the business, from authors to publishers to distributors to readers? Which devices will survive? The Kindle? The Nook? The iPad? Something we haven't even seen yet? What pricing model will win out? What about piracy? How will lower barriers to entry (for ebook authors/publishers) change the landscape? Who will become top dog in the ebook world? Amazon? Barnes & Noble? Apple? And where is Google in all this?

Lots of questions. Lots of predictions. (Predictions are like, uh, noses. Everybody's got one.) Few real answers. The only constant is change.

So what can we do about it all?

Much of the change is beyond our control, so we might as well relax. We need to stay current. Adapt the best we can to shifting conditions. Position ourselves to take advantage of whatever may come. Trite advice? Sure. Nebulous? Absolutely.

But we can control one thing--the most important thing. We're writers. We provide the content. We need to write damn good books. I believe if we can do that, we'll be in a good position to figure out the rest. No need to panic.

We'll be okay.

Now, get writing.


Are you an embracer of change, or does all this talk of gloom and doom send you into the bedroom, where you can pull the blankets up over your head and wait out the storm, hoping it will just blow over? You can tell the truth, we're all friends here.




Lisa Bork said...

Change is good, Alan. Makes life interesting.

I'm impressed no one was strangled after a week of being homebound together. Clearly you have what it takes to weather change.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I do think change is good. I'm excited about change. (I have been brainwashed! You should have asked me this a few years ago...different answer.)

A week of no school. ARRRRGGHHH! Better you than me, Alan...

Mystery Writing is Murder

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Overall I believe change is a good thing. It brings growth. As far as publishing goes, I try not to obsess over the current unstable climate. I just play ostrich in the sand (with one eye open-ouch) and keep writing.

Snowbound with kids for a week. Geeez, my whole being shudders at the thought. You are a brave man, Alan. And you can endure anything. Publishing is nothing compared to what you're going through.

G.M. Malliet said...

There will always be an audience for books, because there will always be an insatiable need for entertainment. Especially during blizzards. Especially when the TV and Internet aren't working.

I am keeping my eyes tightly shut during the publishing troubles - somehow it all will work out, because it has to.

I've written barely a word during all this, strangely, taking it as a holiday, and a sign that I am free to read whatever I want until all this blows over, so to speak.

Keith Raffel said...

I would guess before everyone who reads this posting is dead, a computer will be able to write a bestselling mystery or thriller. We talk about certain writers producing books like a factory. Well, factories producing computers and cars can be computr-controlled. Why not ones producing bestsellers? On that scary/cheery note, enjoy your weekend everyone!

Cricket McRae said...

I love snow days. Not so sure about snow weeks, though. And generally I'm a fan of change. After all, as the bumper sticker reads, "Change is inevitable. Struggle is optional."

MommyHeadache said...

Hi I'm burrowing out of the snow too - I rather enjoyed it maybe I'm a masochist!! I think you have to embrace change...sink or swim

Alan Orloff said...

Lisa - So far so good on the strangling. We've still got the weekend to go before school starts again. Wish us luck!

Elizabeth - I'm excited about change too. As long as it's good change :)

Sue Ann - There is something to be said for the ostrich approach. Being trapped in the house with other people is tough--why do you think I spent so much time outside shoveling?

Gin - "an insatiable need for entertainment" Well put, and, better yet, true! (Where do reality TV shows fit in?)

Keith - Thanks, man, for those uplifting words. Remind me not to invite you to my next party :) Actually, isn't there a famous (or infamous) "book" that was computer generated? Then they tried submitting it places to get it published? I'll have to research that (No, it wasn't called A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man).

Cricket - I tried struggling for a while, expended all my energy, and now I just sit back and let the world happen to me. It's easier.

Emma - Sink or swim. Well put. I think we'll be swimming if we have a few 50 degree days in a row!

Beth Groundwater said...

Now, I, who have done some research and programming in the field of artificial intelligence before I retired and became a writer, will have to disagree with Keith. Building knowledge bases and developing decision making algorithms is incredibly hard. Before you can program it, you have to define it--in intricate detail. And how does one define creative writing? Can even one of us articulate to the nth degree how we come up with characters, plot lines, clues, red herrings, etc.? And every day while we're writing, we make countless decisions on what to have our characters say to each other, how to describe the setting, what to put in and leave out of the story, and so on. Every single one of those decisions would have to be programmed into a mystery-writing computer. Sorry, this voice of experience says nope, not in my lifetime.

Alan Orloff said...

Keith, maybe you and your computing "cloud" would like to challenge Beth to a mystery writing duel. Mano a Womano. Fight to "THE END."

Keith Raffel said...

Beth, didn't say in your lifetime. Said in the lifetime of someone reading the blog. Why don't we meet in say 50 years and see who was right?