June 18, 2013
Written by Nicole Narea
Thursday, 12 May 2011 00:00
I was recently having lunch in Greenwich with an up-and-coming author — my father, H.T. Narea, whose debut thriller The Fund comes out May 10. Over a couple of iced teas, we discussed how today’s publishing world is decidedly different than the one my grandfather, novelist Paul Erdman, knew back in the 70s and 80s.
To give you an idea, a Google image search brings up an iconic photo of Paul Erdman from The Sonoma County Independent, reposing on the patio by the pool of his California ranch and overlooking the surrounding vineyards.
It was there that he completed the manuscripts of many of his best sellers on a portable Olivetti typewriter with a cigar in his teeth and a bottle of Wite-Out at his side.It’s perhaps a quaint scene, romantic even, in comparison to my father’s nationwide multimedia marketing campaign, spanning newspapers, magazines, television, radio, and social networking sites. Indeed, his over 27,000 followers on Twitter speak for themselves — a Google search of H.T. Narea returns a decidedly 21st-Century approach to book marketing.
It may be madness, yes, but not excessive when considering how sales in print books have fallen 25% in the last year and only one in two Americans are regular readers, according to the Association of American Publishers and Gallup polls. The survival rate of new authors who rely exclusively on 20th-Century marketing techniques is slim, as they attempt to conquer an already dwindling readership amongst the noise of a store like Barnes & Noble, where hundreds of tomes boast “NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER” with all pomp and circumstance. It’s official: The salad days of my grandfather’s career are over, when hosting a summer of in-person book signings could have made a blockbuster.
This translates to a larger epidemic.
On the surface, the publishing industry seems to face pretty grim odds with the decline of print. However, I remain optimistic because, while the print medium will eventually become obsolete, the digital market presents a new frontier, a chance to reach a far broader audience. Current data is certainly promising. According to CNNMoney, e-book sales recently trumped paperback sales for the first time, reaching $90.3 million in February, a 202% increase from the same month the last year.
Why is the success of these digital publishing platforms so crucial? Indeed, it is what governs the content itself. As publishers continue to stumble financially, Debbie Stier of HarperCollins wonders if they should “have fewer authors and sell more books,” according to New York Magazine.
If that were the case, rookie writers would be dwarfed by established authors — the James Pattersons and Dan Browns of the industry would be impenetrable. But there is, in fact, another trend: The rise of digital-only superstars who circumvent the traditional agent and publishing house altogether.
Last month, author Amanda Hocking sold over 480,000 e-books of her nine titles after self-publishing on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com, according to USA Today. Evidently, the core product — storytelling — will always be in hot demand. The transition from print to digital in publishing is just a quandary of the delivery system.
Purists may balk at the prospects of page turns being reduced to the perfunctory flick of a finger on an LED touch screen and the comfortable weight of a book being diminished to a file on a computer chip.
But as much as I love the coarse texture of pages in hardback, the robust smell of yellowed paper, I admit the future of publishing undeniably lies in technology, whether it be a Kindle, iPad, Nook, or an online business model.
It’s time to turn the page and start a new chapter.
Nicole Narea is a junior from Greenwich at Convent of the Sacred Heart.
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