On today’s Ask Us Pub Questions, Sarah wants to know: With all that has been going on in the book world —editors leaving or talking about burnouts, poor pay and work environment, do you think publishing is dying?
This is a very interesting question, Sarah! On one of our Roadside Cafe’s is a link to an agent’s blog post where she explained why publishing isn’t dying. She shared data of how many books her agency had sold just this year alone—as well as a general number of books being sold to publishers so far. That article really shows that while things are tougher, that the industry is still moving. Books are still selling, writers are still signing with agents, and so on.
Personally though, I’ve noticed that twitter—which is also a major source of information on the industry—is scary these days with so many negative predictions and disheartening stats. For me, I prefer being positive about this publication path (else I wouldn’t even have the heart to go on with pursuing it with all the discouraging recounts online!). So these days, I try to stay off Twitter and just focus on putting in the work to reach that big goal. I don’t think publishing is dying; I just think the field is harder now.
—Lucia, The Fantasy Writer!
I also think this is a very interesting question. I remember the Roadside Cafe link that Lucia is talking about. I thought it painted a good picture of what is happening while being hopeful too. In my opinion and experience, I also consider that publishing is not dying, although it seems things are getting slower and tougher with some agents and editors leaving the industry. I understand how that can be discouraging for writers, but I think that more than dying, the industry might be transforming.
I still believe there’s a YES waiting for writers out there, though it might take longer because of the reality of the industry right now. It’s important that writers consider that getting a yes also depends on the stories that are being written. There might be some themes that are more on demand right now, or others that maybe are saturated for the moment, so it’s a matter of waiting for the right time and finding the right people to champion your work. I guess all we can do is stay positive, keep an eye on the market and continue writing.
-Mariana, PB Writer!
This is a great question. There are a lot of circumstances to why someone leaves publishing and it is like that with every job. We don’t know what is happening behind doors (we aren’t in the room where it happens), but some who have left have bravely shared what conditions were in the jobs. The tradtional publishing world is changing just like how the world of television changed from being so focused on numbers as a show airs vs. the streaming response.
I don’t think publishing is dying, but I do think everything is going a bit slower than before. Over time, it will pick up again but by then a new market will be all the rage. We can’t predict the future as well. Also, as mentioned before, Twitter is a cesspool at times. Doomscrolling is a very real thing and we can’t help but get sucked into it to the point where we don’t hear any of the good. People are writing, querying, getting agents, and getting published. It all takes time, not a week.
-Briana, The Slice of Life Author
As long as people are still reading, I don’t think publishing will ever die. I do believe, however, that traditional publishing needs to evolve to keep up with the changing times – I agree with Mariana that the industry is transforming. Digitalisation has changed how people access and consume media, and that includes books! We’re seeing a big shift towards the importance of social media in book marketing, and changes in the forms of books themselves, with a rise in online serialisation. There isn’t only one fixed way to get published anymore!
As for editors leaving, burnout, poor work environment, honestly I think it says less about publishing in itself and more about the shitty capitalist mindset that is prevalent in many industries. Treat your workers right, and they’ll put in their 200% for you. If you view them as dispensable cogs in the machinery, eventually this will come bite you in the behind. I’m a big advocate for companies having good work culture (read: treat staff like human beings) so I do hope that everyone can continue to collectively push for some positive changes in publishing 🙂
-Amber, YA/NA SFF!
I don’t think publishing is dying. Like Mariana and Amber mentioned traditional publishing is getting slower and there has been a lot of attrition in the traditional publishing industry. One of the things I have noticed is some editors are pursuing freelancing and providing services for self published authors and hybrid publishing. I think we need to acknowledge that traditional publishing is not the only route and as long as people keep reading and writing books, the industry regardless of it is traditional, self or hybrid won’t go away.
-Alex, Romance writer!
I absolutely don’t think publishing is dying! I think a better way to describe publishing in the past few years is as a transition period. Yes, as a querying author it is very disconcerting to hear about all the agents and editors leaving the business suddenly on Twitter. But given that the pandemic has changed all of our lives, it isn’t really a surprise that publishing is also changing. Even with the slower wait times for agents and editors to consider work, I think that publishing won’t ever truly die as long as authors keep on writing and readers keep on reading.
-Reem, All Things With Heart In YA!