Monday, September 9, 2013

The Question Keeps Coming Up by Linda S. Glaz

As more conferences draw closer, I keep hearing the same question over and over. And I’ve done my best to address it as have many others, but still…here we go again.
Remember the small round 8 ball that answered your questions when you were about 10 years old? You could ask anything, and up came an answer. Fun toy, silly! But folks still have questions and no solid answers.

“What’s going on the industry? So and so shut down their fiction line. This and that editor have been let go. Have moved on. Have simply had enough. What on earth is happening?”

If I had a crystal ball and believed in that nonsense, I would tell you. But I don’t, and anyone who tells you they know what is going to happen is playing on emotions.

Fifteen or so years ago, I was at a conference with the head of one of the largest secular publishers in the world. She was smart, savvy, forward looking, but she said this, “No one will ever completely stop reading a paper book. This new trend with books on the computer (no Kindles…Nooks, yet) is just that, a trend. It won’t last, or if it does, it will NEVER take the place of print books. Not even close.”

Now, I paraphrased most of that, but I remember distinctly that she was pooh-poohing the idea of ebooks, and I think I got her words nearly spot on because it impressed me so much. Goodness. There wasn’t even the term ebook yet. Anyway, she was the head of this huge publisher, knew her business, knew the industry: its trends, its direction, and still, she had no idea what was about to explode on the scene. She was responsible for being on top of what was happening in the industry…and…she didn’t have a clue.

She is no longer with that publisher. In fact, it was just a couple years before she stepped down…or was removed. I never asked. I did talk with her shortly after that but never discussed what had happened. I have a niggling feeling. She didn’t see it coming and in her position, she should have. But like all of us, no one can say for sure where the industry is headed. No one has that crystal ball (thank goodness) and no one can predict.

So, don’t panic if you hear this or that from an industry “insider” who knows what will happen in the next year or two. It is all speculation, and if all speculation were fact, all financial investors would be billionaires.

Just sit back, relax, and ride the wave!

No one knows for sure!


Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Linda, I think this is excellent advice. Great topic.

Also, I would like to point out that in everything there is a balance. There were signs all around that editor, but she was in denial and missed those signs and it probably cost her job.

Jesus told us we will not know the day or the hour when the end time will come, but there WILL be signs. I believe this works for significant changes in the times and we are in the midst of one of those times, which can last a couple of decades for everything to shake out. Growing pains are scary and tough, and sometimes long.

I see and sense more signs for more changes in the publishing market. I can't explain in detail what those changes will look like, but I have some ideas. Some of those ideas will be right on and others will miss their mark.

The same thing has been happening in the business sector. I work for some traditionalists and they drive me crazy. Part of it is the generation gap between us, they refuse to see potential in ideas and are in denial. One by one, I'm watching many of them lose their jobs as a result. Who replaces them? A younger generation that isn't closed minded about change. But it isn't about age, it's about mindset. A 70 year old can be younger in open-mindedness and in innovative ideas than a 40 year old traditionalist. The problem is, the majority of the time it is the other way around and so age gets sterotyped. As I grow older, I'm striving to be open-minded. I'm paying attention to what is happening to the baby boomer generation so I don't make the same mistakes and to what my 16 year is telling me, because she's going to be my target market for the next 30-30 years of my writing career.

Thanks for letting me share some of my thoughts on your post and for getting me to thinking this Monday morning!

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

I meant to say 16 year old and 30-40 years. Goodness, it is a Monday!

Linda Glaz said...

It IS Monday. And I agree, there are plenty are thoughts on what could be, should be, might be, and all that. I find this an exciting time and can't wait each day to wake up and see what's out there. Some days I'm greeted with excitement for the changes, other times I think, Oh good grief, but it's exciting nonetheless. No matter what. I think we all just need to see it as a move forward! Thanks, Jennifer.

Davalyn Spencer said...

A young(er) woman told me the other day that I was an immigrant where technology is concerned and she was a native--born into it. I think she hit the proverbial nail on its flat head. Some of us have to ride the learning curve a little longer and keep our eyes peeled because it doesn't come naturally.

I once worked with a man who studied every new device/technology that came out because he wanted to be "fluent" in the new languages. When the rest of us had questions, guess who we went to?

Change is something only God can avoid. The rest of us need to pay attention. Great column, Linda.

Rick Barry said...

One of the problems with knowledge is that none of us knows exactly what we don't know. Sure we can be confident of what we know, but--despite an old saying--what you don't know really can hurt you (or your career).

I'm thankful that I don't need to know everything. God is much bigger than I am, and nothing takes Him by surprise. I'll do what I can, but I'll trust Him for the rest.

Diana said...

Great post Linda...sure keeps us on our toes. And Jennifer, "it isn't about age, it's about mindset" is SO true too! Here is to staying young and flexible!

Harold Underdown said...

So, if that publisher said that about ebooks 15 years ago, that would be around 1998, right? And she was gone from her job in 2000? Then the two could not have been connected, because ebooks were still a TINY part of the market in 2000. No publisher would have expected her to know that. I know--I worked for a company that was trying to do ebooks. Amazon hadn't even figured out a workable DRM yet.

Now, if she had said that in 2007, when Amazon came out with the Kindle, that might have been a different story. That's when people could start seeing the future in that area.

Your overall point is still valid, of course. It's hard to make predictions, especially in the very early days of what later becomes a massive change. But that particular person, at least, didn't lose her job because she didn't see that change coming. It hadn't even arrived when she did...

Terri Tiffany said...

Never say never. I think your advice is great. We don't know what will happen with anything!

David B. Smith said...

As screenwriter William Goldman wryly observed about Hollywood: "Nobody knows anything." That's why "The Lone Ranger" was a bust this summer while "The Butler" is a surprise powerhouse, doing boffo business. (Goldman did manage to confound the pundits with an unusual Western hit, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." Despite the unpredictability of the publishing business, most pros still contend that excellent writing that is represented by diligent agents will almost always find a way to market.