Tuesday, June 12, 2007

PW Asks: Are There Too Many Books?...

Today, PW Daily posted these Bowker statistics: more than 290,000 books were produced in 2006. They asked Are too many titles being published? and invited readers to sound off.

Maybe the question should be Are there enough readers? I was just having a conversation with a few of my co-workers (one marketing guy, two fellow editors) about how much the pop culture landscape has changed in the last few decades. You could argue that in the 1950s, there was nary a pop culture reference that most of the population wouldn't recognize. Now it's so niche, so compartmentalized. There are handfuls of celebrities and musical acts--and authors --that most everyone has heard of, but so many others that only a small group are acquainted with or into. It's all very slice-of-a-slice-of-a-slice. How does an author/publisher/book reach the right slice? Tours? Websites? Word-of-mouth? Luck? Prayer?

So often I mention a well-known children's author to someone and he has no idea who I'm talking about. I forget that not everyone pays attention to what's out there like I do. But several times at BEA, I'd be in line chatting with a librarian who would bring up an author or a book that I was not the least bit familiar with. And I spend many of my waking hours paying attention to this stuff.

That's why it's so important that writers and illustrators do as much of their own marketing and promotion as they can (a la Class of 2k7), do their best to find their slice of the audience, and get their books in front of them. (Because in the end it's all about getting your books into the hands of the readers who will love them and appreciate them--says the woman who just purchased four books online right after acquiring a couple dozen new ones for free.)

SCBWI, it seems, agrees. Their upcoming conference in L.A. includes a track called Increasing Your Revenue & Book Sales featuring workshops covering things like blogs, websites, PR, and subsidiary rights, including a lunch panel. (I'm going to attend these and will, of course, be blogging from the conference.)

(Another note on the SCBWI event. I called today to make my hotel reservation and was told the rooms were sold out for the dates I asked. I assured the person on the phone that she was wrong and that I must stay at the Century Plaza. She got me a room for one night fewer than I wanted. So if you're thinking about going--CALL!)


Brian Mandabach said...

There can never be too many books, but readers and bookstores . . .

Couple of weeks ago, the clerk at B & N asked me if I'd found everything. "Nope," I said and declined to order the books, telling her that there were too many books and not enough shelf space. She had no idea what I meant--maybe she thought I meant that the books were too crowded.

Odd that with things being so scattered into different niches, that in places like Colorado Springs that have lost thier indy bookstores, options on the shelf are about as varied as the menues at different McDonald's.

I think it might be more of a problem with teen books, becuse the readers don't have credit cards. If my wife finds a great picure book on your blog, she can track it down and buy it. But not so the average 15 year old.

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