Tuesday, June 1, 2010
La Chiesa Rossa--red in any language
Some good insight by Sarah Jae Jones, a St. Martin's editor, on the different types of book readers and how the digital era might affect their reading habits. My own thoughts as a writer are similar--I believe the bestsellers in hardcover will still have a print following, especially those casual readers who only read the blockbusters they see on the cover of People or Entertainment Weekly--Da Vinci Code, twilight, Harry Potter, and the like. They read a few books a year, what Jones' accurately describes as "seeing what all the fuss is about." And, if you press them, those types of readers would describe themselves as "well read." I doubt if I'll ever be able to reach that audience.
The middling crowd, those counted on to support bookstores, are likely to migrate to digital books. I'll probably do both. I already read on the PC Kindle for Desktop, but I am waiting to buy an e-reader when the prices come down and there is more uniformity of format. I do like to re-read certain books, but I gave away cases and cases of books from my personal library when I realized "once was enough" or that I'd likely never be interested in reading a particular book (I used to do a lot of hoarding at rummage sales, which explains the random pile of genre fiction). I still have more paper books than I can comfortably read in a lifetime, but I've never been a trend or fad reader--I don't need the hottest bestseller or the "book everybody's talking about." I figure it will always be around and if it stands the test of time I can pick it up for a quarter in 10 years.
And that's the kind of stuff I write, the quarter books. I'm more of a disposable, working-class writer, a storyteller. I am fortunate enough to have some readers who like to collect all my books, but it would be difficult for me to sustain a hardcover audience, because that involves a huge contract. I would also have a hard--but not impossible--task of publishing genre fiction in midlist, mass-market paperback, but the cold truth is that the wait, the short shelf life, and the years and years of content loss means it's not only a bad move financially, it also doesn't really build a career.
I was talking to one of my translators about how this new era works. Making $5 a book per day may not seem much, but if you have 10 books on the market, that's $50. If you have 10 translations of those 10 books on the market, that's $500. A day. Sure, the translation work is difficult, and adds complications, but you also never know where you are going to be a hit--France, Germany, Spain, China. Everyone's buying the iPad, and the frontiers are just now busting open. In a global market, the first one overseas wins. I'm not sure I can get there fast enough, but here's to trying!