But I thought that perhaps it would be useful to do a little primer of my own, now that we're officially in a recession. (You may disagree with me, but in any economy where I'm paying $4.60 for a gallon of milk and $3.39 for a gallon of gas, plus baking my own bread to save some money... we are in a freaking recession.)
So anyway, what does being in a recession mean to publishing?
Pretty much what it means to any other business sector of the economy, especially all the sectors that are so dependent on consumer confidence, which is at an extremely low number right now. Publishers are wary that they'll be able to recoup the money that they spend on books--all the production costs, the shipping costs, plus the actual advance on royalties that they pay to an author. They know that people aren't going to necessarily stop buying books, but that the pace of book-buying will slow, and that fewer people will be able to work them into their monthly budgets. When times get tough, food and fuel are more important than entertainment. It's a stark truth.
So the publishers begin to be more cautious about the books they purchase from agents and the authors they represent. The editors are slower to make decisions because suddenly their available pool of purchasing money has shrunk. The publishing companies are essentially tightening their own belts. Every time they give an advance to an author, that advance is a calculated business risk. Sometimes the publisher will be able to earn that money back, and sometimes they won't. But when there suddenly becomes less money available to purchase books in general, hardcore economics tend to kick in.
And as far as I can tell, here's what's happening.
- Publishers are more willing to spend money on known quantities. It's less of an economic risk for them. They're more likely to pay money to Julia Quinn or Jim Butcher than to an unknown author. The publishers know that even though people are going to be spending less on books, they're still going to try and shell out for the bestsellers or the people who have very large fan bases.
- As a result, it's harder to sell a first-time novel. There still exists money in the budget for it, but suddenly, you're competing against the established ones and the other first-time novels, and yours has to be extra-super-duper-good to make it. The publishers, who as a rule, look for books they can make bestsellers, are now looking even harder. They want every first-time novel they buy to be a success, since there's so little room in the budget otherwise.
- Everyone, except for the huge name authors, is probably going to get paid a little less than normal too. It's probably not going to be drastic, but again, it's economics.
- Also, as a result of the recession, there are more bookstores closing, which leaves slightly less markets available to sell books to. Borders is consolidating and closing stores; as a result, they may not order as many copies of a title as they previously did.
But what I do know is that the industry is slowing down as a whole; less deals are being announced daily on Publisher's Marketplace, and the deals that are announced are for less money. In tough times, and these are starting to be tough times for many in America, everyone is being cautious economically.
So do you stop writing your novel now, throw your hands up, and proclaim that you'll never get published?
No way in hell, my friends.
You keep writing that novel, writing your heart out on it, because sooner or later the economy is going to get better. We're going to eventually get out of this recession (and if we slide into a depression, I'll be simultaneously fascinated and terrified, as it means that all our fiduciary measures since The Great Depression have failed). The economy will improve. And while it's in a rut right now, you should be writing your first novel. And the novel after that. And the novel after that one. And you should keep searching for an agent and trying to get published, because this is a damn slow business and you never know when things are going to change.
Sermon's over now. Time to take the bread out of the oven. =)