Tuesday, November 6

The Random House & Penguin Merger: Good For Indie Authors?

The Random House & Penguin Merger: Good For Indie Authors?

Here's a headline for you: After Penguin and Random House merge into Penguin Random House they will have created "the biggest publisher in the world' [1].

According to The Guardian, the reaction to this news has led some folks to despair for the future of traditional publishing. They point to three trends in the book market:

1) Falling book sales

Book sales are the lowest in living memory. "Print sales are falling--down 11% in 2011, the trend continuing in 2012--while bookshops, both specialist and chain, are closing. Borders has gone, Waterstones is in turmoil, and independent booksellers the length and breadth of the country are vanishing. [1]"

2) Self-publishers & Amazon

Self-publishers bypass traditional publishing. With Amazon becoming a publisher in its own right and encouraging authors to not stray beyond the Amazon fold (Amazon KDP Select; True Fans & Select) they hope to increase market share. The more market share Amazon has the less there is for traditional publishing and their profits will continue to fall.

I think the fear is that Amazon will take over the publishing world and then turn into a frankenmoster that looks like a mash-up of the Big Bad from The Ring and Godzilla.

3) The death of reading

Some fear that declining sales of print books will mean people will read less. [1]

Why Indie Authors Are Not At Risk

Yes, traditional book sales are falling

That is, sales of books from traditional publishers through traditional outlets such as brick-and-mortar (or whatever they're constructed from) bookstores.

Is this a bad thing for writers? Well, first, writers are readers so NO, this isn't a good thing. I think that the overwhelming majority of writers love bookstores and take every opportunity to bask in their dusty glow.

Is this a bad thing for independent writers? Not necessarily. It depends quite a lot on whether (3) is true.

There's no such thing as a frankenmoster

People warned that once Walmart crushed all its competition its prices would skyrocket and, since it had crushed all its competition, we wouldn't be able to do anything about it.

That didn't happen.

People warn that once Amazon crushes all its competition it will raise its prices. After all other bookstores are nothing but splinters and digital mist it'll be the only game in town so we'll have no choice but to pay high prices for books or stop reading.

That won't happen.

Why? First, I don't think Amazon is going to be able to crush all its competition. Google Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords are just a few of Amazon's competitors and I don't see them going away any time soon. And, even if they did, another company would spring up, phoenix-like, from its ashes.

Second, even in the unlikely event that Amazon does crush all its competition this wouldn't be the end for writers or readers. Walmart hasn't raised it's prices to punishing levels and I don't believe Amazon would either.

People are reading more than ever

Folks are consuming more digital content than ever before. People are reading. They're reading blogs, Reddit, digital books. They're watching movies on their smart phones. And we aren't just consuming content, we're creating it too. We blog, we tweet, we use Tumblr and Reddit and Wattpad. And that's for starters!

Far from people reading less we are going through what Amazon calls a Renaissance of reading.

Yes, I'm talking about digital media such as electronic books as opposed to print books, though I believe that print books will always exist.

My Point

My point is that as long as readers exist, as long as folks want to have stories told to them, there will be writers. And screenwriters and playwrights.

And you know what? Folks will always want to have stories told to them. The day that stops is the day we've joined the Dodo in peaceful extinction.

What do you think of the new Putnam & Random House merger? Do you think this just postpones the inevitable or do you think they'll be able to make a go of it? 

Other articles you might like:
- How To Get Your Readers To Identify With Your Main Character
- More Writing Advice From Jim Butcher
- NaNoWriMo: A Survival Guide

Articles referenced in this article:
1) Penguin merger minuses could be pluses for indies, The Guardian.

Photo credit: "Bambi vs. Godzilla (211/365)" by JD Hancock under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

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