Hey all. Gerry Boyle here. And I’m feeling sort of nostalgic. This is partly because I’ve had a lot of interest from publishers of late in my backlist, AKA my early books that are hard to find. Gratifying to know that your work lives on.
More about that soon when the ink is dry, as they say. But all that retrospection has me not only thinking about the way I started writing mystery novels, more than 20 years ago, but also about the book world I entered at that time. Reviews from newspapers across the country. Word of mouth from independent booksellers, lots of them, with thriving stores in communities large and small.
Ah, but you’ve heard about that before. How the book business has changed right before our eyes. How big-box stores drove out the independents. And then Amazon turned that business model on its head and started driving out the big-box stores. You’re aware of this but you may have the whole picture, unless you read a story by George Packer in The New Yorker.
The piece is called “Cheap Words: Amazon is good for customers. But is it good for books?” It came out last week and I started reading it thinking I knew the answer. I was wrong. I’ve read the story twice and I’m still learning. If you like books and writing, you best do the same.
It’s a long story. It traces the evolution of Amazon from the earliest days to the present, with big-box stores on the run, Kindles on the rise, Amazon Publishing moving into the turf of traditional publishing, algorithms dictating what books are recommended for us.
I won’t try to summarize it here. I will say that it’s got all the elements of a good mystery novel. Heroes, villains, tension, suspense. Nefarious characters working behind the scenes. Heavy hitters putting the muscle on smaller players. And, in the end, we the readers (of the story and books) have to pick sides. Or do we?
I’ve played both sides of this game. My biggest supporters have been the owners of independent bookstores, who read my books when I was starting out and endorsed them for their loyal customers. But I like the idea of getting my books out to as many readers as possible. And I have to say that I sometimes feel a little guilty about the $26.95 hardcover.
And as we speak, I’m considering an e-book first publication for a stand-alone book I’m now trying to sell.
But my next book deal will be with a publisher made up of real people, who love good writing, care about books, want to put them in the hands of as many readers as possible, and know that authors don’t do this just for fun.
So is the book business changing? Fast enough to make an author’s head spin. Where is it headed? Read Packer’s story and tell me what you think. Really.
Is Amazon good for books? I’m still mulling that question. But while we mull, the publishing world moves on. With us or without us.