Three Questions: Part One

I've been working on a feature article for about my journey to e-publishing my fantasy novel The Ragged Mountains. Part of the piece involved three questions I sent to seven publishing luminaries, six of whom work here in MN. I couldn't fit everything in the piece so I've decided to put the interviews here on my blog.

First up is Hans Weyandt from Micawber's Books:

1) Do you see electronic books and print books ultimately
co-habituating peacefully together in the marketplace, each with their
particular consumer base? If so, how do you see the market's share of
readers being sliced up in, say, ten years from now?

Ten years from now is a pretty big shot in the dark as things seem to be changing fairly dramatically every 2-3 years. My guess is that e-books or some variation we haven't even fathomed as of yet will share a pieces of the marketplace. The surge in e-books over the past couple years isn't sustainable over the next ten years--it has to flatten out a bit.

2) A physical book already seems like a perfect technology to me. Why do you think so many readers have embraced reading long novels on electronic platforms when their days (and nights) are already dominated by electronic devices such as iPads, laptops, cell phones, etc.?

My personal answer is: I have no idea. I can't imagine wanting to read anything long-form electronically. If I take a broader look I recognize factors like convenience for travel, backlighted reading in bed, ability to change font-size and price as things that drive some consumers. There is also the fact that there are lots of people who enjoy adopting new forms of technology--people like toys and gadgets.

3) How much power do you think marketing departments in traditional main stream publishing houses have over what books (and the authors behind them) rise and fall in the marketplace? A jaded mid-list author might feel that even fiction books are now being set up to either succeed or fail from the moment their initial print run is
decided, especially in the bigger publishing houses.

That probably is a little jaded but it contains some truth. Marketing and publicity can play a role in a books success or failure, to be sure. Luck is a factor. Reviews, both traditional and more blog-driven, still matter. Word of mouth with booksellers and/or readers can still make a book a success. The percentages of what matters can get a little wonky but it's a bizarre stew of books breaking out or not. I'm also of the mind that small and mid-level houses have a chance right now to show what they do best. Focus on a small, well cared-for and edited list and sell those books in decent numbers across the board. There is an ability to shift gears and a possibility of real power in being small.


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