This is my first official article here and, in classic James fashion, I decided to make it a rant. Well, actually not really a rant but what I think is some constructive criticism.
As a bookstagrammer, I get to see sides of the publishing industry that a lot of readers never get to see. And a big part of it has to do with trends. Like any business, the publishing world is driven by sales. And it’s been common knowledge for years that those sales are decreasing, especially when it comes to physical books. Of course, the main reason is the multitude of entertainment forms available nowadays. You have movies and TV and STREAMING. I put streaming in caps because I will use it as a parallel for this article.
When we talk streaming, we unavoidably talk Netflix (although Disney is coming with its own streaming service in 2019 and DC Comics already has a brand spanking new one up). There is a reason why Netflix works so well. In some ways, it is almost prescient. We love Netflix because Netflix is always two steps ahead in terms of what we want to see. They predict what will be hot and make it hot.
The publishing biz is the exact opposite. I notice that more and more lately. The current ‘hot trends’ in books are already fads when it comes to the general public. And publishing houses just don’t seem to get it.
Let’s take this new villain angle that is making waves right now in the movie/streaming world. Just think of Suicide Squad for example. Then we just had Venom, which some people liked, some hated. But no matter what you think about it, it was a massive box office success (and that success will continue on streaming). Next year we have Joker, a movie told from the perspective of the infamous Batman villain and in 2020 we have Birds of Prey coming up, who has the iconic Harley Quinn in the lead. And those are just some of them.
That is what is hot right now. But books told from the perspective of villains are almost nonexistent. I noticed that even more when I asked about it on Instagram. Oh, you bet they will follow in a few years, when that trend will have already died down.
The book industry’s refuse to adapt is it’s downfall. Of course you can’t create new readers (and, by definition, young readers) when you can’t keep up with the demand. The solution: throw away the old standards and adapt.
It is worth noticing that when it comes to keeping up with what is popular, the self-publishing world is in way better shape. Which means there are authors willing to write what is in demand but publishers refuse to sign them. It is a sad reality, made even sadder by the fact that self-published authors have an uphill battle to fight thanks to the preconception that anyone who chooses to put a book out on their own is not a worthy enough writer. But at least things are moving along. And the continuous sales growth happening in the self-pub market, as opposed to the traditional one, speaks volumes.
In the end, it is adapt or die. As they say: if you don’t risk, you don’t win.