Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Social Media and the Herd Mentality

By Martha Reed

Last night I watched the movie Social Media, about the advent of Facebook and the business chaos it inspired, and as I sat there watching it I kept thinking: This has a lot of application to what it happening in the publishing business today, too. I’ve repeatedly heard at conferences and workshops that what’s happening to authors today is very similar to what happened to musicians with Napster five years ago.

We’re experiencing the concept of direct content (via eBooks), we’re questioning the old business model structure and pay breakout, ie., author/agent/editor/Publishing house. I’ve seen concerns over copyright. And these are all good discussions to have, in any situation.

The question, as I gaze into my murky crystal ball, is what is an author to do?

For example: I have a completed manuscript in the pipeline. I’m following the traditional publication route, querying agents, etc. but I’m also reading everything I can get my hands on about the publishing marketplace. I get discouraged to see that agents, desperate now because of the inflow of out of work former editors who are morphing into agents seem to be following a herd mentality by only looking for YA supernatural because they think that’s where the money is post-Twilight. Maybe it is. But Sisters in Crime paid for a survey that indicated a majority of readers were women between 50-70 years old who lived in the southern states. I’m sure some of them are reading Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse, but there must be room in there for other trend lines that are not YA paranormal.

What are your thoughts on the current marketplace? What publishing strategies are you choosing to follow? Inquiring Mind wants to know.


Annette said...

Martha, I think you and I are pretty much in the same boat: seeking the traditional route, but wondering what else is out there. The times they are a'changing.

Martha Reed said...

Hi, Annette. You're so right - my only fear is that no one is steering the boat! In that case, the question becomes: should we steer it ourselves?

Ramona said...

You have a marketable story, Martha, and it is your job now to get it out so readers can enjoy it.

I believe that YA paranormal thing is a fallacy. It may be the easiest sell, but it is not the only sell. The SinC survey should back that up. Your book has appeal to that 50-70 year old demographic who may be southern, but who certainly like to read about other places.

It's not easy to get published, but look at all your peers who have done it. Never give up. Never surrender.

Jenna said...

Yesterday, John Locke was named the first indie (self published) member of the Kindle Million Club; authors who have sold more than a million e-books on Kindle. There are only six or seven of them altogether, and some of the others are Nora Roberts (romance), Stieg Larsson (mysteries) and James Patterson (thrillers). Locke writes mysteries/thrillers, as well.

As an aside, I thought Amanda Hocking was the first indie author to break that barrier, but apparently I'm wrong. Anyway, Amanda is the golden child of e-publishing. She's the one we've been hearing about lately. And she writes YA paranormals. However, note it was John Locke who hit the million copy mark first. It's not just YA paranormals that sell.

That said, publishing is changing, and if it were me right now, I'd think long and hard about the direction I wanted to go. The gatekeepers are keeping the gate no more. The gate is wide open, and anyone can publish anything without (much of) the stigma that used to attach to self-publishing. There's good and bad in that, of course, but there's a lot of freedom, anyway. And freedom's a wonderful thing.

Martha Reed said...

Hi, Ramona & Jenna. Thanks for sharing your opinions. Like I mentioned, I think there's going to be a lot of discussion as we all move forward, and I think that's a good thing. My idea is to move forward slowly and not jump to conclusions.

The part of the movie that scared me was seeing all the predators and parasites moving in on Facebook as the next big thing and seeing that the core of the foundation of it may have been motivated by anger and fear. I only hope that all of us come together to keep the art of reading alive - whether we're writers, librarians, agents, publishers, illustrators, bloggers, who ever!

Maybe I'm naive, but that's what I'm hoping (and working) toward.

I'll get off my soapbox now. Yikes!

Joyce said...

And I think it's wise to shoot for that 50-70 y.o. demographic. On the Cozy Chicks blog this am, Maggie Sefton posted that her new book--a cozy--is the #34 NYT bestselling fiction hardcover right now. Not just in mystery--in ALL hardcover fiction. There's a very large readership for mysteries.

Jenna said...

And not just mysteries, but COZY mysteries!

Wonder if the 'average reader,' if there is such a thing, turns more to cozy and less to violent books later in life? Young people read thrillers and paranormals, but as we get older, do we develop into liking our reading materials softer?

What do you think, fellow stiffs?

Joyce said...

Dammit! Blogger just lost my comment. I'll try to recreate it.

You may be right, Jenna. The thrillers I've tried to read lately are so over-the-top ridiculous that I had to put them down. Totally unbelievable. I'm definitely not squeamish about violence, but there needs to be a reason for it to be in the book. Don't put it in there just because you can.

Also, I think cozies are becoming more mainstream. They're not as "tame" as they used to be. They're more realistic and that's another reason readers may be flocking to them. Readers just want a good story.

Ramona said...

Jenna, I 100% agree with your idea that an older person has less taste or tolerance for violence than someone young--that is certainly the case for me. It may be that young readers have that sense of invincibility that older people lose.

As a reader and TV/movie viewer, I am very picky about what I want to see in terms of gore and bloodshed. If I'm going to witness someone suffering, it needs to be for a good reason.

That is not to criticize anyone else's reading or writing choices, but I think you make a very good point that was reflected in the SinC survey. That demographic buys books. And so do teenagers.

Jenna said...

Joyce, apparently there's a new sort-of category called a 'thrillsie.' A cozy-thriller hybrid. I can't even begin to describe how hysterically funny I find that (even if I think I probably wrote a thrillsie with "Mortar and Murder"...)

Ramona, I've honestly never liked reading about blood and gore. Or watching it, either. No matter my age. At the same time, I find most cozies a little too cutesy and not quite meaty enough. My biggest issue in writing them isn't that I can't write violence, or for that matter sex (although I wouldn't mind writing a little sex...) it's the fact that there are a lot of subject matters that are taboo in cozies, and they tend to be the subject matters I find interesting.

Patg said...

Old f--t here, and I agree completely. We've about had it with violence and gore. Not that we want only cutsie/wootsie, but we don't want to be downloading terror to our readers as we board airplanes or sit in any kind of waiting room.
I just wish I'd had a pair of old spike heels when I crashed the gates. Would have given the keeper an extra stomp.
We're at the beginning of an era, enjoy!!!