As an avid reader and soon-to-be-published author, I have always been interested in the publishing world. I like to keep up with trending news about books and book publishing by following authors, agents, editors, and publishing companies on Twitter, because the writing community there is diverse and helpful to new and not-so-new members.
Print or Digital?
Ever since e-readers like the Kindle and Nook have come onto the scene, the publishing industry has been wondering about the future of print. Why would someone want to buy a hardcover when they can read it on their portable device for cheaper? Most works of fiction are published in both print and eBook format–and so will mine–to give readers a diverse array of options. But still the question remains: will print publishing disappear in favor of digital?
This comes in the time where well-known authors like Salmon Rushdie decide to go digital in lieu of print. This news story by reputable publisher The Guardian relates how Rushdie has decided to use the digital platform Substack to publish a serialized online novel. Harkening back to the beginning days of short story and novel writing, authors used to submit chapters or short pieces of fiction to their local newspapers and print publishers on a weekly or monthly basis, called serialization.
News or Opinion?
In this week of MCO 425, we read several pieces about distinguishing fake news stories and misinformation for real, genuine fact, as well as how to tell the difference between news and opinion. I’ll break down why this piece on Rushdie is, indeed, a real news story.
- The Publisher: The Guardian has been around for 200 years, as boasted in their website header. Some of this week’s readings have come from the same news publisher, so I know it can be trusted.
- The Interview: The bulk of the article consists of an interview with author Salmon Rushdie through a Zoom call at a local library.
- The Writer: The author of this article, Shelley Hepworth, is an assistant news editor who specializes in Australian and fiction news.
- The Coverage: This story is covered by other news publications, such as The New Republic, BBC News, and GIZMODO.
Continuing the discussion of print versus digital in the publishing industry, I also came across an article by the Los Angeles Review of Books covering John B. Thompson’s “Book Wars: The Digital Revolution in Publishing.” The review discusses sociologist Thompson’s work on how the publishing industry has evolved within the digital era.
News or Opinion?
Since this is a book review, it falls under opinion/analysis. Author Jennifer Howard starts the review with her credentials within the publishing industry and then goes into Thompson’s character as a seasoned sociologist. Howard also gives a quick overview of the contents, which include charts of data from Thompson’s interviews and analysis. It’s an interesting piece which makes me want to get a copy of “Book Wars” myself. The only question is should I get it in print or digital?
Another interesting aspect of publishing is the traditional versus independent publishing method; where some authors prefer to go through the traditional publishing house, others have become more independent and publish their books themselves. This has been a contention within the publishing industry for many years. Some believe independent publishing does not provide the quality of books that a notable publishing house would; however, some authors argue that these big publishing companies reject stories that could be best-sellers, and therefore they decide to do it themselves.
When it comes to publishing news, a reliable source of information is Publishers Weekly. They recently ran an article about the success of indie publishers in 2020. Despite the pandemic, or perhaps in spite of, both traditional and indie publishers saw success the past year, with best-sellers flying off of the shelves (or delivery trucks). The article cites an increase in educational materials for home-bound students and parents spending more time entertaining their children, as well as books about keeping yourself busy as home: gardening, cooking, home improvement, as well as racial and social justice works spurned from the protests taking place that year.
News or Opinion?
Let’s once again break down the legitimacy of this article:
- The Publisher: As I mentioned before, Publishers Weekly is a notable, well-respected source of news for authors, readers, agents, editors, publishers, and the like. They cover a wide variety of topics concerning the industry.
- The Correction Note: At the end of the article, there is a correction about a statement made in the original article, citing the error and fix. As we read this week, more newsrooms are pushing transparency practices, with clear corrections being one of them.
- The Numbers: This article contains dates and other numerical data to back up their statement that indie publishers saw success in 2020. This includes the amount of print copies sold and sales percentages.
Literary agents are go-betweens for authors and book publishers; much like actors have agents to get film roles, literary agents work with authors to find editors, publishers, illustrators, and more. They’re a great resource for new authors who may not know much about the publishing industry and need a hand navigating the sometimes complicated nature of getting a book to print (or ebook). Even published authors use agents to help manage their workload.
However, agenting isn’t as easy as one might think. I came across this opinion piece on how it has become harder to be an agent over the years. This blog is from the Nelson Agency in a section called Pub Rants: Polite Rants About Publishing, by agent Kristen Nelson. She explains the 14 reasons why agenting is more difficult now than it was 20 years ago, including indie authors bypassing agents, more agents looking for work, and low visibility on social media.
News or Opinion?
This piece is clearly an opinion, as it is written in a blog style. Nelson Agency is a literary agency, and author Kristen Nelson is one of their agents. It is written in a blog style and even includes a disclaimer that the content of the article “is purely anecdotal and does not claim to represent an appropriate dataset for completeness, accuracy, usefulness, or even timelines.” Given the nature of the subject, an industry journalist may be able to gather such quantifiable data to make some of these 14 reasons factual.