What’s going on in the world of publishing?

February 4, 2013 | Written by Chip MacGregor

I normally just offer advice about publishing careers on this blog, but occasionally I feel a need to mention things happening that everyone in the industry is talking about. So let’s digress today on a couple quick items…

1. The 2012 numbers are in, and they’re interesting… There were only three adult fiction titles last year that sold more than a million copies, and they were all written by E.L. James. (Soft core porn rules, apparently.) Those were also the only “romance” novels that hit the million mark. There were four children’s fiction titles that sold more than a million copies, and three of them were written by Suzanne Collins. (Hunger Games also rule — the fourth was the most recent Diary of a Wimpy Kid Who Would’ve Quickly Been Killed In The Hunger Games.) There were no nonfiction titles that hit the magic number (NO EASY DAY came very close), nor cookbooks, biographies, sci-fi novels, business titles… Not even a memoir. I’m still waiting for all the final numbers to show up, but it looks like this will be the smallest number of million-sellers we’ve had in years.

2. And yet… book sales are doing fine. One study showed they were down 4% in 2012, another that they were up a bit more than 1%. Either way, overall book sales are holding fairly steady. There are more readers than ever before, and there are more books being produced than ever before — the numbers are just more spread out, with the vast quantities of ebooks now being offered at Amazon and B&N.com. So take heart — it’s still a great time to be a writer. We read all the time — on our Nooks & Kindles, on our laptops & Smartphones, on our email and web accounts. Don’t believe the gloomy people who keep preaching The End Of Publishing As We Know It.

3. I have now had more than a hundred emails from people concerning my recent post about Jerry Jenkins starting a self-publishing venture. They all come in one of three categories: (a) I was right to defend Mr Jenkins for doing this; (b) I’m a jerk for allowing Mr Jenkins to fool me; or (c) I’m usually a snarky jerk anyway, and who am I to criticize people for saying rude things? I don’t delete anyone’s comments unless they are racist or libelous, so feel free to weigh in. Personally, I’m leaning toward (c), above.

4. I rarely mention this sort of thing, but if you’re the praying sort, please keep in mind one literary agent, Lee Hough. He wrote people this weekend to say that his brain tumor has returned. Lee is a good friend and a great agent, and we’re all pulling for him.

5. As noted last week, I’m going to speak at the Nashville Writers University on Saturday, Feb 23. It’s a one-day event, with an intensive agenda:

-I’ll speak on “creating your long-term publishing strategy.”
-Dan Merril, from The Propellor Group, will talk about script-writing and screenplays.
-Larry Carpenter, the longtime boss at Spring Arbor and Ingram and now consultant to authors and publisher, will talk about self-publishing.
-Michelle Borquez, author and entrepreneur, will teach “building a platform around your concept.”
-And I’ll be talking about book proposals and the secret to success.
Again, this is a strong group — everybody has ties to both publishing and marketing, and all have had a lot of success in the industry. (I think at one point or another, each person has served as a publisher, and they all bring years of experience to the group.)
I’m looking forward to it, since I’ve largely stayed away from conferences the past couple years, and I love talking to authors about proposals and strategy. So you’re invited. Every participant gets face time with me (as well as the other instructors), so we’ll be reviewing proposals and talking about next steps in a one-on-one setting. That means space is limited to just 30 people.
The event is at the Aloft Hotel in Cool Springs, just south of downtown Nashville. The cost is $199 and includes lunch. (If you’re coming from out of town, they’re offering a $99 room rate for the participants.) You can find out all you need to know at http://nashvilleuniversity.eventbrite.com/
Would love to have you come and introduce yourself to me.

Posted in Conferences, Current Affairs

  • Ron Estrada

    That is encouraging news. It’s getting harder for a few authors to hold a big percentage of readers. My fan will remain loyal to me. She has to. I know where she sleeps.

    • chipmacgregor

      Rumor has it she was going to trade you in for the new Grisham novel, Ron…

  • Meghan Carver

    Thanks for the good news about book sales, Chip.

    • chipmacgregor

      You’re welcome, Meghan.

  • Judith Robl

    Prayers for Lee. I wasn’t aware of the health issue.

    Would love to meet you in Nashville–but time and distance conspire against it.

    Thank you for the even handed assessment of the publishing game. I’m sorry that the million sellers pander to the worst in human nature, but that might be a function of hype as much as anything else. Mightn’t it? She says hopefully. :-)

    • chipmacgregor

      Appreciate your prayers for Lee Hough, Judith. As for the number of million sellers… it’s just one more way we have to evaluate the industry.

  • http://twitter.com/ConnieAlmony Connie Almony

    Most definitely praying for Mr. Hough!

  • http://www.facebook.com/robin.patchen.3 Robin Patchen

    How many books usually sell over a million copies in a year? I know these are small numbers–what’s normal?

    As always, great post. Thanks!

    • chipmacgregor

      Two or three times that many, Robin. Things have changed — sales are much more spread out now.

      • http://www.facebook.com/robin.patchen.3 Robin Patchen

        Wow, that is a big decline. My 11-year-old son guessed Diary of a Wimpy Kid as the bestseller in children’s fiction. Then he said, “it’s a really good series, Mom.” ;)

  • Rachel Hauck

    I vote for D. Great agent. Wise soul. ;)

    • chipmacgregor

      Ha! Thanks, Rachel. :o)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Reynolds/100001730976071 Steve Reynolds

    Chip, I’m very much looking forward to attending the conference. That’s very good news about fiction and quite heartening considering I’m about to write some. I’m looking forward to meeting you!

    • chipmacgregor

      Me too, Steve. Glad you’re coming.

  • Angela Watkins

    Good news about hard copy books and their sales. Thanks for sharing.