In fact, I've heard a few interesting industry trends recently that I thought I'd pass on you, writerly friends.
The first is sadly no surprise - as bookstores and book departments in big box stores are shrinking in size and number (have you noticed the teensy book section in Sam's Club recently compared to the bustling multi-aisles they had only two years ago?) traditional publishers are shrinking in number as well. Some are closing their doors and others are merging, but the result is the same ... less opportunities for agents and authors to attract traditional press eyeballs.
They want to stick with the tried and true, thank you. Meaning mostly the mega-names that have sold well for them in the past. That's why agents are pitching quality manuscripts by quality authors to publishing houses and are being turned away.
Oh, except for gift books. Pubs seem to be open to gift books, even from newish authors as long as the titles are catchy and they have mass appeal. People will always want to pick up nice gift books for friends in the hospital or someone going through a bad time. It's something to wrap in a pretty package to show how much you care and something the recipient can hold in her hands to feel the love.
Hence the primary reason Cracker Barrel, who as you know specializes in gift shopping to take your mind off your growling stomach while you're waiting for your table, snapped up the beautifully embossed hard cover version of my original paperback book, Too Blessed to be Stressed. Gift books are still a goldmine and will be for some time until someone figures out a way to sell an e-book you can tie a shiny bow around.
And we mustn't forget how-to books. People are eager to buy gift books for Aunt Matilda's Christmas present and BFF Louise's surprise birthday party, but they're downright hyper to buy themselves the newest self-help book on improving their marriage, parenting, sex, and spiritual lives in five easy steps. Who wouldn't want to do something important to them even better? And at little cost with no one aware that you're trying to fix a secret fault?
So if you're a gift book or self-help writer, or if you specialize in devos or spiritual encouragement, you may eat a celebratory Cadbury bar. But only one.
You'll need to pocket the change because there's not a lot of money in book deals these days. You may not have known - unless you're already a published inspirational author - and I hate to be the one to break it to you if this is a sudden shock, but ... you'll never get rich in this writing gig. Average first and second book advances used to be $10k to $15k ten years ago but nowadays if they're offered at all, they're more like $3k to $5k. And sadly, there are so many companies that don't offer any advance at all, people are tickled to get that much. Try to feed, clothe, and air-condition your family for a month with that.
The logical outcome of all this is, of course, a huge boon in online self-publishing and the use of social media for platform-building.
Many traditionally published authors are going hybrid (producing some self-published books along with the ones their traditional publisher churns out), and many new authors are choosing from the get-go to indie publish. The age old hideous-cover-terrible-editing stigma of self-published books is beginning to fade as indie companies cater more and more to discerning authors, but going the extra mile to produce nothing short of excellent quality material is essential for the new kids on the block if they want this trend to continue to be a viable option.
So what's a writer to do?
Keep writing, that's what. Explore all possibilities - blogs, guest posts, print magazines (there are a few left and hey, Sunday School materials will always be on demand!), e-zines ... oh, far too many opportunities to name here if you use your imagination and do your homework.
But that's the main thing: If you feel called to write, then keep on using every possible opportunity to impact lives with your written words. If Papa God asks you to build a shed, my friend, He'll supply the nails.
*A special shout out to Casey Herringshaw for her astute 9/15/14 blogpost on The WordServe Water Cooler titled "A View From the Assistant's Desk." By the way, if you don't subscribe to Wordservewatercooler.com or FaithHappenings.com, you absolutely positively need to get your behunkus in gear and do it today!