Here's a nice, depressing read about publishing

Here's a Wall Street Journal article what the changes of the past couple of years have meant for traditional publishers. Oh, it's not good. Print runs are down as much as 25% (although print still counts for 80% of books sold), warehouses are closing, publishers are cutting down on everything, it's all going to hell.

The industry is at a point where even if a book does well, the publisher will do poorly. The article uses as an example an upcoming book called The Art of Fielding, which two years ago would have had a print run of 40,000 copies, but nowadays is having a run of only 30,000 copies:

The smaller print run of "The Art of Fielding" ironically aggravates the publisher's costs. Should the book be a hit, Little, Brown will have to pay more per copy for reprints. One publisher recently paid $1.18 per copy on a print run of 100,000, but a subsequent reprint of 3,500 cost it $2.24 per book—nearly double.

The article focuses on the past six months. The pace of change in the industry is picking up--the analogy of circling the drain is apt here, because what was initially a slow downward action is getting faster and faster and faster. The future does not look bright: The only advice offered to publishers is to save money by cutting advances to authors, but of course if you do that, you just make it more likely that authors will switch to self-publishing, and then you won't have a product to sell.

I've been through this kind of industry shift, and God, does it ever suck. I really feel for the people in the industry--you work really hard, you do really good work, and it just doesn't matter. But of course, if you don't work in traditional publishing--you're a writer, you're a reader, you're a stockholder in you're probably going to do fine. Hopefully if you're a good editor or copy editor or designer you can create a niche for yourself in this brave new world....