I read this article about how awful it’ll be if Barnes and Noble dies. I’m a little sympathetic. I get it. Contrary to what Mr. Fox tells Joe in You’ve Got Mail, we’ve romanticized it.
There’s an assertion in the article that I’m not sure about. They say that it’ll make publishers stick only to what they know will sell, rather than what they hope will sell:
“In a world without Barnes & Noble, risk-averse publishers will double down on celebrity authors and surefire hits. Literary writers without proven sales records will have difficulty getting published, as will young, debut novelists.”
Isn’t that basically the world we’re already living in? I feel like this has been the complaint of writers for the last 15 years (which is as long as I’ve been hanging out with professional writers). It’s partly true and partly conceit. The truth is that publishers are risk adverse. The conceit is that publishers “know” what will sell. If that was true, they’d only publish those things.
I hope Barnes and Noble makes it. I hope there are stores I can take my kids to where they can engage books. Of course, I love and advocate for my local library, which does a far better job of engaging my kids with literature than the local Books-A-Million ever will. They just do it without a ton of money going to publishers. I know, I know.
Nothing’s perfect. But it’s a beautiful time to be an author. Maybe you can’t be on the shelves of Barnes and Noble. But you can be engaging your audience directly. And if you’re not, the publishers who still put books on the shelves of Barnes and Noble aren’t going to be interested in your book, anyway.