Sunday, September 11, 2011

Over

So I just returned from my friend Raymond Benson's booklaunch party.

It made me feel a little nostalgic, a little sad, but mostly very relieved.

Raymond had a decent turn out, selling copies of his newest (The Black Stiletto). Everyone was upbeat and happy to be there, and it was nice to see many familiar faces. I had booklaunch parties for most of my paper books, and I still count many of those as fond memories.

But I don't see me making any new booklaunch memories. As I was there, I was struck by the likelihood that not only would I never have another launch party, but I may actually never attend another book signing, for me or for anyone else.

This is the end of an era.

The end has been on the horizon for a while. Years, even. I remember attending events like the Chicago Printer's Row Book Fair, and Book Expo America, and relishing the excitement of being a new author, the energy in the air, the burning need to get my name out there.

This summer, Printer's Row seemed to be about half the size it was back in 2007. The same thing for BEA.

One of my favorite bookstores, Waldenbooks in Peru, IL, just closed its doors a few days ago. The manager there, Greg Swanson, has handsold over 2000 of my books in that location.

Nope, that ain't a typo. Over 2000. It's probably more than that--I stopped asking a while ago.

Greg, and two other bookstore gurus named Paul Pessolano and Jim Munchel have handsold so many of my books that I named three characters after them in my novel Fuzzy Navel. That came out in summer, 2008.

Three years later, their bookstores have all closed.

It's not even the beginning of the end. We're firmly in the middle of the end.

I spent a lot of hours in bookstores, and at writing conferences. While I won't miss paper books, I will certainly miss the camaraderie of booksellers, and hanging out at events. But I don't see myself doing many more. In fact, I don't see there being many more.

This bitter pill is made much easier to swallow with the new publishing paradigm. A lot of my peers are doing well with ebooks--much better than they did in print. I saw an old friend, Al Ansorge, at Raymond's party.

"I sold 2000 ebooks on Kindle last month," he told me. "It's all your fault."

Greg took five years of fulltime 9-to-5 to sell 2000 of mine, and Al did it on his own in a month.

Rock on, Al. (And check out Al's book Crossing the Centerline, only 99 cents.)

Change hurts. But this is ultimately a change that's better for the authors. We no longer have to travel all over and handsell paper books. We no longer have to depend on booksellers to stock us. We can reach more readers and make more money and do it faster and easier than we ever could in the old system.

The party is over. We had a lot of fun, but all good things must come to an end. Kiss the hostess. Grab your coat. It's time to go.