It was interesting to notice during the recent SFWA campaign how
completely clueless most of the authors were about the present state of the publishing industry. They
genuinely believed that the status quo remains viable, which was part of why
Random House was accused of creating Hydra simply because they are obviously wicked and evil.
Nor did they rethink their position when Nightshade Books went under. As I said at the time, it would probably take the bankruptcy of Barnes & Noble and the concomitant effects on the genre publishers to get them to realize that the traditional publishing game is all but over. But that could happen sooner than even a skeptic like me had imagined:
Barnes and Noble has not had an easy go of it. The brick-and-mortar stalwart has seen its revenues and profits steeply decline as we’ve entered the age of the e-book. In fact, profits haven’t just shrunk; they’ve disappeared. During the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2013, the company suffered a net loss of $118.6 million, down significantly from the already poor showing it posted in 2012 when it lost $56.9 million in Q4. For the year, that put Barnes and Noble’s losses at $154.8 million — more than double what it lost in 2012.
It’s somewhat of a pity, as some of my favorite memories include spending Friday evenings wandering through the stacks with Spacebunny. The only book signing I ever did was at Barnes & Noble and I was told it was one of the most successful ones that branch had ever had. When I first graduated from college, I used to set myself a $50 monthly book budget that I would spend there; I’d usually manage to spend it by the second or third week.
But then, I still recall my last visit there, and walking out without buying anything. The SF/F section was full of media tie-in novels and fantasy novels with badly Photoshopped covers, the history section had all but disappeared, and most of the remaindered hardcovers were picture books. So perhaps the structural rot that is now apparent had already set in.
I imagine the executives at Barnes are already trying to figure out what sort of pitches they can make to Amazon and Google. Anyhow, if you’re an SF/F writer who writes actual SF or epic fantasy, feel free to contact me about publishing through our in-game store. We’ve already got some excellent original works of fiction, including a few set in Selenoth, but we’re looking for about 20 more.