In the UK, more books were produced in 2012 than in the whole of the18th, 19th and first half of the 20th century. An enormous number of books, but not necessarily of the right quality, or as truly diverse and reflective of our society as they ought to be.
Readership is not increasing at the same level - but dropping. And the potential knock-on effect, with publishers not prepared to take risks, and only producing small print runs of debut novels, results in smaller profit margins for the business - certainly as far as literary fiction is concerned. The inherent value of books, how much readers are prepared to pay for a new book, has not withstood the test of time. Hardbacks now cost less than they did over 20 years ago. And budgets available for books, in the public sector of both libraries and schools, are dwindling.
Ali Sparkes, a member of the panel, said that both she and plenty of other big names were facing a drop in royalties, with 50% of her income now predicted to come from events such as school visits.
About 34% of the 170,000 books published in 2012 were ebooks. In a growing digital market, cheaper availability brings with it greater accessibility for both writers and readers. With many self-published books now available, readers can bypass publishers and pick and choose what they want to read - and the digital publishers, in turn, are more attuned to the specific needs of their audience. Unpublished writers can use digital platforms - such as Wattpad - to engage a readership, and then potentially find a path to traditional publishing.
So it would seem that certain barriers are coming down, that the publishing power is leaning more towards the direct relationship between writers and their readers. Yet I couldn't help thinking that the openings in the changing market are for the younger writer, the writer nearer to the age of children with apparently dangerously dwindling attention spans.
This need to create multi-media ways of telling a story, in order to engage children in the first place, feels sad. Are we losing the traditional desire to be able to capture a child's imagination with the written word? Or is there room, and indeed a great need, for stories to be out there, available to all in a multitude of formats? Perhaps there's hope in the belief that a good story, whichever path it takes, will eventually find an audience.
Monday ~ a new kind of publishing, with Sarah Towle
Tuesday ~ blog break interview with Sarah Broadley
Wednesday ~ a new feature, The Buzz ~ Vlogging, by Larisa Villar Hauser
Thursday Event report ~ from the masterclass on commercial fiction, by Lil Chase.
Network news ~ from Central East, with Helen Moss
Friday ~ June's featured illustrator, Heather Kilgour
Saturday ~ Around the world with scbwi, with Sarah Broadley - this month, Japan
Nancy Saunders is the Editor of W&P. You can find some of her short stories here, and on Twitter @nancyesaunders