On a More Optimistic Note

After a long conversation about ROF, Hassan forwarded me this recent article in the Telegraph, which has a surprisingly optimistic view of how the recession (downturn? crisis?) will affect the publishing industry.  Here’s an excerpt:

While Breedt acknowledges that the recession is sure to dent sales, he has one area of hope. “The most spectacular area of growth in recent years has been in manga and graphic novels, which were non-existent in 2001. But sales have increased by almost 100 per cent year-on-year ever since. In 2008, 114,000 units were sold making £1.5 million. What’s great about this is that it’s a genre bought primarily by young people, which implies there’s a real future for the market.”

Publishers and literary agents are also staying on the sober side of upbeat. They all feel that, for true readers, books are not a “discretionary spend”. As Katharine Fullerton Gerould wrote in the Twenties: “If we have a dollar to spend on some wild excess, we shall spend it on a book, not on asparagus out of season.” But what sorts of books will we be buying through a recession? Most publishers agree we’re likely to turn away from the grimmer stuff. Misery memoirs will take a nosedive, as will “suicidally bleak” literary fiction. We’ll seek comfort between the covers of romances and murder mysteries.

The level of optimism from some of those quoted seems more spin than anything else, but it does make sense to me that some genres will do the same or better while others will take the hardest hit. In spec fic, I imagine YA, high fantasy, and light space opera won’t do too badly…. perhaps the darker subgenres may suffer more?  Of course, this doesn’t really have much to do with the print magazines, which were struggling even before the economy went kerplunk. 

The graphic novel upswing as evidence for optimism seems especially odd.  I don’t know a lot about it, but it seems like that’s really just about the big companies finally figuring out they could take nearly everything they put out and repackage it as trade paperbacks for distribution through book stores – not sure if it’s evidence of any trend beyond that.

More interview meme-ing fun to come later …

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