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Too many books? Too few readers? What can we do?

by M.J. Rose


The Halo Effect by M.J. Rose
Close to every author's heart is every newspaper article that suggests readership is way down in the United States. Part of what many of us think is going on is that you, the reader, are being exposed to so many books in the book store and at the same time not being exposed to enough information in the press about enough books except the bestsellers.

This seems to be leading to a situation where more readers are reading the top 200 books a year but few are venturing into what we call the mid-list and why books other than bestsellers are selling less well than they have in years.

I thought that it would be interesting to ask you - the readers - how you pick the books you pick? Do you feel frustrated and overwhelmed by the book choices you are faced with in the book store?

Write me at mjroseAuthor@aol.com - the tenth person who writes wins a fee copy of my latest book!

I'm asking because my fifth book - The Halo Effect - just came out and I've worked harder on it than any other book I've ever written, and because it's the start of a new psychological suspense series, and because I want it to succeed but I'm aware of a problem in the industry and I know that you may not even know about my book because of that problem.

What's the issue? There are over 100,000 books published a year. But since this is lit blog and because I write fiction - lets just look at novels.

10,000 novels are published a year. (Not including self published titles) in 1992, just twelve years ago, there were about 6000 novels published a year.

In that same time period look at things that have taken off which are now competing for every consumers time: the internet, Cable TV which has reached even the most rural areas and offers 100 channels, handheld devices which are a commuters dream, cell phones which are as common as chewing gum.

Gone are the days when all you could do at the beach was read a book or listen to the radio. Gone are the days when the people on the train were all reading a book or a newspaper.

That's one problem.

Another is that there are less (50% LESS) review sources. And there are 30% fewer independent bookstores where readers can go and talk to people who read books all the time who can make recommendations.

Now add to that the fact that general media reviews less books in 2004 than it did twelve years ago. Or even six years ago. People Magazine reviews about 200 novels a year. The New Yorker about the same. The New York Times reviews about 500 novels a year. That's about 5% of all fiction published. Probably the most comprehensive review source right now is Bookreporter.com which reviews about 1000 novels a year. But even that is only 10% of all novels coming out of the major publishing houses.

Not even Amazon's warehouses can hold every book published.

Publishers are simply publishing too many titles to support each one - so you - the reader don't see advertising or marketing for more than 200 of those novels a year.

Add to that the rising cost of books and you have a scenario where books, by the truckloads, are not making any impression on readers and just not being discovered and every year hundreds of writers are being still born - published but without support so no one ever hears about or subsequently reads the book.

Readers are now faced with a glut of books they can't wade through. Booksellers are suffering because they are faced with customers who are frustrated and who have no way to choose books, plus the booksellers themselves have no chance to read a sizable number of the books they sell and therefore are less educated about what to recommend and rely more and more on bestseller lists.

So what do you think? How can we encourage more readers to read more as well as experiment more with their choices? What's a writer to do?

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