Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Top Five Publishing Trends in the World According to Garp (and Dalt)

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This month I’m writing out of the tradition of the Chappelle Show’s Negrodamus (Paul Mooney), a satirical black fortune teller named after Nostradamus. Honestly, in today’s book business, Nostradamus’ book The Prophecies might be stuck in a warehouse because his distributor went under and his bungalow (or castle?) would be facing foreclosure because his publisher recently got acquired by another larger company, and his advance money instalments got delayed. Oh yeah, and about that little Parisian mom and pop bookstore that carried his predictions in book form? Kaput and bankrupt. It’s true. Nostradamus would rank #67 on Kindle’s bestselling self published author lists!

1. Book launches need more booze.

Sorry, but people aren’t showing up to your launch to hear you read a longwinded passage from your new book or to take in a grating ramble about your “journey” to get the manuscript from point A to C. These attendees honestly have better things to do with their time and thus have shown up to drink. Wine, beer, rum. It all doesn’t matter. They need to get their drink on. If you look at the ratio of the crowd who attended your launch versus the amount of people who actually bought your book, it looks something like a 5:1 ratio to me. So, stop denying it. Listen, I am Jamaican, and we drink much Heineken. So if there is a Heineken sales rep reading this that oversees the Toronto marketplace, holla!

2. Bookstores will be less about books and more about good espresso and matchmaking and stuff.

Like, who goes to The Bookstore to actually buy books anymore? I go on my down time to kick up my feet and read the latest magazines. Or maybe buy a chai latte tea at the in-house cafe. If you’re single, forget the ROM’s Friday Night Live events, this is a hottie haven. Buy a new book, meh. This might sound crazy, but do you know how long it took me to find my own book at The Bookstore? About 12 minutes or so. Despite the subject of my new book, Drake, being one of the leading newsmakers of this generation, it was off buried somewhere in a corner alongside some other listless music titles. If it’s taking me too long to find my own book, sheeit, I can’t honestly expect some arbitrary consumer who might’ve heard me talking up the title recently on CBC’s Metro Morning, CTV’s Canada AM or City-TV’s Breakfast TV to go rummaging around for 20 minutes to find my book. And if you’re wondering “who in the heck has the time to time how long it takes for them to find their own book,” I say, hey, I had nothing else better to do at the time (and arguably still don’t). The bookstores of 2013 will become like most jazz festivals, programming everything but jazz. Sorry, gotta run. I’m heading off to my local area mom and pop bookstore to grab some 1% milk bags.

3. Vanity publishing will reign supreme.

There ain’t nobody with even a tiny bit of their own re$ource$ or any recipients of Canadian writers' grants (aka government cheese) who are going to sit around and wait three to five for some phantom publisher or agent to “discover” their work, get them paid and ultimately help them release their work out into the literary universe. POD (print on demand) is like COD (cash on delivery). Consumers buy your work, you see some cash (or cover some costs). Slush piles, yummy. Barely edited books, hoorah! A large and growing segment of the publishing circuit are less concerned about hanging out with aging publishing vets at events that have little to no swag. It’s more about making dough on your own terms now. Y’see, I write about the global hip hop economy, and rappers like Jay-Z, for example, don’t really have any interest in waiting around for the music establishment to endorse or rubber stamp their art. When Jay-Z started out he just kept releasing his products and he ensured that they got a bigger publicity bang and buzz than releases from the larger companies who were flaunting much larger marketing budgets. Likewise, in the Toronto publishing scene, the dizzying array of interesting titles and characters emerging from this newer bottom-up publishing universe will make it more difficult for larger publishing houses to justify the salaries of their long-time staffers who aren’t quite bringing in bank. Kanye West is my readerships' Atwood, so it’s not by accident that I (will) continue to generate more big-media interest than your average major-publishing-house author. Swag. 

4. Ebooks, e-readers are the present and future.

Having witnessed the music business implode up close and personal, I’m not trying to be one of those old-school traditionalists stuck in the '80s, desperately holding on to ones pastime paradise. The only '80s I’m interested in waxing about is the year 2080, when these same publishing business revivalists whose heads are either stuck in the clouds or in the sand will disappear like dust in the wind. Are you on Twitter? Does your website carry updated info? How often are you frequenting bookstores? Do you own a Kobo? Do you think Kobe will lead the Lakers to an NBA championship this year? Are you following me on twitter @daltonhiggins5? If not, then I’m sorry, we don’t have much to talk about. The e-reader wars are real, between Kindle, Kobo and the Nooks of the world. Though the only nook I’ve been thinking about is the one I’ll have to crawl in if my latest book doesn’t sell a boatload of units like it’s projected to! Though I must admit, the prices of these multifunctional tablets and e-readers might have to go down for them to be embraced fully by some aspects of my readership.

5. Niche genre publishing is where it’s at.

Whether it’s Queer Lit, Hip Hop Lit or Chick Lit, I think it’s going to be increasingly important for scribes to be well versed in their genre, regardless of whatever trends are being dictated by The Suits. Yes, the conundrum called Can Lit was intentionally left off this list. The sheer lack of cultural diversity coupled with the cronyism and nepotism that tends to dominate the Toronto literary scene is not going away anytime soon. So writers need to continue to connect with their hardcore genre faithful fans more than ever, so that when Josephine Publishing Exec who’s handling your business is let go because of company “restructuring,” you will have made enough of a direct peer-to-peer connection with your peeps to forge on. Not to heap all this civil-rights-era sloganeering on you, but it’s really all about “power to the people,” more so now than ever. Writing a 200+ page book will always still be as excruciating as having surgery without anaesthesia, so you might as well master your genre and know your craft. I’ll be hosting and producing a miniature book summit that involves my own genres of expertise, including hip hop and music lit., black lit. and street lit., in the first quarter of 2013, so follow me on Twitter for more info. There will be booze (PLS. REFER TO ITEM #1), it will be diverse and reflective of today’s demographic realities, accessible and youth and it will be POC-friendly, so stay tuned.

Dalton Higgins is a National Magazine Award-winning journalist and radio and TV broadcaster who blogs and therefore is. His latest book Far From Over: The Music and Life of Drake (ECW Press, Oct. 2012) sheds light on the cultural conditions in Toronto that helped create the Drake phenomenon. His four other books (Fatherhood 4.0, Hip Hop World, Hip Hop, Much Master T) examine the place where the worlds of technology, diversity, hip hop and hipster culture intersect. His daily Daltoganda, musings, rants, jabs, pontifications and fire-and-brimstone blather can be accessed from his digital pulpit on twitter: @daltonhiggins5

Click here to read Dalton's archived articles on Open Book: Toronto.

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