This article is a bit behind the times, as we’re now on the 11th of January, but I wanted to look at the types of book that won awards last year and subsequently what that says, if anything, about the industry at large.
The state of publishing nowadays is something that is discussed almost weekly, and every week it seems that opinion changes. Occasionally you will hear that eBooks are the new future but this is then countered by an article revering the world of print. So, what’s the deal? What achieved critical acclaim last year and is this even relevant to the over-riding question?
Apparently, in 2012, there were 530,000 different books published in the UK and the US alone. The critics will often wax lyrically about ten of these and dismiss the rest as fodder for the ignorant masses, but interestingly 50 Shades of Grey won Book of the Year at The National Book Awards. I’ve heard many things about this book but a literary masterpiece is not one of them. Perhaps things are changing?
I’ve always been positioned firmly in the camp of entertainment over high-brow, pretentious, over-intellectualising. (I was an Oasis fan over Radiohead, for example) If millions of people buy a book and enjoy it, for whatever reason, and then tell other’s about it, then that’s the point of it for me. I know that there’s art for art’s sake, and other’s will completely disagree with me, but if you can produce something that appeals to a lot of people then, for me, you’ve made more people happy and helped them to escape temporarily from their lives. Is that not the point of any type of art?
The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was not awarded to anyone in 2012, the first time this has ever happened. Suggesting that a literary work of such merit, deserving of this accolade, had not been produced by anyone. Hmmm?
The UK seemed to embrace the masses a bit more, what with FSOG and The Booker Prize going to Hilary Mantel (who also won Author of the Year at The National Book Awards). The Booker Prize often goes for the more literary fiction but Mantel’s success was for Historical Fiction which has traditionally been over-looked.
People’s reading habits have certainly changed due to eBooks and more people are reading the types of books that they want to read. Sales figures for books like FSOG are evidence of this because there would have been no way that women on tubes would have read that book in print form to the extent that they did on eReaders. The awards need to recognise this shift if they are to stay relevant and be a guide for the best books around.
Low-brow fiction, I guess, has always out-sold it’s more cerebral siblings but I think the extent to which this is happening is now increasing. All in all, I think this is good news for most self-publishers who, by large, want to write the types of books that they want to write.
The roller-coaster is bound to continue in 2013 as the industry continues to settle but for me, and anyone like me, it’s not really important. There will be more routes to market made available for self-publishers, more avenues to promote through and more readers to reach as the trend continues to increase for eReaders. Good times!
Do you have any thoughts on this? Or perhaps you think I’ve got it completely wrong?