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The Death of the Novel

There was a time when writers could write novels and make a pretty decent living at it. They weren’t quite as celebritized as, say, actors or baseball players, but people knew who they were, even if said people didn’t read a lot.

But I think, and maybe I’m just glorifying the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, that people used to read more than they do now. Tell me if you think I’m wrong there.

People used to buy books. In book stores. They didn’t go there for lattes or stuffed animals or board games. Ok, maybe the board games. But they went to book stores to look at and buy books. Just like they went to shoe stores to buy shoes, and vegetable stands to buy vegetables.

The Bigboxation of America (and probably most of the rest of the world) means everything gets a small shelf in the store. Walmart and Target sell books. But just the popular ones everyone has already heard of. How do you get heard of if you aren’t already?

Where do authors, musicians, or painters go to get discovered? Or in the absence of traditional representation or management, where do they go to sell their wares? It seems the more we slide over to fully digital media, the more we see people who want our stuff for free.

It seems hopeless for as-yet untapped talent, like the art form of the novel is on its death bed.

But don’t give up hope. You have to have faith that it will survive. Somehow.

I said before that you’re first novel will probably suck. And your second one might have flaws, too. But keep writing. Get those out of your system. Maybe you make music or paint, or you have business ideas. The first ones might not be your best. But keep at it. Have faith that one day the right people will see what you do and go, “Yeah, that’s what we need!”

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7 thoughts on “The Death of the Novel

  1. I don’t think novels are on their way out, although the way we get them will probably evolve quite a bit. I don’t think it will be all e-books either, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the only actual bookstores in the future will be used bookstores, where people go to sell the books they bought on Amazon.

      • Yeah, me too. I could just go hang out in a bookstore for hours without even buying any (although I inevitably would). I do like my Kindle for the convenience, but I don’t think they’ll ever totally replace print books and I wouldn’t want them to. There is more to the experience of reading than just seeing the words.

      • I agree with you on all of that. But I look at what is happening with CD’s and wonder, hoping it doesn’t happen with novels. Or paintings. In fact, speaking of music, a lot of artists are again (or still) making vinyl. Now that’s refusing to die!

  2. Hi Vince. You bring up a lot of good points. The “market” is saturated with so many competing things how do people sell books at all? There isn’t even a book store in my town. I was really saddened when it closed. I don’t even own a Kindle yet, but feel like I must get one now to read people who ONLY have e-books. I feel a bit resistant.

      • Yes, but I miss the physical place of a bookstore close by. Wandering in, browsing, discovering something you hadn’t expected. I guess this can happen online, but it doesn’t feel the same. It’s like a library with no books, which is what my community college has. It’s called the personal learning center (something like that). TImes change.

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