Year in Review: Books trends that got our attention
By EDWARD NAWOTKA
Published: 16 December 2011 05:42 PM
Looking back, 2011 will be remembered as the year when publishing was turned on its head.
Self-published authors, once the pariahs of the book business, gained credibility — outselling many established names and giving hope to would-be authors everywhere. Borders, the second-biggest bookstore chain in the country, went under, signaling a shift in priority from print books to e-books.
Making headlines during the year were:
Steve Jobs: In 2010, Steve Jobs promised to revolutionize reading with the introduction of Apple’s iPad; in 2011, concurrent with his passing, he became the subject of possibly the bestselling book of the year: Walter Isaacson’s 656-page, $35 biography Steve Jobs. Jobs knew in life — and now in death — how to wow an audience and get people to open their wallets.
Self-publishing: Prior to 2011, the road to becoming an author was arduous, requiring a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck. Self-publishing was seen as the option of last resort. Now, dirt-cheap self-published books are topping bestseller lists at Amazon.com and elsewhere. In 2010, there were 133,036 self-published titles released, and when the numbers come in for this year, that figure is expected to double or triple. It’s said that everyone has at least one book in them, and now we can buy them.
Borders: But where? In 2001, Borders had more than 2,000 bookstores in the United States, 50 overseas, and earned more than $3 billion in annual revenue. In July this year, the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company went bankrupt, shuttering hundreds of stores (including several in Dallas), putting 10,000 people out of work and leaving book lovers everywhere bereft.
Barnes & Noble: The growing popularity of e-books is credited with killing Borders (note: there was a lot of human error involved as well). Determined not to suffer the same fate, Barnes & Noble aggressively pushed e-books and put its Nook devices front-and-center in their stores. Throughout 2011, they beat archrival Amazon to market with several innovative devices, including updated touch-screen e-ink devices and color Android tablets. The company, previously seen by many as a villain blamed for the closing of many independent bookstores around the country (yes, including Dallas), became the last, best hope for those who like to browse and buy physical books in real stores.
Amazon: Ask booksellers who the biggest bully is now and they will likely tell you it is our “friends in Seattle,” as Amazon has euphemistically come to be known. The Voldemort of the book business not only controls an estimated 60 percent of e-book sales and a significant chunk of print book sales, it has now become a publisher, establishing imprints for everything from romance novels to children’s picture books and putting out more than 100 books of its own in 2011. It is even competing with the big houses in New York to pay top dollar for authors, as it did when it ponied up $800,000 to acquire a memoir by the film director Penny Marshall.
Amanda Hocking and John Locke: That generous sum falls well short of the reported $2 million paid by St. Martin’s Press to Amanda Hocking, the 27-year-old Minnesota author who became a hot commodity when her series of inexpensive, self-published novels about attractive magical trolls became a phenomenon. She joined thriller writer John Locke as the second self-published scribe to sell more than 1 million e-books on Amazon.com, alongside mega-bestsellers James Patterson, Nora Roberts and Janet Evanovich.
Stephen King does Dallas: Speaking of mega-bestsellers, Stephen King — who helped Jeff Bezos launch the original Amazon Kindle and is now pimping for Barnes & Noble’s Nook — gave Dallas a special gift this year: 11/22/63, a 1,000-page novel in which a young man travels back in time to try to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy. King delighted big crowds with appearances in Dallas and McKinney.
Time-traveling Texas debuts: Era hopping time-travel also featured in fascinating debuts written by Texans, yet set “abroad” in different eras, such as screenwriter Jenny Wingfield’s The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, a powerful family drama about 1950s Arkansas; David E. Hilton’s Kings of Colorado, a book that was equal parts Annie Proulx and Larry McMurtry set in Colorado in the 1960s; and Ernest Cline’sReady Player One, which challenged readers to brush up on their 1980s pop culture while navigating a future dystopia.
Tried-and-true Texans: Several seasoned Texas fiction writers returned with new books this year, including Amanda Eyre Ward’s Close Your Eyes, Sarah Bird’s The Gap Year, Bruce Machart’s Men in the Making, Jeff Abbott’s Adrenaline, Joe R. Landsdale’s All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky, Dominic Smith’sBright and Distant Shores, Stephen Harrigan’s Remember Ben Clayton, David Liss’ The Twelfth Enchantment and David Lindsey’s mystery Pacific Heights — his first book in several years — which was mysteriously published under the pen name Paul Harper.
Books as movies: Another major Texas novelist worth noting is Rick Riordan, who continued to extend his blockbuster series of books about the children of mythical demigods with the October publication of The Son of Neptune. While we won’t be enjoying the second installment of the film adaptation of his Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, The Sea of Monsters, until 2013, this year did see the finale of the most popular (and profitable) book-to-film adaptation ever made, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, which took in an astonishing $1.33 billion worldwide. Which, no matter how you look at it, would buy more self-published books for your Kindle than you could possibly read in a lifetime, or maybe a million lifetimes, depending on your taste.
Edward Nawotka is the editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives.com. He lives in Houston.