What worked last decade just doesn't work anymore. And that's okay.
Critical Mass has been doing an interesting series, The Next Decade in Book Culture, in which guests were invited to share their thoughts on what might be in store for us as we leave the double-Os behind and adjust to the pre-teens.
One of my favorite responses so far comes from poet Hans Ostrum:
Imagine being alive when the Gutenberg Revolution swept Europe, when printing-technology had made pamphlets, novels, tracts, and anthologies not just possible but commonplace. Obviously, we're in a parallel situation with digital media, except our cultures and technologies change exponentially more quickly than those in the 15th through the 19th centuries. I don't know precisely what will happen to "the book," "the novel," read, literature, and writing. No one does, but everyone guesses. Hence the despair and fear. But if we keep the Gutenberg Revolution in mind and consider how it changed cultures, arguably, for the better, we may be more likely to enjoy the uncertainty and adapt to the changes.
What comes through loud and clear in the series as a whole is that what worked in the recently laid down decade of publishing is not going to work in the coming decade. Those who welcome change will prosper; those who doggedly cling to what worked in the Oh-Ohs, trying to pretend that they can tweak that to work in the Oh-Teens are destined to meet with a painful learning experience.
This is a time for reinvention -- of books, of book contracts, of methodology, of process -- and it's thrilling. It's healthy. Stagnation is the natural enemy of art. Whatever the specifics of our diverse strategies for the coming decade, we're all going to roll with some changes. But change is scary for a lot of people, especially where the ol' paycheck is involved.
In the spirit of "leave the gun, take the cannoli," I'm going to kiss off the old design concept, but take the attitude with me.