Blogs, eBooks and the book market – we sat down with the publisher Wolfgang Bader to talk about the future of writing.
Mr. Bader, you have been in publishing for more than twenty years. How has the book market changed in recent years?
The cycle itself has changed. Ever since the success of digital printing, the book market has grown exponentially and opened up to all kinds of innovation. Self-publishers are discovering new publishing models, while eBooks facilitate the production of books. Not only the book market but also the readers have changed, though. Their interest in new authors is constantly increasing, also due to such new marketing opportunities as social media marketing. New authors turning to a service provider like novum publishing benefit from this wider scope in terms of public relations. More and more readers are searching the internet for books catering to their specific interests. This development opens up better opportunities for new authors. If their work is of high quality, success is bound to follow. This is usually also the case when booksellers pick up pace and add new authors to their portfolio. The publishing industry does not determine what readers want to read – readers determine what the publishing industry wants to publish. The emergence of bookstores exclusively specialising in new authors is just a side effect of this new demand.
Which genres would you say are currently the most popular ones on the British and American book market?
Taking a closer look at our own writers, I would say that we are experiencing quite divergent trends. While both novels and crime novels are currently very popular among authors in Great Britain, the United States are focusing on books of religious content. Generally speaking, however, the overall English-speaking book market is usually developing in rather similar directions. Crime novels and thrillers have also been a popular genre on the American book market for many years. The situation is a bit different for the eBook market, though, as genre preferences are not always the same here.
In recent years, the English-speaking market experienced the emergence of the new literary genre “young adult”, which has become increasingly popular among adult readers as well. How did the book market react in your opinion?
As the genre has already been around for a number of years, I would call it an innovative rather than a new genre. I think one of the most exciting character traits of YA is its versatile approach: intended for readers between 12 and 18 years of age, it addresses all kinds of issues relevant to today’s Generation Z teenagers – mobbing, first love, divorced parents or abnormality are just a few of the many key topics. Successful YA books always have an emotional component. The stories are told from the perspective of a teenager and move the reader on an emotional level. Nevertheless, I do not necessarily detect any fundamental changes on the book market. A positive change has certainly been the increased number of readers and the larger community of writers. There is even a new genre apparently breaking through due to the growing popularity of YA books. New Adult is targeting readers between 18 years and their mid-twenties, certainly in consequence of the popular YA genre.
Why do we need to assign books to certain genres? Should writers think about how to categorise their books or is this the job of the publisher?
Determining the genre of a book is actually rather important. Many readers search for and find new books according to genre. Talking from experience with our own authors, I would say that the content of a book and its genre are closely intertwined. We often need to read just a few lines to know where the book is heading. In addition, we always recommend being familiar with your potential readers and to decide for which group of readers you write before starting a new literary project. In the end, the booksellers also want to know on which shelves to put their new books.
Self-publishing, blog or full-service publishing house – which market model is the most promising and why?
The model offering the highest quality. Each of the publication models has its benefits. Nevertheless, the market is currently flooded with bad books, resulting in the consumer’s increased demand for quality assurance. Similar to movies and TV shows, the recipient often relies on tried-and-tested quality. In our trade, this quality is primarily found in the publishing industry. Readers regard a book’s availability in bookshops as a binding label of quality. If you want to see your book on the shelves, you will need a publisher. A publishing house is the only way to reliably meet the high-quality standards of both readers and writers. In a nutshell, modern readers want to know what they are getting themselves into. And modern authors know how to benefit from this desire – by signing with a full-service publishing house, for example.
What would be your advice to an author attempting to become successful on the book market?
Whether we’re talking about style, story, editor or cover design – focus on quality. And never stop believing – both in yourself and the market. There certainly is demand for new books. Our reading habits have changed, though. With a team of experts at your side, there is no challenge too great to master it together.
What would you determine the potential of a book to become a bestseller?
I believe it is all about the interplay of several factors. On the one hand, the publishing house is responsible for evaluating the relevance of the manuscript. On the other hand, there are also certain criteria beyond our control that decide the success or failure of a book. Sometimes I’d call it zeitgeist, sometimes it’s just coincidence. It is ultimately a formula with many different variables: the right story, the right time, the right place – and the right publishing house.
You are surrounded by manuscripts every single day. Have you ever been tempted to write a book of your own?
To be perfectly honest, no. (laughs) I am fortunate enough to come across excellent manuscripts, books and authors on a daily basis. Perhaps that’s why it has never occurred to me.
So we won’t be treated to an autobiography by Wolfgang Bader now, will we?
It’s not on my list right now. Maybe you’ve just given me an idea, though. Never say never! (laughs)
If novum publishing had a favourite quote, which one would it be?
“He who stops getting better has stopped being good” – a piece of advice we also offer our team and a philosophy to guide us into the future with strong will and determination.
Thank you for the interview!