Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Best Of 2011... And My Predictions For 2012 (Part One: Books, and Other Smarty Pants Things!)

There are, as I type this, 111 hours and 14 minutes left in 2011, which makes naming the my Best Of 2011 somewhat less dicey than people who began naming their Bests days, or even weeks ago.

I always used to wonder about that: Naming the Best of this or that in early December leaves out the possibility that anything good will happen in December, doesn't it?

Then I wondered if anything really good ever happened in the arts or science or culture or style in the last two weeks of December, because if nothing like that ever did, then what's the big deal about naming Bests on, say, December 5?

So I investigated, the way everybody investigates everything, by googling it, and so I asked Google the question:
Did anything really important ever happen in the last two weeks of December?

And learned that somehow Britney Spears is involved:


Naturally, I didn't click that link, because even though Britney doesn't appear on the top 10 list of celebrity links most likely to infect your computer with a virus, it's abundantly clear to me by now that clicking any links on the Internet, ever will result in your computer starting to foam at the mouth and Nigerian princes being legally allowed to sublet your kitchen.

Also, yes, my computer has a mouth.

Anyway, Wikipedia, which is becoming surprisingly reliable (I'm using "reliable" in the sens of "easy to get to, and I'm lazy") has a series of pages by day and a list of things that happened on that day, so I picked out December 29 at random (I'm using "random" in the sense of "not random at all"), and found these amazing things that happened on December 29ths of yore:

In 1813, the British soldiers burnt Buffalo as part of the War of 1812.

In 1914, James Joyce began serializing his first novel, A Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Boy, in a magazine, (so if you, like me, like to serialize your stories, you're in good company as far as literary critics are concerned, but not as far as I'm concerned because I've never read Joyce and never intend to.)

In 1937, Ireland became a country.

In 1983, Alison Brie was born.

Sheer, random chance how that
came up.

So if you were, in any of those years -- or any of the other years in which there was a December 29th, for that matter-- putting up your "Best Of" list before December 29, you would perhaps miss out on some important events like "The Best Burning of An American City by a Foreign Power" or "The Best New Country" or "The Best Potential Source For Downloading Malware Onto Your Work Laptop 28 Years From Now."

Nevertheless, I'm going to go ahead and start posting my Best Ofs, because that's how I roll. I got 99 problems but a calendar ain't one, as I like to say.*

*That song played over the credits of the new version of
Fright Night, which was the movie Sweetie and I watched on Christmas Eve, and I've decided to make that my catch phrase this year. Let's see if it sticks!

So for the rest of this week, I will be posting my Bests Of 2011, and, just for the heck of it, predicting what is going to be the big thing in those categories in 2012, and next year, I'll maybe remember to look back to this year and see if I was right, something I will have to do before December 12 next year, as that's when the world is ending. Live it up!

The Best In Books, 2011:

Best Of The Year: INDIE BOOKS and INDIE Writers.

2011 was the year of the Indie Book!
Rather than focusing on any one particular book for this category, I decided to broaden the scope and point out that for people like me, and the Indie Authors I've begun reviewing, and people who like to write, 2011 was the year people began to realize you can do that.

A recent look at top sellers in books found encouraging and amazing results for people who just like reading or just like writing: Indie books are a majority of top-20 best sellers in every single genre.

That's right: no matter what genre of book you like reading, the top 20 is dominated by self-published writers realizing their dreams. Romance, sci-fi, and fantasy each had 16 or 17 or the top 20 slots taken by indie books, and thrillers, where large publishers have been making a stand of sorts, has become a Helm's Deep: 12 of the top 20 are indie books.

Why is that so good? Not just because I indie publish all my books and serialize them on my blogs and make them available on Scribd for free and otherwise do my best to just enjoy writing without ever bothering to write another query letter again, although that is good for me, but it's also good for reading.

Study after study shows that people who buy e-books buy more books than they would with hard copies, and e-books are the reason that more people can indie publish their books; books are easier to create, easier to sell, and easier to buy and read than ever before in our history.

At the beginning of 2011, e-books outsold paperbacks for the first time in history (on Amazon, at least.) With that, the floodgates were opened. Ebooks were the only area of publishing that saw a growth in income in the first 8 months of the year, and the numbers on top 20 sellers suggest that indie books are driving that growth.

"Traditional" publishing won't die out soon -- not any more than the ability to make a movie with an iPhone keeps Steven Spielberg from blowing $70,000,000 to make a movie about a fictional horse fighting a real war. (The pitch: "It's Saving Private Ryan meets Mr. Ed!") Or no more than the prevalence of mp3s and iTunes led to the demise of Lady Gaga and the Black-Eyed Peas.

What it does mean is that authors can now follow in the footsteps of Jonathan Coulton and Louis C.K. and take control of their creations themselves.

Special note to those who, like Garrison Keillor, would bar themselves in Helm's Deep and keep others out while they die inside: Will indie book sales maybe result in more authors sharing fewer dollars, as Keillor said? Perhaps... but the average wage in 2010 for people working as authors of one sort or another was $65,000. In 2008, half of all full-time writers earned between $38,000 and $75,000. And that's with the full benefit of the publishing industries -- all the publishing push the majors can put into it resulted in half of all writers earning less than $75,000 a year.

Consider this, then. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated 40,000 or so people worked full-time as writers in 2010. 24,000 of them earned less than $75,000 per year. (because half earned between $38,000-$75,000 and 10% earned less than that.)

Meanwhile, the top-10 highest paid writers in 2010 earned $269,000,000 between them. That list includes people like Janet Evanovich (who I've never read) John Grisham (who became a parody of himself long ago) Stephen King (whose hit-to-miss ratio is about 1-to-10, now) and Nicholas Sparks (who... enough said.)

There's a lot of money to go around. The Indie Book Revolution could be rephrased as #Occupy Random House: the top 1% of all authors have been sucking the air out of the room for a long time, and Indie Books just cracked a window.

The best books I read this year began as indie books or stayed indie books: Rusty Webb's novella A Dead God's Wrath was amazing and heralds more to come. John Dies At The End began its life as a blog before being picked up by a small publisher. Blood Calling and Lyon's Legacy brought new life to tired genres (vampires, and sci-fi otherworld travel, respectively). I've just finished Eminent Domain by Erin Riordan and Tit Elingtin, and that was good, too (review coming.) If, in 2011, you didn't read an indie book, you missed out.


This category on my blog is technically called "Books, and Other Smarty-Pants Things," and the while Indie Books were clearly The Best in that category in 2011, I'm going to pick poetry as the second best in that category for the year.

Everyone knows I post a poem nearly every Friday on my blog "Thinking The Lions". (You all know that, right?)

I don't want to brag it up too much, but I think poetry's starting to catch on. An author bragged about how he reads a poem a day. NPR's late-October-2010 contest seeking LeBron James poems led to students writing poems about the Packers reaching the Super Bowl which led to a free-verse compilation poem about Albert Haynesworth, as sports sought out the beauty of lyric poetry, and Google started creating poems, or something, and in Madison, Wisconsin, the city stamped some poems right into the earth.

So my favorite poem of the year was: "The Crowds Cheered As Gloom Galloped Away." Go read it. It's incredible. And it's not all poem-y, so don't worry about that.

PREDICTIONS FOR 2012: You know it's going to be something about Indie Publishing, right? Well, here's what I predict for 2012: J.K. Rowling is going to leave her publisher and begin to publish Harry Potter sequels and spin-offs on her own, marketing them through her own website.

Crazy? Or not so much? Radiohead gave up on record labels in early 2011. Louis C.K. began releasing his own comedy specials this year through his website, earning over a million bucks in just over a week. Rowling this year said she might write more Potter books, and Rowling has been hard at work trying to get the Pottermore website up and running, with 1,000,000 members having already signed up for the beta version. It might not be long before we're treated to Ron Weasly and The Winding-Up Wizard, which, having printed that, will probably now get me sued for copyright infringement.


Grumpy Bulldog, Secret Agent said...

I think it's sad that people like JK Rowling and George Lucas can't seem to come up with any other ideas so they keep beating the dead horse year after year after year. Stephen King is hit-or-miss but at least he tries different things to some extent.

And yes I think this will be a blog entry somewhere around 1/17/12...

Grumpy Bulldog, Secret Agent said...

Grumpy Bulldog is so much bluer now...

Andrew Leon said...

Red Tails, from Lucas, is coming out soon. That's certainly not Star Wars.

Although a lot of people have really been down on serialixed works, I think indie publishing may bring serializing back.

Michael Offutt, Supra-Genius said...

I loved that skit with Lindsey Lohan playing Hermione on Saturday Night Live. That was great.

Clarissa Draper said...

Interesting stuff. I found the number of millions made by ten people staggering. Obviously I have to read them more.