This week, the garden writing community was abuzz with news: Meredith Publishing Company laid off 250 of its employees, and ceased publication of Country Home Magazine. Another magazine, The Growing Edge is also shutting its doors. This follows closely on the heels of the end of Cottage Living and House and Garden.
I don’t know about you, but as a reader, I’m worried about print media: the newspapers, magazines and books I read when I’m not participating in the blogosphere. Although, I admit I now subscribe to fewer publications, it’s not only due to time constraints. Some of them just don’t interest me anymore.
As a freelance writer, if I had to depend on writing for my bread and butter, I’d be wringing my hands. However, thus far, I’m still able to write, without worry of personal famine.
Partly due to HH, I still subscribe to our local newspaper, The Oklahoman. Once, it had an entire gardening section, but, now, we’re lucky if gardening gets a single page, and the local writers seem to be limited to very small columns of timeworn tips.
How will that get readers excited about gardening? Even if newspapers feel like they’re going down first with the print media ship, why not go down in a blaze of glory?
- Add a little pizzazz to the articles. Readers can get headlines and quick information from numerous online sources.
- Offer local news and interesting, well written information.
- Use local writers and get local editors to manage the sections. I, for one, don’t want to read another bland Associated Press landscaping story.
The Oklahoman’s online page opens up with local info. I will give them that.
I wrote a piece for Examiner.com about buying your gardener a magazine subscription for Christmas. I love blogs, but I still want to sit on the sofa, or in the carpool line and spread a magazine across my lap. They have the space to delve more deeply into a subject, and to produce large photographs that most bloggers can’t replicate, and many computers can’t load. I need those photographs and beautiful words like I need food.
I don’t believe magazines are in as dire shape as newspapers, although they’re feeling the pinch of fewer advertisers. For example, I haven’t heard Oklahoma Gardener is having problems, but writers are always the last to know. With an economy in recession, more magazines will fold, but perhaps, we’ll see the return of such venerable ones as Taunton’s Kitchen Gardener since I keep reading that folks are more interested than ever in growing their own food. I haven’t seen that burgeoning interest in my own friends who are managing teenage and college bound children, but they are a small microcosm of the world community.
Books. Well, I still buy books, and my friends buy them, although we read so many, that we’re likely to buy some of them used from Internet sources. Used books don’t help authors, who are paid an advance for their manuscript, and then additional monies once their books sell a certain number of copies.
Readers, a few suggestions:
- Buy more new books.
- Support your local bookstore. Amazon is great, but local bookstores do a lot to support local authors.
- Join a book club.
- Frequent your library, but also take your children to bookstores at least once a month and more often if you can afford it.
- Tell your kids they can stay up 30 minutes later if they’ll unplug, go in their rooms and read. It’s worked for our family. Three of our seven bookcases are filled with children’s books.
Those are some things the consumer can do. Publishers have been extremely slow to change, and change they must. I will probably never get a book published after writing this, but the truth is, New York City is no longer the center of the publishing universe. Small, efficient publishing houses have sprung up all over the United States, and many writers are pitching and selling their books themselves. Agents take note.
In the writing and publishing community, self publishing was once a dirty word, but I’ve noticed a trend: lots of writers, both good and bad, are writing and then publishing through their own ebooks, or through Internet sources like Lulu and Tastebook (which helps you create cookbooks). I am not endorsing either of these companies, or self-publishing, but it is a revolution of sorts because these online publishers also promote and sell the books on their webpages.
Most traditionally published book writers are finding more and more that they must provide their own publicity. Last week, Amy Stewart used an creative and ingenious video to promote her new book, Wicked Plants, debuting in May 2009. It helps that her brother is a professional, but using video to promote print media is smart. It can potentially reach those elusive twenty-something readers. Writers, she also has her own simple and effective web page, and she finds the time to write for two blogs, her own and as one of four regular contributors to Garden Rant.
I realize part of this is a natural progression of technology and that whenever there is a great change in such, there is a shakedown of old technologies. Still, I wonder what we can do. I don’t have the answers, but I proposed some observations. Now, I’d like to hear yours because you are the smartest cookies I know.
How can we help print media stay off life support? As my former pastor, John A. Petuskey, said, “Questions, comments, snide remarks?”