Up POD Creek Without a Paddle

August 2005
by Randall Williams

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I just read another
disturbing report on the explosive growth of new books published every year in
the United States, and my conscience will no longer let me keep silent.

It’s my fault.

For many years it has been
apparent to literary publishers that we are a nation of 50 million poets but
only 50,000 poetry buyers. The same trend seems to be shaping up across all
categories, with almost 200,000 new titles published in 2004, while overall
book sales are reportedly flat or even declining in some categories,
particularly literature and serious nonfiction.

Not even Barnes &
Noble—publishers themselves now—can sell enough coffee to sustain
this pace. At this rate, the book industry will end up as a giant swap meet
where authors gather to sell their books to each other. There will be no more
readers, just fellow writers.

This realization comes after 16
years spent editing, designing, and publishing more than 300 books, mostly
serious works of Southern literature, history, and culture.

Over that recent and relatively
brief career in independent entrepreneurial publishing, I’ve watched as the
retail end of the industry consolidated into the big boxes and online
discounters; as promotion opportunities became ever more scarce for

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