The Future of Books

ken roberts millenium library winnipeg presentation“My publisher receives 15,000 manuscripts for children’s picture books a year. They publish about twelve, most of them by established authors they have worked with before.”

“You can’t make money selling print books anymore.  That’s why the Canadian Booksellers Association is defunct. That’s why print runs have been reduced significantly. That’s why online electronic selling of books will soon be the only way to go.”

“By the end of this year 40% of all the textbooks used in North America will be available in e-book form.” 

“In the past the average print book sold 7000 copies. Today the average book sells 3000 copies. You need to sell at least 5000 copies in order to break even.” 

” Hundred year old publishing companies like Houghton Mifflin are closing down. Other big publishing companies are merging.” 

ken roberts librarianOn Monday night I went to hear Ken Roberts speak at the Winnipeg Millenium library. An author and the Chief Librarian at the Hamilton Public Library for eighteen years, Roberts sits on the planning boards for many new libraries and he has won all kinds of honors and awards for both his writing and his work for the Canadian Library Association.  He was talking to us about the future of books.  According to Ken the day of the printed book is drawing to a close. 

Surprisingly, he predicts that perhaps so is the day of the electronic book. Ken thinks there is some new cutting edge technology out there that will reimagine the way we read and we’ll be using it sooner than we think. Even four or five years ago no one could have predicated the massive changes in the book industry and we can’t predict what may lie ahead. But Ken made two suggestions about how our reading material may look in the future.

1) New technology will impact the content of books because electronic formats will make it possible to constantly keep a book’s information current and up to date. 

books interactive2) Books will be interactive. Readers will decide what sections of a book they want to explore further and in what way. 

Those of us who are in the business of writing books will need to be on a sharp learning curve as the book industry changes dramatically. 

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MaryLou Driedger is just beginning to write fiction and non-fiction for children after working as a teacher, newspaper columnist and free-lance journalist for thirty years. She also blogs at What Next?

MaryLou Driedger is a free lance writer with a long career as a newspaper columnist, curriculum writer and contributor to lifestyle, education and religious publications.

Mobile Tool #1– Voice Recorder

Mobile tool #1
Apps, Apps, Apps–let’s make good use of them as writers!

Voice RecorderiPhone-Voice-Recorder-Apps

Writers are known to have astounding thoughts and ideas in the strangest places. Someone has even created a product to hang in your shower to record waterproof scribblings, and many of us sleep with a pen and paper within reach because let’s face and not fool ourselves, we are not going to get those thoughts down verbatim if we wait until morning. [Unless you are like a certain friend of mine 😉 who I envy! ]

A voice recorder on your mobile device is your best friend. I have my most profound thoughts and best dialogues and plot revelations when I’m driving. I’ve captured so many of these moments by grabbing my phone from the seat beside me and turning it on, holding it low, so the men in blue don’t think I’m texting or calling. It’s great for use at the gym, at the office, out hiking, the sky’s the limit. Or, hopefully not, you should break your wrist and can’t type.

Go one further and download a voice to text recorder and you’re golden. You can usually e-mail the transcript to yourself and don’t have to type it up. On the other hand, you will have to translate what the recorder thought you said. So–enunciate!

VastI footer…writes for under 18’s & is currently torturing her first complete manuscript with revision. She encourages all writers thus:

To know is nothing at all. To imagine is everything” -Anatole France

Writing Lessons for the Budget Conscious

With a limited budget for my writing, I’m very careful about which resources I invest in. In my quest to constantly improve my writing, I’d

Hmm, I don't see a square devoted to writing.
Hmm, I don’t see a square devoted to writing.

scoured the internet for resources. But, I was starting to have a problem. I kept coming across the same information over and over. Even as I read books on writing, I found that many weren’t presenting new information. I was getting disillusioned. I wanted to grow as a writer, but how?

I researched writing programs at various universities and found myself stymied at every turn. One local university wanted me to take a first, second, and third year writing course in order to take a one budget1credit hour creative writing course. Another  university offered a creative writing certificate, but after reviewing their syllabi, I found it was just more introductory stuff. I wanted more. I wanted to dig deeper and I also knew that all the knowledge in the world was useless if you’re not applying it properly. So, I also needed professional feedback on my work.

Last September I decided to give the Writers’ Village Academy a try. Taught by Dr. John Yeoman (PhD in creative writing), the program offers weekly lessons and weekly writing feedback for a monthly payment of approximately $39 depending on the exchange. The lessons have been, for me, 80% new material and excitingly refreshing. Here’s a sampling of the 35 lesson topics I’ve received over the past few months:

  • Creative ways to move between scenes effectively and use transitions
  • Five clever tricks of language to help you add depth to your story
  • How to close a story effectively
  • Eight innovative ways to power a story with dialogue
  • How to handle coincidence in story plausibly
  • Subtle and little used ways to add suspense to your story

I’ve learned a lot and have benefitted greatly from the individualized feedback I’ve received from Dr. Yeoman. So if you’re looking for a writing program  and investing in an MFA is out of the question, take a look at the Writers’ Village.


Melinda Friesen writes novels for teens and short stories adults. When she’s not writing, she’s ruining banana bread and doing laundry.


Melinda Friesen authored Enslavement, a young adult dystopian novel, released by Rebelight Publishing. When she’s not writing, Melinda works as marketing director and acquisitions editor at Rebelight Publishing Inc.

Telling Luba’s Story – Choosing a Form

Luba at age 80
Luba at age 80

“Why me? Why did I survive while so many others didn’t”

Tears welled in Luba’s eyes.  She slumped in her chair and turned to me for answers. “Why me?”

I stared at the bowl of borscht in front of me.  What should I say? That she was lucky? That she was saved for some higher purpose?

I reached over and rested my hand on hers. I didn’t have words to console her. This was the best I could do. Just be there for her.

In my previous blog, Telling Luba’s Story, I told about my mother-in-law’s World War II experiences and my desire to put her story into writing.  I also mentioned my numerous failed attempts to capture it on paper and my hope that by blogging about it, I might – at last – find my footing.

While there are many ways to tell Luba’s story of strength and salvation, the approach I finally choose – its form and genre – will depend on my comfort level and on the answers I give to a couple of key questions:

  • Who will be reading the story?
  • What is my purpose in telling it?

Without firm answers to these questions, I will likely wander (as I have so far), taking a stab here and there at the story, but never really finding my voice or its narrative thread. Am I writing Luba’s story for myself and jotting it down in a journal that only I will read later? Am I writing this for my family and recounting the events so that I can preserve an important piece of family history? Or am I writing a story for a wider audience – teens perhaps – in which case I might be aiming to have Luba’s story published. In that last situation, with potential sales in mind, my goal is to entertain and inform complete strangers.

imagesHCD4BQISJust to be clear, the choices aren’t mutually exclusive. I could write a story with cross purposes, one that preserves family history while at the same time reaching a wider market. And that, in fact, is where I’ve decided to head. It’s taken a few years of soul-searching to figure this out, mind you, but, yes, if I’m going to write the story at all I would like to write one that honours Luba’s legacy – a keepsake for my family – but also one that might satisfy a wider audience.

Of the forms available to me, I’ve narrowed my choices. Here are 4 that might fulfill my goals.

Historical fiction

In this form, events from Luba’s life unfold within a framework rooted in the times and places of history. If I choose this form, Luba would be my protagonist and her experiences would likely become the basis for my plot. I’d have a lot of latitude to play with all kinds of elements, however. I could, for example, introduce a number of fictional characters. Or I could spice up the story with a few plot twists that are purely imaginary but wholly within the scope of history. In essence, the story would be based on Luba’s life, but I could deviate from the factual material by fictionalizing some of it.


In this form, I would recount the events of Luba’s journey. Although I could play with the structure of the story, it would be pretty much a straight forward, stick-to-the facts approach told in third person.

Narrative Non-fiction

Also called creative non-fiction, in this form the story is entirely based on facts, but the writer uses fiction-writing techniques to tell it. By weaving together true-to-life scenes that take the reader through a narrative arc, the writer creates a compelling but true story.

Memoir Novel

half broke horses 3A hybrid of memoir and biography, Jeannette Wallis uses this method to tell the story of Lily Casey Smith, her no-nonsense, resourceful grandmother, in the acclaimed book Half Broke Horses: A True Life Novel. Here’s how Bookmarks Magazine describes this story form: “Originally conceived as a biography based on family interviews and historical research, Walls found herself filling in too many blanks for Half Broke Horses to remain a work of nonfiction, so she assumed Smith’s indomitable voice and set out to write a novelistic recreation of Smith’s unconventional life.”

Now back to the mini-scene that started this blog. What form is it? We can pretty much rule out biography. Biographies are usually detached, third person treatments. The game is still on for the other three forms, though.

But now what if I told you that the person “I” is really me and that this conversation with Luba really occurred as I’ve written it? Now the scope is narrowed and narrative non-fiction stands taller than the others.

So there you have it. Four possibilities. Which is best for the story I want to tell? I’m still not sure, but perhaps I’ll have it worked out by the next time I blog. In the meanwhile, if you care to cast your vote, I’d be happy to hear from you.

Larry Verstraete ( is a former teacher and the author of 13 non-fiction books for youngsters. Science, history and true adventure are his favourite subjects.  His version of nirvana is writing about a topic that combines all three.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Nothing But the Truth

Setting as Character – the ‘Breaking Bad’ Way

Stepping into Nothing – Hoping for Something






For Larry Verstraete, an award-winning author of books for young people, writing is all about the journey and often the perfect writing storm occurs when high adventure, science and history converge. An advocate for literacy, Larry often visits schools and libraries to share his passion.

Larry’s Party

Last week Mindi, one of our Vast Imagination bloggers did a post advertising a book launch for Larry Verstraete, a fellow member of our Vast Imaginations writing group.   The launch took place on Sunday in the atrium of the McNally Robinson Bookstore. It was packed with Larry’s supporters and fans. jo verstraeteLarry’s wife Jo introduced her husband and told us a little bit about Larry’s writing habits as well as how his writing has enriched their lives.  Life or DeathLarry introduced his book Life or Death. It is a collection of 30 true stories about people in perilous situations who use their ingenuity and persistence to survive  harrowing circumstances. larry verstraeteLarry had created a slide presentation to illustrate the first  story in his book. It is about former professional hockey player Eric Le Marque who used four pieces of bubblegum, an MP3 player and a twenty-dollar bill as tools to help him  survive when he was trapped in a storm while snowboarding. Larry also read the second story in his book about Juad Amir Sayed a former soldier in Iraq. Juad hid from Saddam Hussein in a small room under his house for twenty-two years.

larry verstraeteLarry was most gracious in thanking and recognizing members of his family for their support and told us he had dedicated his book to his granddaughter Raeghan. He also thanked his editors at Scholastic Canada who published Life or Death . The members of  our Vast Imaginations writers’ group in attendance were honored that Larry also acknowledged us. Life and Death is Larry’s fourteenth book.   

Later Larry signed copies of his book and we were invited to sample the delicious desserts Larry’s wife Jo had prepared.  

Attending the book launch of a fellow author is exciting. It provides inspiration for those of us who are still waiting to have our first book published and gives us hope that someday we too will be launching a book of our own. 

Thanks Larry and congratulations!

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MaryLou Driedger is just beginning to write fiction and non-fiction for children after working as a teacher, newspaper columnist and free-lance journalist for thirty years. She also blogs at What Next?

MaryLou Driedger is a free lance writer with a long career as a newspaper columnist, curriculum writer and contributor to lifestyle, education and religious publications.
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