Nathan Bransford is a pretty cool literary agent (even tho he isn't interested in my book at this time). As he mentioned recently, the publishing industry is in a contraction mode, in the midst of overall growth.
Simultaneous contraction and growth? How could that be? My explanation: there is more than one publishing industry - there's the big old dinosaur publishing houses, and the smaller, indie/self-pub companies (like Lulu, or Peachpit Press - also cool, also not interested at this time). Guess which one I'm more interested in, philosophically and practically.
As Nathan writes, "the industry is moving in the direction of a blockbuster model built around fewer, bigger books. Meanwhile self-publishing is getting bigger and bigger and growing at a brisk pace as the mainstream publishing game is open to fewer authors, creating a long tail situation where a bazillion books are selling two copies."
I understand the math behind blockbusters - JK Rowling is richer than the queen (and her publisher probably didn't do too bad either). But chasing after that rare blockbuster doesn't make much sense to me, as a corporate strategy. It's the whole "all your eggs in one basket" scenario. Far wiser, it seems to me, to tap in to that long tail and have a bunch of writers (ala netflix, amazon, etc), selling more (in aggregate) than the blockbuster writer ever could. And this interweb thing is making it faster, cheaper and easier to do most of the traditional tasks done by big publishing houses. My prediction - the indie guys win in the end.
And by the way, Nathan, I'm selling tens of copies, not two's of copies...