When I saw this topic at the beginning of the year I was sure I’d know exactly what to write. However, now that it’s time to write it I find myself overwhelmed. The state of the industry is in such flux that it would be impossible to cover everything in one blog entry.
We’ve gone from the big six to the big five, and now there are talks of two more of the big publishers merging, which means we could be down to the big four soon. ::sigh::
Big publishers are on the decline, sadly.
But how about some optimism?
First let me say that I think, in today’s world, it is both wonderful to be a writer and awful to be writer. Since I’m a list maker, I decided to make some lists.
Why it’s Wonderful to be a Writer in Today’s World…
- There are many alternative opportunities for publishing that can lead to a professional career. This includes e-zines, blogging, and sites like Kickstarter.
- Seasoned writers can get their work in front of their readers sooner.
- Known authors can now self-publish and reap the rewards of all their hard work.
- Writers have a better opportunity to make a livable wage from their writing.
- If you write controversial material the mainstream press won’t touch with a ten foot pole – you can still get it published and in front of the people who want to read it.
Why it’s Awful to be a Writer in Today’s World…
- There are a lot of small presses out there, and navigating small press can be rough. Some are wonderful, some are ran by people who have no clue, and others are ran by scammers. It’s so easy to publish these days that, literally, anyone can start a small press, whether they know what they’re doing or not.
- With as easy as it is to publish, beginning writers may not have any incentive to become better writers, or revise and edit their work.
- It’s easier for authors desperate for publication, who don’t want to self publish, to fall prey to a bad small-press.
- Readers have more choices for reading material than ever before. Your books could easily languish in obscurity, buried in the millions of titles out there.
- Everyone is a writer and has written a book and published it. See the previous bullet point.
Long gone are the days authors NEED publishers as a middle man. Nowadays the beauty of having a publisher means better editing, likely better cover art, and ultimately, better advertising and bigger audiences. Of course savvy self-publishers can hire editors and cover artists.
Which brings me to my next point. The seasoned and prolific indie author who doesn’t suck, who edits her work, who hires cover artists, and who markets her butt off, can make a decent wage from her writing. In some instances they can even gain some traditional publishing contracts on the way — especially if they already have an audience.
I was one of the fortunate writers who rose from the obscurity of my traditional, small press titles, and found my audience via independent (of a publisher) publishing. I don’t like the term self-publishing simply because there are usually other people involved, not just myself. I hire editors and cover artists when I can afford it. I was one of those authors who ended up getting a few traditional publishing contracts as a result of the popularity of my independently published work.
This won’t happen for everyone, but I do know a handful of writers who have a story similar to mine.
We can’t forget that ultimately publishing (especially traditional publishing) is about making money. For writers it is about their art or their stories or having their voice heard, but for publishers it’s the bottom line. They’re going to go after the authors who show the most promise of generating the easiest buck possible.
Which means I think it’s going to become the norm that unknowns are going to have to traverse the world of self-publishing if they want to get noticed — by readers that is.
Readers want good books and since “good” is subjective (wildly so), I think it’s possible, for a writer who works hard, to attract a few of them. If you’re lucky, you attract thousands of them.
If you can attract a large number of readers – the publishers will follow. It used to be if a publisher approached you with a publishing contract you ran because they were shady.
Nowadays, it’s a lot more common to hear of legitimate, traditional publishers soliciting popular indie authors. Amanda Hocking and E. L. James are two of the more famous examples of this. My book Keys of Ocat was commissioned in much the same way, by a traditional publisher. Let’s just say I had enough of a reputation that the publisher had already seen my work and wanted a book. I didn’t have to sit in the slush pile.
I’m not saying this to brag, but rather to illustrate a point. Breaking in, after a lot of publishers tell you no, is sometimes just a matter of proving to publishers that your work has an audience and your name sells books.
In an ideal world, writers get to write the books they’re passionate about writing, publishers AND writers make a livable wage, readers are matched with books they enjoy, and everyone is happy. I think today’s publishing climate, while far from perfect, better facilitates that overall.
About The FM Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour
Today’s post was inspired by the topic The State of the Publishing Industry. This month’s topic in the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour, an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. We have all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and read their thoughts on the current publishing climate, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. I blog with this tour the 25th of every month. Up next on the tour: Becky Pratt!