People have been saying it for years, the publishing industry is changing.
As with any industry, it’s always changing. But, with eBooks, audiobooks, Amazon, and the internet earthquakes, the publishing industry is seeing changes disproportionate to any it’s seen before. Shelf life is now forever with eBooks. Amazon sells about 50% of print and 70% of eBooks. Audiobooks are advantageous for a busy society with all sorts of entertainment at their fingertips 24/7.
How have we as a society responded?
Well, more and more people are writing books. More and more people are publishing books on their own. There are many reasons why self-publishing can be a good option for authors. If they already have an established audience, they can reach their readers with less go-between. They don’t have to share profits with a publisher, though distribution and other fees are still incurred. But, those books do not have the same IRL bookshelf space automatically as it’s reserved for major publishing houses with book publicists and a proven track record.
Self-publishing is not for everyone.
You wear all the hats as a self-publisher whereas there’s often more of a team approach in traditional publishing. Of course, that also means you relinquish some of the control. Plus, many books are self-published before they’re ready but that too has adapted a bit. I think we’re now at about 1/3 of self-published books are of high quality, even competing with those put out by major houses. Another 1/3 are self-published and not quite ready. Perhaps the writing is beautiful, but the author made the cover themselves versus hiring a graphic artist. Or, the content of the prose may be spot on but should have had a grammar check. And, about 1/3 of self-published books are nowhere near ready. In the excitement of finishing a novel (which is a major feat), some authors publish prematurely.
Agent and publisher inboxes are bursting at the seams with submissions and queries.
An author might only send a couple dozen submissions when they have to pay postage fees. An email is a different story. It’s free and sends at the mere push of a button. Plus, an author no longer needs to send an SASE. Instead they can go to an online forum and complain when a publisher doesn’t give an in-depth response to the 100th query received that day. And why do agents and editors remain as salaries dwindle? Because we love the craft and we love seeing authors’ dreams come true. Why do authors still try even after rejections? Because they love the dream of having others believe in their work. So how in this new world of publishing can all (authors, readers, agents, editors, publishers, etc.) be happy? Could we all work together? Could traditional publishing bridge the gap and find ways to help self-published authors and vice versa?
Hybrid publishing has been criticized by both sides even though they are trying to bridge the gap.
Is our world so used to being polarized that we can’t compromise? Is there a certain status that comes only with traditional publishing that hinders the connection to self-published authors? Self-published authors have sold millions. They’ve sold film rights with blockbuster movies produced. Why can’t we just let the writing speak for itself no matter the medium? Is it that this is a subjective industry and while a book may please one reader, it may disappoint another?
What is the answer? Or, is the answer different for each individual?
I think it is. I still think cohesive partnerships are a wonderful idea. Perhaps major houses could have a self-pub day where they advertise self-published books. Or, agents could shop foreign and film rights for successful self-published authors. Or, authors could invest in print, warehousing, and distribution for their self-published books. Either route you decide, be sure you are knowledgeable about agreements you sign. That’s why I teach courses on publishing contracts. It can be so exciting for an author to receive their first publishing contract offer but you must read the fine print. Do not sign a thing without knowing what you’re signing. There are many affordable resources to help you. Use them. Reach out to friends and family. Do not rush it. One must stay active in research. Know what the market is doing. Find phenomenal bloggers that will promote your book. Search book video mockup options for marketing. Become familiar with your local bookstores and libraries. Politely ask what it will take to place your book with them and if they hold author events and signings. Support one another! Let me say it again. SUPPORT OTHER AUTHORS! Think about it. If traditional authors reach one market and self-published authors reach another, what could cross-promotion do?
Remember why you jumped into this field.
From the first scribble on a paper or blinking cursor turned into letters, you struggled. Your protagonist took you down unexpected roads with plot twists as the potholes. You combatted with dialogue or action details. You painfully picked pieces of description. You cut fluff and then cut it some more. You argued with your antagonist for so long you fell for her/him. If at any moment you thought you’d just type for a few days, turn a thing out, and then become a famous author with a movie, you have to know by now that you were kidding yourself. There’s so much involved in the entire process. If you’ve been at it for years, it’s no longer a hobby or crush. You are deeply head over heels with this writing thing and cannot let it go. Why then, when you’ve polished the manuscript, when you’ve finished raising it through childhood and past the teenage years, would you throw it to the wolves? Or, would you help with college applications, health insurance, and bills until it’s ready to step out into the world ahead?
And then, would you never talk to it again?
Not allow home visits over the holidays. And forget about wedding plans or baby showers. You’re done, right? There’s a reason why people call it your book baby. You’ll have queries, submission, edits, more edits, cover discussion, contract negotiation, marketing, promotion, details, travel, conventions, signings, the list goes on and on. And as you sit at your table at the convention with your banner and your QR code bookmarks, will you talk to your neighbor? What if they’re on the other side (self vs. traditional)? Would you avoid them? No! And, once you begin chatting and finding your similarities, what if you decide to share a table at the next event. Bringing each other readers and enjoying the time so much more.
Because stripping away all the high school click categories, we’re all the same.
We’re the thing that makes a book. We’re AUTHORS. We may come in different packages and with different histories but we’re one in the same. We know what it’s like to have book idea wake us in the middle of the night. Or be unable to find the note we took because it’s not in our daily wallet nor our travel backpack. We bleed our hearts out on the page in hopes that one day a reader will pick it up and escape to a fantasy world, a vacation from their day, and close the book with a smile, a tear, and a laugh. Because, that had been and is one of our own fondest memories. To READ a book and let it take us away if just for a bit.
Check out Stephanie’s wonderful class starting Monday!
The Affliction by Wendy Marsh
A shadow passes behind the stranger’s hazel eyes, momentarily distracting Aubrie Lander from the scars slashing down his face and disappearing beneath his tightly fitted t-shirt. But she doesn’t care what makes this equally handsome and terrifying man so solemn. She wants to know why she feels compelled to sit across the booth from him while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
Aubrie can smell the whiskey as her new acquaintance lowers his glass to the table, never taking those troubled eyes off her, and her intuition tells her that her life is about to change forever.
In one night, Aubrie’s small-town life collapses, as the stranger’s secret plunges her into an underworld that leads her on a non-stop journey of self-discovery, the unearthing of a secret society, and finding unexpected love she is willing to die for.
The ultimate question, though, is will she kill for him?