Thursday, September 19, 2013

It Was the Best/Worst of Times…

by Alan

Brave New World: Publishers and booksellers are perishing. But how are e-books, online bookstores, self-publishing and other new industry developments affecting authors? Is it a great time to be a new writer or are things too shaky for comfort?

I can say, without a doubt, it’s a great time to be a writer. With the (relative) ease of self-publishing, and the rise of the ebook, it’s never been easier for a writer to get his/her work to a vast number of readers, quickly and inexpensively. Social media lets writers attract and interact with readers on a one-to-one basis, whether they live in Denver, Dubai, Delhi, or Denmark. Word-of-mouth has become word-of-Twitter. You don’t have to actually know someone to hear their opinions, and if you’re lucky, word of your great book can go viral. And, if you do it all yourself, the lion’s share of the royalties go straight into your pocket.

I can say, without a doubt, it’s a terrible time to be a writer. Publishers have consolidated and, in turn, have put the squeeze on the midlist author. Advances are down. Royalties remain relatively low. Outlets (read: brick-and-mortar bookstores (ie, showrooms)) are dwindling in number and size. With fewer “gatekeepers” in place, self-publishing authors are flooding the market with books that aren’t quite ready (in many cases), creating confusion for the readers. Too many distractions—Fruit Ninjas, Netflix, YouTube, Instagram, ad infinitum (isn’t that the name of another social media site?)—compete for potential readers’ attentions.

I know what you’re thinking: Alan, you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth. Again.

So which is it? Great or terrible?

As it often comes down to in writing (and life, in general), it’s all about your viewpoint. If you’re a pessimist, then it’s a terrible time. If you’re an optimist, then it’s a great time.

Here’s what I do know. Optimist or pessimist, there’s one fundamental strategy to follow: There’s only so much you can control in this business, so write the best damn book you can. Then write another. And another.

Because it’s the writing that really matters.


Anonymous said...

Good post! I always add that for any industry or industry player to flourish, it must think about the customer - in this case, the reader. And between libraries, traditional publishers, indie publishers, online shopping, indie booksellers, e-pub, free books, 99-cent books, and on and on, there's never been a better time to be a reader!

Meredith Cole said...

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... You're so right, Alan! And I'm very happy to be making the journey with the rest of the Criminal Minds crew!

Barry Knister said...

Hope, not money is the mother's milk of writing. Except for navel gazers who write only for themselves, all other writers seek an audience. Indie publishing holds out this possibility, even as opportunities in the world of legacy publishing dwindle. So: it's a hopeful, "best of times" period for writers who aren't already part of the legacy publishing establishment.

Alan Orloff said...

Steve - Yes, yes, YES! It's always about the reader. And I agree, it's a bonanza for readers. Choices (and good books) everywhere!

Meredith - It's a roller coaster ride, all right! Hang on tight!

Barry - Right you are! Indie publishing is a great way to get your work out to the masses and build an audience.

Full disclosure: I've traditionally published, and I've self-published. Both have pros and cons, that's for sure!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

As authors, we now have options we didn't have before. That's my optimistic view of the current publishing climate. I intend to keep my feet planted on both sides of publishing just to cover my bases.