The news continues to be bleak for traditional publishers and big retail bookstore chains like Borders, while the news for e-books and self-publishers is getting brighter. What’s a writer to do? Do you stick with the old school and keep sending your queries out to agents or do you look into doing it yourself? Is there a middle ground?
I believe that the current flux in the publishing business means that writers have to adapt and change. Those that do adapt and change will be successful no mater what happens in the market. Those who don’t change will suffer. The days of writers only knowing how to write are over. Writers of the future will be authors, publicists, editors and publishers all wrapped in one. They obviously won’t be able to do all of these things as well as the professionals who do them now, but they will have to know enough to higher those who do know how and manage their own writing careers.
It’s scary and hard and it means less time to actually write. But that’s the challenge ahead for everyone who wants to be a writer. My advice to you? Suck it up and adapt. It’s not worth expending your energy complaining about how times have changed. If you want to be a successful writer you will learn new skills.
Some necessary items in your toolbox are listed below. I don’t think you can be successful without having all of them.
2. Social Media accounts at Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads
3. Digital publishing accounts at Amazon, Google, PubIt and Smashwords
All of the above tools help make up your writer brand and define it online. You have to be able to juggle each of them effectively. You have to know how to set them up and use them on a regular basis.
There is another responsibility for writers, and that is the need to stay informed about the business. You need to read what people in the business are saying about the business. Follow editors, publishers, agents and reviewers on Twitter and go to their blogs on a regular basis to read what they are saying. You can’t exist in a news vacum. I suggest using a RSS feed reader like Google’s Reader. It lets you avoid opening a zillion tabs in your browser and still read what people are blogging about.
Successful writers will always have to work on their craft. Take classes, go to conferences and study how other writers apply their craft. I try to read at least two books on writing or the writing business each year. Last year I read: The Long Tail by Chris Anderson, Warrior Writer by Bob Mayer, What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis, The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing by JA Konrath, We Are Not Alone, by Kristen Lamb, Successful Novelist by David Morrell and Becoming an Indie Author by Zoe Winters. That’s a bit more than normal, but it was a crazy year in publishing and it took an extra effort on my part to keep up with it all. By the way, all of those books were e-books.
GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY
You should be a member of a writing group. Not just a Critique Group, but a writing support group with monthly meetings. Get out of your den and meet other writers and talk to them. Be a positive member of your local writing community. I’m a member of two such groups in Boise.
Other ways to give back are to write about your writing experiences on your blog. Did you launch a new e-book? How did it go? What was the hardest part? What did you learn not to do? Tell us. It helps you learn from your mistakes and it educates other writers.
Go to conferences and participate on panels. Not everyone can be a panelist, but you can give talks to your local writer’s group or at your local independent book store or library.
Don’t be afraid to test the waters. Change things and see what works. When 2010 started, I was not going to sell my short stories. They were intended to be gateway drugs to my novels and I would keep them free. At the close of year, I released 11 short stories as e-books on the Kindle. My opinion changed. I realized that having more product on the market was a good thing, be it more novels, anthologies or short stories.
I also changed my opinion on making POD books. I originally wanted to release the e-book and the POD book of Tyrmia at the same time. Now I have decided to release the e-book first, wait a few months and then put out the POD. E-books are selling far better than paper books for me right now.
I also raised the prices of all my novels from $.99 to $2.99 to take advantage of the better royalty and to build value in the books. This resulted in fewer sales, but I believe it helps build value and it lets me charge a buck each for my short stories. Which is very reasonable when you consider the price of a short story magazine.
It takes a lot of time and effort to be a self-publisher. You have to learn so many things and juggle so many jobs. It’s not for everyone. But it does get easier the longer you do it. You get savvy to the ways of the business. But there are alternatives. In fact if you get overwhelmed, start small.
Get published by an e-book only publisher. There are lots of them cropping up so you will have to do your research and pick the ones with the best reputations and records. E-book only publishers are thriving and they are accepting great writers at a much better clip than the traditional publishers are.
Don’t want to do everything yourself? Hire out the cover design, editing and ebook creation. It will cost you more than doing it yourself, but if you have a great book and its put together properly, you will do fine. The gamble is that you have to lay out money initially to get a decent product to market. The reason I did so much of my first and second novels myself, was to avoid getting in the hole early. My novel sales are strong enough this year to be able to actually pay my cover artist and my editor. My goal is to make enough to cover those costs and still wind up with money in the bank to grow my business.
I don’t make a living off of my writing. But I eventually want to get to that point. I just don’t expect it to happen anytime soon. I’m two years into a five year plan on that.
However you do business in 2011, I wish you all the best in your publishing efforts.