Why Writers Win: The Age of the Author

A few weeks ago I gave a talk about the publishing revolution at the wonderful Write Stuff Conference in Allentown, PA.  The talk was titled “Claim Your Victory in Today’s Publishing Revolution,” but it could have as easily been titled “Writers Win!” or “Entering the Age of the Author.”  This upbeat presentation focused on how, yes, things are indeed changing, and some of these changes may seem scary, BUT many changes are benefiting us writers.

Anyways, since the chat was so well-received and motivating, and since, frankly, we’ve had enough doom and gloom chatter to last us a generation, I thought I’d share my points here with my fellow writers.

Okay, so remember that Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times?  Well, we authors are absolutely plagued by interesting times right now.  Yes, this indeed is a publishing revolution to rival the printing press.  Really, two factors are colliding to create the perfect storm of sorts: 1. Ebooks, and 2. The Economy.

For a LONG time we have plodded along with certainties. And the main truth was that a big publisher = big success.  Signing with big publishers meant contracts with great advances, reviews in prominent publications, your book would appear in all bookstores, you’d have tons of publicity and promotion, and you were well on your way to a long CAREER as an author.

Then this “given” started to erode as all the publishing models began to shift.  A large number of editors were laid off in 2008. Authors were suddenly expected to do more of their own promotions. Book reviews in many print publications began to disappear. There was no guarantee that your book would appear in the major chains or indies (even before the demise of Borders). And now we hear a lot from authors about low advances, or no contracts being offered on a next book.

Yes, the economy has a ton to do with all of this. And Ebooks have come in at an especially crazy time.  We fear they may pose a threat to print books. The pricing of Ebooks is a huge issue.  Brick and mortar stores feel threatened by Ebook sales.

And let’s pile onto this, indie publishing, which is on the rise.

All these factors together add to an overall sense of instability in what was once a fairly predictable business model for publishers, booksellers and authors.

So, let’s get it out there…here are some of the scary things that we writer’s fear:
1. It may be the end of print books.
2. Bookstores may go the way of record stores.
3. Top publishers could fail.
4. That we’ll never see a book deal…and even if we did, we wouldn’t get any sort of an advance, or an editor who would have the time to edit, or the sort of promotion that would make us succeed, and so we would be labeled a failure and really NEVER EVER get another book contract, and…

BREATHE, EVERYONE, BREATHE!!!

No. Really. Deep breaths. Head between knees if necessary.  See, this is the kind of stuff that feeds into our writerly despair.  So knock it off already, guys.  Isn’t it time to look at some decent facts that are out there?  Walk on the positive side with me for a bit, okay?

1. We are writers!  In all of the tumultuous changes, THE constant is the need for writers, for content, for great stories.  That ain’t going nowhere.

2. Writing the best book you can is still the most important thing you can do for your career, and ain’t nothing changing that!

Okay, I’ll wait a few minutes while you read these two previous points and let ’em sink in.  Now nod and smile.  These are good things.

I’d also like to point out that despite the doom and gloom we writers sometimes share whenever a bunch of us get together and natter, the reality is that book deals are being made, as always.  Great deals too!  In the past 2 days alone, more than 100 deals were posted on Publishersmarketplace.com.  These included film deals, international rights, and book deals in areas including YA, middle grade, debut fiction, non-fiction, sci-fi/fantasy, general fiction, women’s fiction, thriller, romance, memoir, mystery, picture books… There are multi-book deals, significant deals even (which are between $251,000-$490,000).  But what about debut authors? I spotted 24 deals involving debuts in the past 2 weeks.

And as an agent myself, when I’m calling major publishers to pitch books, I’m finding editors eager to listen, eager to acquire great stuff, and they have wish lists for me of the types of titles they want to see in the future. Lots of stuff is happening, folks. So feel positive.

ALSO, I feel that this is a great time for more smaller focused presses to start appearing and succeeding big-time. With the changes in technology, books can now be printed on demand (means no warehousing costs), and a small press can now have great access to retail distribution with the aid of online sales. This will equal even more options for writers.  At least that’s what my Magic 8 Ball tells me.

So what’s the upside about Ebooks? Well, studies are showing that Ebooks are leading to more readership.  Score another one for writers!  Some stats suggest readers buy 3 times as many books once they have an Ereader. And sales of Ebooks are climbing. Check out this article by Philip Jones of The Bookseller magazine, where he discusses some UK companies seeing a staggering 500% jump in Ebook sales, and how they expect a similar jump this year. Crazy, right? I’ve also found that impulse buys are a wonderful thing when it comes to Ebooks.  A person hears about a book or meets an author at a festival, they click on their phone and ta-da! They now own your book.

Other Ebook thoughts: Young adult readers are poised for huge increases in Ebook sales as teens start to get their own Ereaders. And because of Ereaders, more readers are branching out to different types of books.  For example, someone who wouldn’t be caught dead reading erotica in public can now do so discretely on their Ereader. This goes for adults reading YA, for men reading women’s fiction.  And we writers? We benefit with a growing audience.

Obviously this Age of the Author stuff is a HUGE topic, so I’m breaking it down into a few posts. In my next post about this, I’ll talk a bit about how Indie Publishing is presenting writers with more opportunities, and how traditional publishers are switching things up to better serve their authors. And in my final post on this subject, I’ll talk about the 4 most important things we Age of the Author writers should be doing right now to build our audience and expand our careers.

Hey, it’s all good!

Marie

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13 thoughts on “Why Writers Win: The Age of the Author

  1. Marie, thanks for a great post. I am leaning toward independent publishing, and a lot of writers I speak with are going Indie. And I’ve been contemplating getting an e-reader. Given the economy, folks would much prefer spending $2.99 for eBook than $15 plus for paperback. I notice better sales on the eBooks.

    Barbara of the Balloons

    • Hi Barbara!

      I admit, I have yet to get an Ereader, but with all the reading I now do as an agent, I can see myself in the near future with one. Much easier to read from a Kindle than a laptop in bed at night!

      I think you’ll find my upcoming post on indie publishing of some help (I hope).

      Thanks for popping in,
      Marie

  2. Excellent post, Marie! Yes BREATHE, right? The publishing industry may be changing but writers still want to write and readers still want to read! We just need to ride the wave of change, and not all things will change. Sometimes in a sea of change it can seem like EVERYTHING is changing, but not necessarily true- as you point out.

    • Hi Donna!

      Yeah, historians say that when the printing press came to be, people didn’t fully see they were in the midst of a revolution or how it would alter so much afterwards. Being in the midst of all this turmoil ourselves, it’s very hard to peer around that corner and fully see what is ahead of us. Knowing constants definitely can help!

  3. Marie: Thank you so much for writing this up, as I was so sad to miss your talk at the conference. You have me awaiting the rest with anticipation… (Also: I find it interesting that the previous 3 commenters did so on April 15, when I know 2 of them to live in America, and I am commenting on April 14. Whazzup with that?)

    • Hi Kathryn!

      Next time you’ll just have to use your time travel machine and be in two places at once. And I have no idea what’s going on with the comment dates…wait, unless you’ve already got that time travel machine of yours set up.

      Hey, don’t you have a long striped scarf… Hm.

  4. Pingback: Why Writers Win: Take II « Marie Lamba, author

  5. Pingback: Why Writers Win III: Four Things Writers Can Do RIGHT NOW! « Marie Lamba, author

  6. Pingback: Screening Advice From Other Writers « writersobsession

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