In an earlier post titled Why Writers Win: The Age of the Author, I shared some of my thoughts about today’s publishing revolution. This is all from a talk called Claim Your Victory in Today’s Publishing Revolution that I recently presented at The Write Stuff Conference. Yes, there are some confusing and even upsetting things going on, but there are also tons of great changes that are actually helping authors. That first post set out some of our darkest fears, and then pointed to some truly positive twists for writers.
So here, in Take II, I’d like to explore even more of the positive stuff floating around. And one of those things is the rise of self-publishing, which shall forevermore be known by its far cooler name: indie publishing. Think of indie music, and you’ll get the right vibe.
Yeah, self-publishing was painted with a heavy brush stroke of horrible by folks who thought of it as the land of the unaccomplished. But in case you’ve been living in a cave over the past year or so, let me break it to you: things are changing. Tons of great authors are indie publishing their work, and now writers can put their own work out there in a high quality form at a low cost. Readers benefit. Writers benefit.
Two years ago I would have been shocked to think that indie publishing would have been GOOD for an author’s career. And today? Today I’m a traditionally published author (What I Meant…, Random House) with two indie published titles (Over My Head and Drawn), and I’m also an Associate Literary Agent for Jennifer DeChiara Literary in NYC. If that doesn’t tell you how much this industry is changing, I don’t know what does!
Indie publishing can be a disaster for an author who doesn’t take their own work seriously, though. If someone puts out their first draft, or doesn’t have their work edited, then it’ll definitely hurt that writer. BUT, for the writer who does hold their own work to the very highest of standards, indie publishing equals opportunity. Today, as long as you put out superb work, you are building your reputation, and can garner great reviews from readers and from respected book bloggers too.
Many authors are also using indie publishing to keep their out of print books alive. In the past, when your publisher declared your book out of print, it was forever lost to readers. This is heartbreaking to a writer. Imagine a book you’ve lovingly labored on for over two years, getting its time in the sun for a mere few months before disappearing forever! But today that writer can get their rights back from their publisher and indie publish their title as a print and/or ebook. It’ll live forever, new readers can discover this book, and the writer continues to earn money on books sold. No downside there, folks.
Indie publishing can also be a smart option for areas big publishers usually don’t handle, such as short stories, novellas, anthologies, poetry by unknowns, etc. It’s also great for a book with a narrow niche focus. If you know of a small but dedicated audience for your book and you know how to reach them, then this could be the smart way to go.
All in all, indie publishing can be another way for you to build your brand, your reputation and your readership. But let me throw in two caveats. 1. Only publish things that are AS GOOD AS what the big publishers are doing!!! You want your name to be associated with high quality writing. And 2. If you have an agent and/or editor, keep them in the loop to be sure that whatever you are indie pubbing is not infringing on any existing contracts you may have. Work in partnership with your agent so he or she gets the full picture of your career.
Indie publishing is definitely changing the landscape of the publishing field. Writers have more options. They are seeing that they can have more control of their careers and more input. And now that authors do have more options, major publishers are responding to make clear about why writers should go to them!
In the past, publishers were very slow in sharing with authors info about sales figures, about promotion, etc. But things are changing, folks. In a recent Publisher’s Weekly article, Little Brown exec Michael Pietsch said, “Publisher’s must treat authors as equal partners.” And Random House’s Madeleine MacIntosh said, “If authors are confused about what we do, we need to make it clear.”
Now Simon & Schuster offers to its authors online info about up-to-date sales figures, and just a few weeks ago Random House authors (myself included) received info about their brand new author portal. The portal gives us sales figures about our own titles, info on rights sold, current news about publishing, and a slew of promotional tools. This is huge!
In the future, I see we writers having more communication and input with publishers, better partnerships, services, and overall, more control over our careers.
Age of the author, baby!
Are there still challenges for writers today? Absolutely. But now there is so much more we can do to build our audience and expand our careers. We have opportunities we never had before at low or no cost! So get excited about this publishing revolution, gang.
In my final Why Writers Win post, I’ll detail the four things I think we writers can be doing right now to take control of our creative future.