Sunday, February 17, 2013

Dizzy: When publishing is stranger than fiction

I thought publishing is supposed to move slow, but lately it's moving so fast I'm getting dizzy. Publishing itself is stranger than fiction.

The Penguin and Random House merger is approved.

Trade presses are developing digital-first and digital-only lines.

New small presses are emergent.

Self-published titles are lighting up the NYT lists.

The new subgenre of New Adult is capturing readers and starting debates.

Barnes & Noble is closing many branches.

Trade presses launched Bookish to compete with Goodreads and Amazon for book recommendations, book selling, or possibly something else.

Agents are offering new writer-paid services, from assisted self-publishing to editing to workshops and seminars.

Not just new but established agents are leaving the business.

Published writers are getting dropped by their presses mid-series -- even for contracted, edited, completed books.

And other new writers are getting new contracts and new agents. Others are breaking out as new successes.

It's said that the only thing we writers can control is writing, and if we're lucky, now we feel about it. I'm working on both of those, but I don't think it's not all we have to do. Yes, more of the marketing and publicity falls on our shoulders, but it's more than that. Writers have to manage their careers -- whether trade published, self-published, or both -- because the only constant we have is ourselves.

Agents, editors, presses, formats, and distribution change, but there will always be writers. We are content creators. We are spinners of stories. We capture imaginations and bring order to the world, at least until we get to the end.

How (if?) we will get paid for it in the future is anybody's guess. It's tough out there. So yes, I'm a little dizzy waiting for whatever is next.

Have the changes in the industry changed your idea of what your career will be? What kind of press and what kind of professionals (agents, editors, freelancers, consultants, publicists) you will work with?


  1. Certainly has changed me. I no longer question the worthiness of self-publishing my work anymore. In my mind, we're all equal.

  2. I never thought of publishing with a small press, but now I am and it's been a wonderful experience.

  3. I agree. The fairy godmothers who used to tell us that we're ready and worthy aren't needed, and they are getting harder to find.

    Honestly, I've been floored by some of the developments I've seen lately -- small, anecdotal developments involving individuals, not big stories I can point to. But just about every day I think to myself, "I never thought I'd see the day..."

  4. Yes, it has--it's made me more open to self-publishing and small presses. Ten years ago, I didn't feel like there was a lot in place for self-publishing (mostly vanity presses at the time) but now there is so much out there.

    And then there are small presses that are giving great support for their authors and doing things to compete with the big pubs.

  5. Great piece, Kell, and perfect title! I do wonder what my highest aspiration should be amid all these changed. I think it is still to reach as many readers as I can with my work. The means to that end doesn't matter so much anymore, because there are so many diverse means.

  6. The one thing I believe is that you just have to move forward -- I don't think there's any magic moment where a book or a writer is ready or not ready. If you keep waiting for that, it will never come. And if it comes, it may as easily pass you by if you're not ready for what's next.

    It's not one steady climb up the ladder. There are a LOT of chutes along the way.

  7. I have self-published books as well as an upcoming release from a mid-sized publisher. I plan to do what seems best for each book or series at the time, while trying to balance that with what's best for my career as a whole. Making the best decision for our careers (long-term) gets more difficult with all these changes, all this uncertainty.

  8. Yes, these past few years have brought tremendous change to the industry. I have self-pubbed friends who are having phenomenal success, and I've recently jumped on the indie band wagon. And More than once, I have read that agents/publishers are taking a peak at that indie pool for potential clients :-)


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