Friday, November 14, 2014

The Future of Publishing

Publishing is far from being a consistent landscape. We have always known this. But it’s often when we get down into the trenches that we see just what is changing about it. From a reader’s standpoint, we’ve always had books to read, will always have books to read and in many cases too many to grab our attention.

Employed in a well established literary agency, spending time with writers and working as an author’s virtual assistant have gleaned me a fair bit of insight over the last few months.

It’s no longer about breaking into publishing. In fact, in comparison breaking in is actually relatively easy. It’s staying published that is proving to be the challenging position. Because no longer are publishers looking at your platform and how well you can write, they are looking at sales. And sales—or lack thereof—can truly make or break a writer.

Publishing seems very much to be stuck in an old paradigm, with a shifting viewpoint. There aren’t just the big houses anymore. We have smaller presses, print on demand, and ebook only houses that for the fact that they don’t have many marketing dollars, don’t move a lot of copies of books.

Their authors are fantastic writers. Their readers love them. Books are being sold. Word is trickling out to other readers. The author earns out their advance, but not a lot of copies were moved.

Publishers look at sales. They like the writing. It’s an author they want to work with. But if sales aren’t there…sorry. No dice.

I recently had a lunch with a handful of established, upcoming and previously published authors. There was a definite tone and understanding throughout the entire crowd: publishing is changing. Traditional publishing isn’t what it used to be. Authors are expected to do more—if not all—of their own marketing. And established authors from smaller houses can’t get picked up because of their sales numbers.

We can have ideas for how we’d like publishers to look at the numbers, to want to invest and grow an author, but the truth is that’s not really happening. So what can authors and newbie writers do to adapt?

You can’t go into publishing expecting it to be all done for you anymore. What are the benefits of going with traditional publishing? You don’t put all the costs into the cover, editing and interior design—to name a few. You will however play a huge part in your own marketing, which many writers don’t relish or enjoy. 

Publishers aren’t paying a lot of money for a book anymore, but you’ll have the backing and reputation of a publisher behind you—which is important to a lot of readers.

You have to expect change in the journey. Or your publisher doing—or not doing—something the way you would like or expect.

We can wish publishers would look at things differently. That they just wouldn’t look at sales, but see the history and the track record the author has in the industry. But publishers have to protect their bottom line too—often to the frustration of authors.

The exciting prospect of publishing for writers right now? There are so many different options. We’re not just restricted to what traditional publishing can do for us.  We have that choice for the direction we’d like to go for a quality product in either respect—something we haven’t really had before. It’s a decision we have to make with eyes wide open and an open knowledge of what this changing landscape looks like now and what it could look like.

Would you consider indie publishing? Or traditional publishing? Why or why not?

Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She is a total country girl, now living in a metropolis of Denver, Colorado. 


Anonymous said...

The options seem endless these days. Self-publishing sounds like a full-time job and I've already got one of those...with great benefits! :) Perhaps if I were retired, I'd consider that road. Great post, Casey!

Rachelle O'Neil said...

This is a very well-written, insightful post, Casey! I've heard a lot about the changing landscape of publishing, but this gives me some good food for thought. I've always wanted to be traditionally published, but I haven't completely discounted indie. As I've learned more about it, I've became less prejudiced against indie publishing, and now I can see the pros and cons to it a little better. The future is exciting, that's for sure!

Casey said...

That is the hard part about the changing landscape of publishing, Jilianw, but it also offers so many more opportunities to the blossoming and go-getter writer. Exciting times, just depends on how you choose to look at it. :)

Casey said...

Thanks, Rachelle! There is definitely MUCH to be said on both sides of the fence. For me, I don't think I would want to go indie publishing, but my hats are off to those who are making a go of it and working it hard. There are many opportunities for every kind of writer there is!

Emilie Hendryx said...

Great post Casey! I think with the change in dynamic between readers and authors - the availability, that is - things have to change. It's no longer possible to be "out of the spotlight" due to social media etc. I think we'll see (if we aren't already) a direct correlation to author access and book sales. It's more about WHO you are in addition to WHAT you write. Good thing I like marketing LOL!

Victorine said...

I'm an indie author, and I honestly do very little marketing. I've learned over the last couple of years that Amazon is much better at marketing than I am. So, instead of marketing, I write for my market. I do genre research. I package my books with professional looking covers. (It helps that I'm a graphic designer, too.) I research blurb writing and write those for my market as well. I'm always reading up on how to improve my writing. I have a critique group and beta readers, and an awesome editor. I have found that if I do all these things, Amazon sells my books for me. Not all my books are best sellers, but I've had enough sales to rival my husband's full time income.