“Do or do not... there is no try.”
Yoda's words don't only apply to the use of the Force.
Perennially, one of my writing groups, Pennwriters, debates between those who have been published traditionally and those who aren’t about which writers “should” do.
The old guard insists that if you want to write novels you must get them to one of the five big houses, get the publicity machine and promotion. Of course this means you have to get an agent.
If you’re a writer who has tried to do either, chances are 99 times out of a hundred, it’s just not happening.
The old guard then cites the urban legends of authors who just kept sending out until sure as heck, that 101st letter did it. And maybe they did. More power to them.
Over the last year, I’ve read a lot about the state of publishing, and indeed about the world of communication in general. Time Magazine did a whole series of articles about publication in the digital age, and their conclusion is that the traditional routes are no longer exclusive.
Lev Grossman’s article said “Publishers Weekly (PW) predicts that 2009 would be ‘the worst year for publishing in decades.’ A lot of headlines and blogs to the contrary, publishing isn’t dying. But it is evolving, and so radically that we may hardly recognize it when it’s done.”
At the same time, newspapers are closing their doors, magazine and book publishers alike laying off staff, and paying markets, in the way we have always thought about them, are drying up.
Also at the same time, the whole concept of access to the masses has changed. Once upon a time, you needed to be cherished by Harlequin or Doubleday to even have your book see the light of day, unless you wanted to type out versions on your old Royal typewriter, one at a time, to circulate them. The Internet has changed that game.
Now authors have options. They can self-publish through Lulu.com or iUniverse, or epublishers which pay a royalty for books available digitally, or in print books. As I pointed out recently on my writer’s blog:
If I were Stephen King, my books would be available online at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, at the publisher's website, and all the other ordering sites.I'm not Stephen King. But when The Elf Queen comes out this fall, you, the reader, will be able to order it online at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, at the publisher's website, and all the other ordering sites.You will be able to order it in hardback, paperback or for your favorite e-reader like the Kindle, Sony, Ipad and more. So what's the difference to the average reader?
Writers don’t need the fancy publicity tour, either. Authors like CJ Lyons and Christina Katz, aka Writer Mama, tour online, guest blogging in as many places as they can. Cost? Your time. The Internet has millions of outlets to reach the people who want your work.
Many professional artists are choosing non-traditional routes to promote work they want to do, and it’s starting to make headlines. Musician Jill Sobule found the traditional music business wasn’t working for her–and didn’t get money in her hands– so her latest album was funded entirely by donations from fans and giveaways. Screenwriters like Joss Whedon are thinking outside the box with projects like Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog, which first appeared on the Internet for free, but afterward started collecting revenues.
Communication venues like Twitter bring the celebrity even closer to fans, and news you want to share with many more people. Email and forums bring artists directly to their public, for the kind of one-on-one connection that sells readers, just as it sold Barack Obama to the American people at election time.
So we can all dream about that blockbuster sale, movie rights and New York Times listing right out of the gate. We can even work at it around busy lives of work, parenting and other distractions for forty years. Maybe some of us will get it.
But in the meantime, don’t you have something to say? Don’t we write so others can read? What’s the sense of having fifteen polished manuscripts in a drawer collecting dust? Maybe instead we should be out there exploring the new digital publishing world, meeting our readers, and sharing what we have to offer.
Welcome to my fellow CoyoteCon attendees! It's my privilege to share this with you, and I hope you come back again soon. :)
“Do or do not... there is no try.”