To be an author in the 21st Century is much like being Itchie or Scratchy, those cat-and-mouse characters on The Simpsons who are forever being thrown around and otherwise smashed and tortured. In short, it's hard being an indie author. There are no clear rules for what to do, and you have to be on your toes.
Last century, there was a clear route into being published: find an agent who loved your story, and the agent, knowing a lot of editors at publishing houses, would take your work around. Since then, many forces have come to change the publishing industry. One was the corporatization of the publishers, where many well-established, respected, and smaller publishers, such as Charles Scribner's Sons, were sold to become part of a bigger entitity. Hemingway's publisher, Scribner's, for instance, is part of Simon and Schuster now. There are six big companies, all of them diversified. (Click here to learn them all.)
Bookstores also became large chains last century. In particular, we had Barnes and Noble and Borders. The latter is now a memory thanks in large part to two other forces. One is Amazon, which figured out how to use the Internet to advantage, and the other is digital publishing, which has also used the Internet well. These days, we have eBooks on Kindles, Nooks, iPads, and other eReaders, and we also have indie authors. Throw in print-on-demand printing, and things are in disarray—and exciting.
For new authors, there's no one clear route to becoming a known author. You may aim traditionally and look for an agent who goes to the remaining publishers. You also might self-publish or find a small publisher on your own who knows how to create and market books.
Myself, I've become a small publisher. When my agent didn't want to deal with my short fiction, I started my own company for it: White Whisker Books. After all, at one time, I'd been a senior editor for a publisher, so I know what went into creating professional books. I knew graphic designers, editors, publicists, and more. I new how to get my books to reviewers. I knew a little bit about marketing, even.
I explained all this to get to how authors, whether traditionally published or not, are now a part of the marketing matrix. Authors need to know how to use as email, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and more.
“More” happened recently. I'd always thought videoconferencing might be good. In 1964, my cousins went to the New York World's Fair and saw the promise of the videophone at the AT&T booth. People who have used Skype or Apple's Facetime realize nearly fifty years later the technology has finally arrived. Now that I've flown to a few states to give readings in bookstores, I've thought wouldn't it be nice--certainly cheaper--to have a reading via a video conference?
I volunteered to try out a new video interface for this very thing. It's called Shindig, and it's for authors on a virtual tour. I'd tried Skype once, but multiple people can talk over each other and it can get cacaphonous and choatic.
The new interface, Shindig, mimicks a reading or classroom where the lecturer or author sees raised hands and calls on people. Thus, two people can interact at once, and everyone else watches and can a) raise their hand or b) type in a question to be answered.
The moderator (me) then does one of two things: a) call on a person who can then talk one and one with me or b) I'll answer a typed question. At first, I felt nervous running everything, but it all worked out. I only had six people on it, but one of them was Lori, a blogger whose site I was on last week. Thank you, Lori. This is a start. That's what "indie" means. You try something new and built from there. The next time I do a reading via video, I'll promote it way in advance, especially to my fans. This is a tool to support one's fans. The 21st Century isn't so bad.
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