Publishing’s Death Knell Premature Timing is Everything: for savvy authors the time is 2009
LinDee Rochelle I once held an essay competition with a required theme: New Beginnings. That term has been bantered about for 2009 more than any other recent year in memory. It’s no wonder. We’re all fed up with 2008’s dire cynicism and ready for a fresh start. Aren’t we?
Not if you listen to the news. Our doom-n-gloom media won’t let us look forward with hope. No, they paint a bleak picture of the coming year with headlines that scream failing economy and consumer depression extending indefinitely. I’m sorry— along with a few desired Christmas gifts, I’m not buying that either.
I’ve been accused of having a glass half-full attitude, which some say is an inefficient use of a glass. However, I see it as an opportunity to fill the rest with New Beginnings; and even on the darkest day, with a shot of Hope. Not an easy task for a writer these days is it?
Three mainstream articles that were pushed in my face in as many days recently, really have my redheaded ire in a fury. Each word was another punishing blow to the future of books. More such articles dot the World Wide Web with dark clouds, sans the silver lining.
According to some self-proclaimed wizards of publishing, the industry is doomed, printed books will be banned from life, and once again, they’ve described self-published authors as a molecule above—or was that below?—pond-scum water. To borrow a phrase from the Reba TV show, “Wait just a minute there, you mor-rons!”
Apparently I have to explain that if the glass in front of you is half empty—listen carefully now—you need to pick it up, pull your arm slowly behind your head, aim carefully, and throw it with deadly accuracy at the mor-rons who keep telling you there is no future in publishing!!!
Books are not going to disappear any time soon. Did anyone besides me stand in the long Holiday lines at Borders? And if you’re a smart author, rather than crying about the economy’s problems, you’ll find creative ways to be part of the solution. Be innovative, look for unique and unorthodox sales methods, but don’t stop writing!
What of the future of publishing? Traditional publishing’s brass ring is no doubt, tarnished. Their once coveted advantages attractive to first-time authors simply don’t exist any longer. Gone are the large advances, a direct result of little-to-no marketing and promotion.
Half the reason for signing your rights away to a Big Daddy publisher was so you’d “see your name in lights” (figuratively), with little effort on your part. That doesn’t happen without hype—there is no hype for new authors. Oh, and you’ve lost the rights to that book for at least a certain period of time, if not for infinity. Nice, vicious circle they’ve created.
And have you noticed that it is only the authors and publishers of the major publishing houses—and the media / “publishing experts” in bed with them—who are trashing independent authors and their author-originated publishing companies? Contrary to their whining, a little “vanity” never hurts anyone—especially the author seeking publishing alternatives.
So says a sizeable number of established and emerging, talented authors marching toward independent publishing, and bringing their readers with them. Has anyone asked why?
The short-sighted tend to trash an independently produced book of questionable quality, so they can easily point to it as a poster child for poor vanity press, rather than report on some of the truly wonderful author-originated books that rank in quality and storytelling, right up there with a Simon & Schuster book. Oh, in fact, wasn’t that new independent author one of theirs last year???
Tell me, what do people do when they’re backed up against a wall? They lash out at whatever’s in front of them. See the similarity? Traditional publishers and their authors are scared. Of course they’re saying the publishing world is coming to an end. Theirs just might be.
Cutbacks and downsizing plague the big houses because they’re big business; but that won’t stop an author from finding a suitable substitute—which is what many of us have been doing for years. If one method doesn’t work, you find another method. DIY is simple, alternative logic.
Let’s face it, competition is stiff no matter how you publish—store shelves only hold so much, and exactly how big will Amazon get? The pressure is palpable to make significant sales instantly and sell consistently. Creative and online marketing will drive the “new publishing platform,” but I won’t lie to you … only the most tenacious and—best writers—will profit.
Author-originated publishing has an opportunity in the coming New Year to make significant strides and rise to its full potential to establish itself as the “new publishing platform” of the era. But three key elements must come together to make it happen.
1 – to Authors: Right up front, aspiring authors MUST consider professional editing as mandatory to publishing their book for market. If it’s going to be a family history only, then by all means, write with reckless abandon and cracked grammar (not grandma). But if you truly feel your story has merit—prove it. If you don’t have enough dollars in the cookie jar for editing, you’re not ready to publish and sell your manuscript.
2 – to Author-Originated Publishers: Coming in second, author-originated publishers need to recognize their true potential, shun their low self esteem, and most importantly, produce quality books. Strategies that will take advantage of the Big Houses’ vulnerabilities should include a way to recognize and reward their best, talented authors. And—dump the “take the money and run” attitude. To win this game, they’ll have to play nice.
As the author-originated publishing industry grows, those even thinking about publishing independently are becoming more savvy and sophisticated in discerning where and how to spend their money. To win this game, the publishers also have to play smart. Here’s a free suggestion:
In marketing we’re told to find a need and fill it—as an author advocate I hear every day from newbie writers, “I wish I knew if my book is really good enough” (for retail selling). Why not establish a free or very low cost program for manuscript evaluations? It’s true—we want to know; and yes, there’s a strong possibility that if told the truth, we may not spend the money with you to publish at all. But a passionate author just might spend the money to “fix it.” And by telling the truth, the self-publishing company instantly raises its author standards, to recognize those who offer true revenue potential.
3 – to All: And third, though no less important—to the media and the rest of the world I say, ‘WAKE UP!!” Author-originated publishing is here to stay—and it’s going to grow, even as the economy sinks lower. Have you not figured it out? Authors will find the money to publish if it’s an important goal; and you can call it vanity press, POD, self-publishing, or author-originated—they don’t care.
Author-originated publishing has suffered long enough as the industry’s redheaded stepchild! Shunned in its infancy and kicked around in its adolescence, it is finally ready—with the help of the economic crisis—to experience its final growth into adulthood and stand proud as publishing hope for authors who have real talent.
Some industry “pros” may try to write me off as pond-scum amoeba, but I see self-publishing’s advantages beginning to outweigh its disadvantages. I realize there is much more to it than outlined here, and many more obstacles to overcome. That’s life. Don’t whine about it … do something. Fill your glass with New Beginnings.
New Year Prediction: I firmly believe that the author-originated publishers who offer warehousing, royalties, retail book returns, personal service, and QUALITY, are going to lead the independent publishing revolution. Oh, you didn’t know we were in a revolution? Honey, we’re smack dab in the middle of the recycled “three Rs”: Recession produces Revolution (Restructuring, if you’re not the warring type), which from its ashes inspires Regeneration. And this time there’s a fourth “R”—cheers to the Redheaded stepchild!
Happy New Year and may you have a Divine 2009! LinDee Rochelle
LinDee Rochelle is owner of Penchant for Penning, a writing and editing service for authors, publishers, and mainstream publications. A published writer for more than 15 years, she advises emerging and established authors in all phases of publishing. Rochelle currently has two books in progress, one of which is specifically for authors; both to be published in 2009 by an outstanding author-originated publisher.
. www.PenchantForPenning.com, www.WomenWritersWorldwide.com; email, LinDee@PenchantForPenning.com.