We writers live in interesting times. The same digital tsunami that toppled Tower Records and collapsed Kodak has now consumed the world of publishing. The world we knew five years ago is gone. Traditional is reinventing, indie publishers are growing and self-publishing now can be a viable part of any author’s long-term career plan. This is one of the main reasons WANA has never taken sides and embraces publishing as a whole.
Granted, some authors may find a singular path that fits all their needs, but a majority of us will mix it up and venture on a hybrid path. Traditional houses are encouraging writers to self-publish prequels, short stories, or even stories involving supporting characters to keep the fan fires burning between books.
Indie houses are helping established authors breathe new life into backlists and new authors get a start under the care of professionals. Self-publishing is a fantastic way to begin and hone the skills required to be successful long-term (solid work ethic, business skills, social media, and thick skin). Sell enough books? Agents and editors will seek you out.
I began indie published, then switched to self-published because 1) I write about publishing so I wanted to experience the process of all paths and 2) my topic is time-sensitive 3) *hangs head* I’m a teensy tiny bit of a control freak. I LOVE being able to oversee artistic elements that, before, were out of my hands.
Yes, I wanted to be a cyborg. I have few goals in life, but being a cyborg was up there. I doubt NY would have permitted me to be a cyborg. They wouldn’t let me have a light saber either. Can we say deal-breaker?
Finding the perfect fit is a process and we will outgrow some choices. But, hopefully these tips can serve as guideposts to keep you on track ;).
#1 There is NO Until Death Do Us Part
We are not married to any publishing path. We will grow, our content will evolve and we might even have to completely change direction (like me deciding to self-publish). Writing is an art, but it’s also a business. Blind loyalty is not required.
Just because we change direction doesn’t mean that is set in stone either. Certain works, personalities and even what’s going on in our personal lives can affect which publishing path is the best fit.
Life can change on a dime. So can dreams and goals. We might be rocking self-publishing and then life tosses us in a Vita-Mix and we no longer have the focus and energy to maintain doing everything. Or, maybe you’ll begin being traditionally published then discover you want to write faster than the publisher’s schedule permits.
For instance, I’ve been approached to co-author a successful thriller series (short works). But, my 100,000 word mystery-thriller? Either I will self-publish or see if an agent thinks a traditional deal is better. I already reached my goal of being a cyborg, so “lack of cover art control” is less of a deal-breaker these days. I also am (blessedly) a lot busier. Thus, a slow path that would have driven me bonkers four years ago is looking a lot more appealing.
We live in a wonderful time where the works we create can find the perfect partnership and so can we. For the first time in history, publishing can be tailored to our works, needs and lives.
The new paradigm can be frightening, but the cool news is it is far more flexible.
#2 Ignore Peer Pressure
I speak at conferences and meet all kinds of authors. Writers who’ve found a great path are often the best evangelists, but there is no One-Size-Fits-All in publishing. Our friends and colleagues can offer advice, connections and guidance, but we have to be strong enough to do what we believe is best for our careers.
It was hard for me to step away to self-publish. I had NY agent friends who assured me that I could get a NYC traditional deal and implored me to reconsider. But, I’d already spent over two years sitting on Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World. I needed to move on.
Though everything in me wanted to be a Random-Penguin, I knew it wasn’t right for this book. It was terrifying stepping out alone. Others might mean well, but we have to make our own decisions because only we will face the consequences (or reap the rewards).
#3 Be A Realistic Dreamer
We all hear the stories of the “overnight successes,” but those are the outliers. I encourage all of you to dream. Dream BIG while you’re at it. Ignore the naysayers, because they’re mostly jealous chickens. It takes guts to do what we do. There is no magic marketing plan, no algorithmic alchemy guaranteed to catapult us to fame and fortune. This is a business. Writers (books) fill intellectual or emotional needs.
There is no rhyme or reason to what sells or what might become popular because we live in an ever-shifting world filled with people who have free-will. We never know what genre/story will speak to an audience, which is why we should simply write what we are called to write. There are a lot of components we simply cannot control.
If society is in great political upheaval, the last thing they might want to read is a dystopian. But? Things settle down and it might be the next big thing. Demand is often influenced by societal factors, the economy, current events, or even flukes. This is why it’s critical to ignore all that noise and focus on the areas we can control: platform, craft, publishing, etc. Focus on the business of our business and keep writing.
I’m not particularly worried about competition. Books are not so cost-prohibitive readers can’t buy more than one. Yet, aside from this, most people will give up. Long-term success as a writer (or anything) is a formula:
Self-Discipline + Teachability + Tenacity + Talent= Success
Talent alone is useless without the other components. I’ve met many talented writers who will never succeed because they don’t finish anything. I’ve met tenacious authors who work their fingers to the bone, but aren’t teachable. They believe more advertising will increase sales, when the tough truth is they need to focus on craft. Or, perhaps the first book is fantastic, but many writers stop there and spend every bit of energy on marketing ONE book.
This new paradigm will weed out those who are writing for the wrong reasons. Whenever we decide to become writers, we need to inspect our motives. Are we writing because we LOVE to write? Would we still do it if we never made money? Do we have something to prove?
Agendas will affect the dream.
We are entrepreneurs. I’ve met small business owners who went bankrupt because they went into business so they could work when they wanted to. Problem was, they never worked. We need to always review why we are here, why we have THIS dream, and make sure it’s driven by motives that can withstand heat, pressure and time. Can we maintain discipline and enthusiasm during The Lean Years?
I want all of you to live the dream and love your work. We have to spend most of our lives working anyway, so why shouldn’t it be fun? Something we are passionate about? This is why we need to make certain we are educated enough to make sound career decisions. Few things can make us more miserable than being trapped on the wrong path (been there). This is why I am offering new class Many Roads to Rome—Which Publishing Path is Best? January 25th (which is a Saturday). Use WANA15 for 15% off.
What are your thoughts? Have you been confused about all the options? Tempted by peer pressure? Have you found a wonderful fit? Why does it suit you? Have you had to change your path/plans? Why? What drove your decision?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!