Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wednesday Writerly Way ~Changes in Publishing

It all started with me wanting to learn about the publishing industry. I'd been an author for a dozen years or more, but was taking someone's word for what was a good deal...my agent. Admittedly, he knew all the ins and outs of the industry. I really didn't have to worry my pretty little head about it. All I had to do was pick a subject, research it, break it down into workable data, and write. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Why rock the boat?

Back in those gone-by days an author wrote and somebody else was delegated with all the other stuff. Like editing, that's what my editor was for to fine tune and correct the grammar mistakes. Times changed and to be a continued success, I had to learn. Not that learning is any problem for me, but change is always disruptive, but accepted grudgingly.

The most pleasant change was putting my manual typewriter in it's case never to be opened again. Except in a major extended power outage. I took to computer word processor like a duck to water. It was so much easier to correct mistakes and change text around without having to use write-out or correction tape. No more carbon paper for duplicates or triplicates. It was an invention from the gods. Thank you Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

But anyhow back to learning more about the business of publishing. Vanity presses or self-publishing was for those who couldn't cut it in the real publishing world. Nobody had a strong following with those authors. The publishers had the inside track of promotion and advertising your book. They knew how to reach people who read. They knew how to get books into catalogs for book buyers in stores, especially those that were in almost every town. They knew how to get reviews of your book. They knew the cover designers. They knew everything. They were the gatekeepers for what people read. They knew best or did they?

123rf.com
With mergers and acquisitions the big publisher were absorbing the competition. You can't really call it a monopoly because there are six big publisher. More like  making the big pond only available to big fish. If you were famous and wanted to write your biography, they throw out huge advances, but the small time author, Jill Nobody, had a hard time breaking into the market. Even authors with a publishing history had a hard time.
 getting their books published.

A small interuption for a story...
I spoke to an idealistic teenager last week during therapy. When she found out I was a published author she was in awe. She told me she was writing a book too. She had envisioned a life of becoming a best-selling author, the fame, the book signings, the television interviews and traveling. I asked her what was the premise behind the book, and genre, and she couldn't tell me. In fact she gave me a "huh?" look. After a few more well pointed questions, I determined it was a contemporary romance novel.

She asked about how to get it published and I asked her if it was finished. No. I asked her about projected word count, another "huh?" look. I asked about her writing history. None, no surprise there. I hated to bust her bubble, but I told her the realities of the industry. How hard it was to find an agent. How difficult if might be to sell the book to a publisher. I dropped the bomb of the 91-99% rejection rate. But I ended on a happy note and told her if that's what is in her heart to do, just do it being aware of the possibility of failure.

Back to publishing changes, I'm just too scatter brained today. Enter the internet. It provided a basis for authors to get their name out there. Blogs and websites became a had-to-have among authors even traditionally published ones. Social networking enabled readers to get to know you, the author, with only minimal face-to-face time. The advent of e-readers caught the publishing industry as a whole unaware. You could reach out to the world from your home. Sites sprang up everywhere for this or that part of publishing. You could get your book reviewed. You could have it professional typeset/formatted. You could find a cover for your book. More and more authors opted to publish on their own.

Yes, it all came at a price. But when you look at 70+% royalties in your pocket versus 12-17% even with the payout, indie (independent) publishing seems more lucrative. It still left me with 60% in my pocket so far in sales I've made. The stigma of self-publishing became less of a thumb-your-nose at the proposition. The shelf life alone makes it worth a try... three months versus eternity.

Have I given up on traditional publishing totally? Now why would I want to do that? I like the have my cake and eat it too side of the street. Until my agents and publishers say I can't and are willing to do all that I do for my indie books, I continue on being a hybrid author. Now I know they will eventually wake up and put it into new contracts, maybe in ten or twenty years, but until then more power and profits to me.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.


27 comments:

S.P. Bowers said...

It's a hybrid world. We have so many options we're lucky we can pick and choose, mix and learn as we need.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Second post about being a hybrid writer. You guys really have the best of both worlds.

Charmaine Clancy said...

I am right there with you celebrating the dust on the old typewriter. My kids think they look so cool, but they didn't try to bang 90wpm out on rusty metal keys! I love my mac barely touch keyboard - and I think my clunky old typewriter taught me to appreciate technology!
By the way - Happy Blitz
I may be early, but it's tomorrow in Oz.

Anne OConnell said...

Hi Jo,
Great post! There is so much change in the publishing world which certainly means more opportunity. New approaches, options and monikers (I'll have to add 'hybrid' to the growing list).

Happy writing
(and enjoy being 'blitzed)!
Anne

J.L. Murphey said...

Being a hybrid is having your cake and eating it too. I expect publishers will jump on board with this and put a stop to it. They are losing money.

Zoe Byrd said...

I think you're right about a coming trend in publishers putting a stop on "cake and eating" but until then pig out! Enjoy the BLITZ!

lilicasplace.com said...

I loved this post so much, I read it twice! You've got a really great blog here. I'll definitely be back. Great news on your hubby. Hoping for all the best for you both!! HAPPY BLOG BLITZ DAY TO YOU!! Lily

Sarah Negovetich said...

Great post, I love when writers can see the benefits to both sides of the publishing coin. Good for you!

dawnall said...

Hard to believe that when I was a kid, computers took up entire rooms. I wrote my first novel on legal pads, my second on a word processor. :-) I love my Mac.

LuAnn Braley said...

I'm gonna blitz ya a little early because not sure what the schedule is tomorrow around here and I wanted to be able to say "Good on You!" for being first to sign up for the Blog Blitz group!

Adriana Dascalu said...

things change all thee time. and you're right - why give up one thing when you don't have to. sometimes later the traditional publishing might be what you need.

Suzanne Furness said...

Really interesting post especially for those of us unsure of which why to proceed in the future. Great to meet you and HAPPY BLITZ DAY!

Dee said...

What an informative blog! I enjoyed reading it. (Nerd alert) Happy blitz day!

michelle said...

The best of both worlds? Sounds idyllic...
As they say, why fix something that isn't broken? So here's to having your cake AND eating it too! Yummy!
Happy Blog Blitz Day!
Writer In Transit

Chippy said...

I am not yet at the stage of having to decide which publishing route to go down. Hopefully by the end of the year I should be a lot closer (if I can nail myself down long enough to edit).

Happy Blog Blitz Day!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I thank The Lord that we have the options we do!

Congrats in being master of your words and of word.

It was fun and informative blitzing you :D

Erin L. Funk said...

This was an interesting look at how publishing has changed over the years. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I hope you enjoy your Blitz Day!

YVONNE LEWIS: said...

Happy BLITZ DAY, you deserve it.

Yvonne,

Medeia Sharif said...

I never wrote a manuscript on a manual typewriter, but my early writing efforts were on one. The electric typewriter was a pain. The word processor was so much better, but not easy for scrolling up and down. I also remember SASE's and snail mail.

Things are definitely speedier these days and there are so many options, which I like.

J.L. Murphey said...

OMG I'm being Blitzed...I didn't get the memo DL!

Elizabeth Hein said...

It's an exciting time in publishing. Gone are the days you could sit in your garret and just write. We now have to wear all t he hats ourselves.
Happy Blitz Day!
Elizabeth at Scribbling In The Storage Room

DL Hammons said...

You got the memo...it was just written in invisible ink! :) Ba-Zinga...you've been BLITZED!

This is an excellent synopsis of life in the writing world and where it evolved from. Should be required reading for everybody...which makes it perfect for today...especially the newbies!

Carolyn Brown said...

Great post, I am a new follower! Happy Blitz day!

Carrie-Anne said...

I'm glad publishing has changed so much, to allow people with less commercially-oriented books a chance. I'm planning to do indie or self-pub for my superlong historicals, since so few agents these days would even consider a deliberately saga-length book.

J.L. Murphey said...

Carrie, Have you considered cutting it in half? Sagas do great as serials. I have found most e-readers like fast reads.

Destination Infinity said...

I never pursued the traditional publishing route, and I don't think I will in the future, as well. Indie-publishing is EXCITING :)

Destination Infinity

Happy Blog BLITZ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi JL . it's a fast moving world out there - and your note about serialising or short story writing seems about right - people's attention spans are pretty limited now-a-days ...

Seems everyone enjoyed this post - always helpful to be reminded of things - and I bless the day I became a typist!

Cheers Hilary