"Books" - photo copyright 2010 Wilson Wyatt Jr (click on image for full size)
Hemingway would say we learn “what is honest and true” by the doing of it. Of course, reading is good…isn’t it, Ernest?
As a writer, I try to immerse myself in what’s new. Being current is important, but it can be a dizzying pursuit these days.
In January, I attended the annual Writer’s Digest Writers Conference in New York. Like all large conferences, there’s an art to picking and choosing topics and speakers to discern what’s new. I wanted to see, on a national or global scale, what is really happening in the “publishing” and “self-publishing” industries, from a writer’s perspective. I wanted to know “what is honest and true.”
Amid all the various presentations, there were a few important insights…showing definite changes to the publishing landscape. You can believe them, or you can fight them…your choice…but they carry a strong measure of truth. Here are the highlights.
– Thanks to digital technology, there are more authors than ever…more content…more books being published…good news for authors!
– 90 % of all books (traditional and self-published) sell under 1,000 copies. The “honest” truth is the number of “sales” is the ultimate measure of success…if we’re writing to reach readers.
– The big news is self-publishing now stands on its own feet and competes head-to-head with traditional publishing. This is a sea change from only a year ago.
– “Supported Self-publishing” has emerged as a new growth industry, assisting the author with all those nitty-gritty things they hate (digital coding, ISBN’s, barcodes, layout, design, printing, E-books, marketing, and distribution), including services once performed only by traditional publishers.
– The role of the agent is changing…but not disappearing.
– Authors can control, for the first time, editing, design, printing, marketing and distribution.
– Legitimacy of “self-publishing” has arrived and is permanent.
– Self-publishing can be much more lucrative to authors than the 85% taken by traditional publishers.
– Traditional publishers, once “the gatekeepers” of “good writing,” aren’t keeping pace with technological change. Good writing is being published everywhere, in new formats, digitally and in print. The “dinosaur theory” is knocking at the door of the big publishers.
– Is traditional genre fiction dying? The boundaries between genres (mystery, thriller, romance, paranormal, sci-fi, etc.) are rapidly combining or merging into “mainstream.” A new mixture of “high impact fiction” and “literary” writing is enduring on the best seller lists.
– The value of good writing is more important today than ever, as the marketplace floods with more books. Readers will search for the best.
And finally…for better or worse…the most profitable market for writers is writers. These are writers who sell “how-to-do-it” advice to other aspiring writers. Wading through the quagmire to find the grains of truth can be painful, especially with technological advances and search tools. Buyer beware. As with all books, a few are good, and still fewer are great.
Most of us are still searching for “what is honest and true.”