Thursday, November 8, 2012

The New Reality of Publishing

Dear Fellow Writer,

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The New Reality of Publishing


Rob Parnell

Last week's article provoked a slew of emails from writers and would be authors about this whole question of 'getting published' and what it means in this Brave New World of Internet dominance in our lives.

Many writers still feel as though getting published online is somehow cheating the system - and either won't or can't do it without feeling as though it's perhaps too easy or doesn't properly reflect the seriousness with which they regard their own work.

As though, unless their work is immortalized in an actual paper based book, then it's not really being published at all!

My suspicion is that many writers don't want to know how many books they might sell - or, more pointedly, might not sell - if they 'go it alone'.

Perhaps many writers don't really want to know whether they can actually sell any books - so, by saying they want a 'real' publisher and enduring years of rejection, they're just forever putting off finding out the truth!

Okay, it's true that 'self publishing' has a stigma attached to it - even now, when perhaps a million new writers are getting money for their work in a way that was impossible before the Internet.

The stigma has to do with lack of validation from external sources. 

The feeling is that unless an author's work has been vetted and given the thumbs up by corporate conglomerates, in-house editors and media critics, then it won't have the necessary gravitas or quality associated with 'books on shelves.'

More, that an author's attempts at self editing are perhaps not quite good enough for the mass market.

Many self published authors do have badly edited manuscripts on sale to the public - not, sadly, that many people seem to notice these days! 

And yes I do agree that it's very important for self published authors to do their utmost to make their manuscripts clean and error free before they put their work out there - something I go to great lengths to stress and deal with in The Write Stuff Program.

But there's also a reality check issue here that needs addressing.

It may be that you really want to see your real world book out there, sitting on a book shelf. That would feel good, right?

But as a 'real world' publisher myself, I have some news for you.

In many cases, that's exactly what will happen to your book.

It will sit on a shelf.

Overall book sales (not including online) rose by 6% last year - but the increase in book sales was limited to the bestseller list of the top 100 books. Most authors - 99% - saw their book sales fall.

Indeed, fewer authors than ever were signed to publishers last year - down 30% on the previous year - while publishers are trying to consolidate exactly what the impact of the Internet and Amazon in particular might have on publishing in the years to come.

WRR

The trouble with offline publishing is that it's ruthlessly commerce based. In fact it always has been - only now authors, for the first time in history, have a viable alternative.

Here's what typically happens when you get a traditional publishing deal:

First, there's the wait.

Six weeks to a year to get a book accepted.

A further year or two before it gets a print run - usually just a few thousand copies.

Then it goes out on a sale or return basis to book stores.

If your book isn't an immediate best seller - and the majority are not of course - then all of those books sitting on shelves are returned to the publisher. For pulping or mark down or selling off cheap to the author before the book is withdrawn from sale.

Basically you have a window of three to six months to sell your masterpiece and then - the party's over.

It's rare that publishers will 'develop' an author these days - that is, let their first books flop while publishing more. That doesn't make short term commercial sense.

But it does make sense online - where your books are always available for as long as you want them to be. Many online authors find that the more books they publish with Kindle, the sales bloom as their online presence increases over time - and their older books start selling more too.

It's interesting to me that more and more online authors - like those Kindle bestsellers we keep hearing about - are writers who had offline publishing deals and grew tired of the traditional publishing merry-go-round.

It's easy to feel crushed when your publisher tells you they won't be taking up that option for your next book - because of those 'disappointing' sales. But it is from this point that many new online authors start.

They know that, if you want to write for a living, you can't rely on the vagaries of traditional publishing to pay the rent - or not - when you can more easily and with greater urgency, be in direct contact with your readers and fans by self publishing online!

And ironically it's how an increasing number of authors are actually getting publishing deals - by proving they have saleable books online first!

To me, the great thing about the Net is that it's a very quick and effective way of finding out for yourself what's commercial and what isn't.

If you want to be a successful writer, you have a duty to discover what the public actually wants to read. And then write it.

It's no accident that your favorite authors write thrillers or fantasy or romance. As publishers have always known, people like genre fiction. They feel comfortable before they pick up a book if they think they know what they're getting.

And even the best literary authors in the world know that, by shifting their mindset just a tad towards the market, they can attain serious commercial success, without losing any credibility whatsoever.

After all, what's integrity when you're mired in obscurity?

Better to sell your books - and have readers who actually want to listen to what you have to say, right?

Want more positive info about getting to be a succesful writer?

Do yourself a favor.

Go visit The Write Stuff.

Keep
writing!
 rob at home

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