Oh How the Times Have Changed

I spend a lot of time on author forums trying to

  • Keep up with changes that are going on in publishing industry
  • Do what I can to tell other writers what I have learned

It’s amazing to me that whenever someone mentions they are about to take the step toward publishing that both self and traditional are brought up.  In fact, more often than not the assumption seems to be that the person is going to self-publish and there is a fair amount of advice away from traditional.  Oh, how the times have changed.

Back when I started my path to publication (around 2007), self-publishing was the last resort for those who had had knocked on every door and found them all locked.  Everyone knew that going the “vanity route” was a way to stroke the ego of a would-be writer and the chances of making any “real” money was nothing more than pipe dream.

Enter into the equation two very important innovations:

  • On-line book buying
  • ebooks

These are serious game changers, probably the biggest innovations to publishing since Gutenberg invented movable type–disruptive change. They’ve erased the once insurmountable barrier to publication, back when products were only sold in brick-and-mortar stores requiring large press runs, warehousing, and shipping infrastructures. Where once thousands, and in some cases tens of thousands, of upfront money was required to create a physical book, now the distribution costs weren’t just lowered, they were evaporated.

The fact that no money is required to distribute an ebook, is certainly an amazing thing, but what good is that if there are no buyers?  For years authors would try to sell their books directly to readers through their own websites…sites that had little to no visitors and as such little to no sales. Amazon is now the largest bookseller and even the World’s Largest Bookstore (based in Toronto Canada) is slated to close its doors.

In such an environment, self-publishing has now become a viable path to publication. In fact, I know more self-published authors who write full-time for a living then I do traditionally published ones.  Does that mean that everyone should self-publish?  Absolutely not.  There are legitimate reasons for each choice, despite the very partisan rhetoric from those on either side of the fence claiming their way is the only “right way.”  But what it does mean, is that authors need to educate themselves on the pros and cons of both and make the best choice for their particular situation.  Too often I see people who blindly go the “traditional route” because, “That’s just the way these things are done.”

Sure, it was easier when traditional publishing was all that there was.  The easiest way to make a decision is to have no other choice. But authors that close their eyes and ears to the opportunities that now exist are doing themselves a disservice. Publishing has never been easy, and writers have historically made little from the efforts.  but even so, I don’t think there has ever been a better time to become a professional writer than now. Notice that I said “professional” writer.  As with all things what separates professional from hobbyist is income. Being an artistic pursuit, many writers prefer not to think about the “financial” side of the business…and it is a business.  I think this a huge mistake. The goal for most is to be able to write more, and a steady income such that you can kiss the day job goodbye is the easiest route to having more time to write.

I write a lot about self-publishing, and some may think that I’m against traditional publishing. This just isn’t true. What I’m against is authors putting their heads in the sand and dismissing self-publishing without seriously exploring it as an option. I see value in both paths, which explains why I’ma hybrid author. I don’t think authors should do what I’m doing…after all it is the choice that is right for “me” and my goals and abilities may not align with yours.  But you owe it to yourself to keep abreast at what is going on with publishing and gather all the facts before you put your foot on the path, and keep in mind it doesn’t stop there.  The changes in publishing are coming fast and furious. The landscape today is nothing like it was six-months ago and that landscape is an alien world to the six moths prior to it.  So, like any professional you need to keep abreast as to what is going on in your industry, and be agile, as those who can adapt have the best chance as survival.

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