Thursday, March 3, 2011

Things, they are a-changin'

Borders are closing across the country. Some of the Big 6 publishers are letting retailers like Amazon determine a book's listing price once they purchase it from them. Other big-wigs are putting a cap on how many times an ebook can be circulated in libraries.

All this ebook madness makes a debut author wonder how these changes effect the publishing process. Is "breaking in" the same as it was five years ago? How 'bout last year?

An internet presence used to be non-essential. You could write book after book on the mid-list, build your career through buzz of readership and never send a Tweet. Now, though, I feel the pressure to Tweet, Facebook, Blog, Blog Tour, Guest Blog, Interview, etc, etc, etc, to build my internet presence as forcefully as I can. The publishing houses take a risk each time they sign a debut author. These risks are becoming even "riskier" with the shaky economy. So building a platform (visa-vie internet presence) becomes that much more important.

But what about all the time spent building the platform and gaining the followers? Couldn't that time be better spent honing the craft and polishing that manuscript? Couldn't that time be spent networking in person? Couldn't I start the new book or edit the last? I've heard a few established authors say all the internet hoopla is a "time-suck". I've heard authors say "Write your book, find an agent, and if it's good enough and marketable enough an editor will pick it up."

Things are changing.

Authors are spreading themselves thin trying to keep up with the demands of "breaking in". Writing a kick-ass novel doesn't seem good enough anymore. As a debut author, I think you have to come with more than a kick-ass novel to the table. Sure, there are those best-selling, right-out-the-gate smash hits...but I think as the publishing industry spins on its top, waiting to find out when things are going to stop spinning and how things will be when we finally land, those are going to be few and far-between as well.

Ebooks aren't going anywhere. The internet isn't going anywhere. CDs and VHS tapes are old-news. Although print books will take longer to phase out (God, please let them take longer to phase out), I don't think anyone in the industry can deny ebooks have caused a literary revolution.

It's not enough to write your book, find an agent, then find an editor.

You have to ask the question: How do you make yourself marketable?

With the way things are changing, I'm gonna make some bold statements here: Publish an ebook with a reputable company. Network. Market the hell out of it. Write the next smash-book. And the next. When your sales begin to climb and you build an e-readership, you make yourself sellable to the bigger publishers.

Or you could blog until your little fingers fall off. Build up your followers and unique hit count until you reach a million. (I've heard 20+ comments per post is the benchmark for success.) If people are reading your blog, chances are they'll read your work, right? (I've also heard for every 10 hits, there's one sale. Do the math on your own blog and see what you come up with.)

I guess what I'm getting at is, for the mid-lister wanting to break-in, it's not so much about your book anymore. It's about you. What can you do to sell your book? If they publishing houses are risking thousands of dollars on your career, what are you doing to make YOU worth the risk?

Whatcha think? Am I off-base? On target? I'd love to hear insight from both unpublished and published authors on how you think "breaking in" is changing.


Evelyn Lafont said...

Personally, I don't think that writing a kick-ass novel was really ever enough. I've heard too many stories of struggling writers through the years to believe that talent has ever been the main indicator of potential success.

And now, not only do authors have the opportunity to write that kick-ass book, they also have a means to communicate--on a massive scale--with potential readers.

I think novelists and artists of the 90's and earlier would be (or are...they probably aren't dead yet ;-P) jealous of all the promotional opportunities that first-time novelists have now.

Kristin Miller said...

You are right--there are tons of promotional opportunities at our fingertips, not only for first-time novelists, but all the way around. Back in the 90's I'm sure time away from their word docs was spent stuffing bookmarks and postcards into envelopes. In that way, I guess this marketing/promotional model is easier...but as Nora Roberts once said, "Writing is a hard business now...but it's always been hard."

Thanks for sharing!

Aubree said...

i guess in a way it's a lot easier to market yourself, just a click and you care share a blog with anyone. and i didn't even know libraries did e books! but then i don't have an e reader :( so i guess i wouldn't know haha.
i know if i ever get published though i'd want a book to hold in my hands, something tangible, not just an e reader copy. but then again i'd be happy to be published in general ;)

Kaitlyn said...

Very good post, Kristin! You're right, you do have to market 'you'. Even since I started writing seriously in 2008, things have changed (and that's not a long time). In 08' you didn't need a blog and ebooks weren't a big deal. Twitter wasn't popular yet and Facebook was really just starting to take hold--most people were still on Myspace, doesn't that seem like forever ago? Lol. Since I've started blogging, I feel like it's taken a small chunk of time away from my writing. However, I know that if I want to be marketable and get my books published that's what I have to do. Author's nowadays need to plan, schedule, and multitask!

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