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.