Boy, I should be active on Facebook more often. I keep writing long-ass comments in my Writer’s group there, that end up being repurposed as blog posts.
So, someone in my Facebook writer’s group posted this article about the changing landscape of traditional publishing, and how hard it is for “mid-list” published authors to catch a break, and how the world is basically ending for them and they’re growing old with no financial safety net.
I am, admittedly, very young. I am not a mid-list published author, I am a low-mid-list self-published author, by which I mean that I am making BARELY enough money to support my family with my writing and no more.
I have also been described as having “eyes full of puppies, roses and rainbows,” and maybe that’s why I feel this way — but this article annoys me.
It annoys me because, from my own perspective, opportunity for authors has never been greater. You can earn more than you could before, if you are a smart strategist as an “authorpeneur.”
THE PUBLISHING LANDSCAPE
Something is disappearing, but it’s not successful authors. It’s the “safety net,” wherein a publisher picks you and gives you an advance.
An advance is an investment, just like any other investment. The publisher invests because they believe they will make money from your book.
It is a mercenary move, make no mistake. It may be fueled by the artistic opinions of the agent and editor who love the quality of your writing. And we want to believe that that’s all there is to it. “My writing is wonderful. It is being validated by these intelligent people in a Big House who have lots of money. The validation is coming in check form, with six figures in the middle of the right-hand side.”
But the publisher is thinking, “I put money in, I get more money out.”
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And in my opinion, the reason the publishing houses are fading away and the advances are evaporating is that they’re realizing it’s an inherently risky investment.
The safety net of an advance was sometimes the only thing that would enable an author to keep writing. Without that 25K, 50K, 100K advance, the author would have go to back to “real work” just to survive and support her family.
But the “dread march of Amazon” (a particular phrase in that article that annoys me) changed all of that.
I do not believe publishers are withdrawing their safety net and moving elsewhere. I think they are slowly — ever so slowly — adopting a new strategy. Allow the authors to try to make it on their own. If they manage to gain an audience through their own blood, sweat and tears, snap them up and expand that audience.
Hugh Howey exploded with Wool and THEN was picked up by a Big House. C.J. Lyons exploded with her medical thrillers and THEN was picked up by a Big House. Sean Platt and David Wright exploded with serialized horror stories and THEN were picked up by 47North, Amazon’s genre publishing Big House.
It’s a great strategy — for the publisher. It’s a smart investment. If you’ve got millions to invest in a company, are you going to pick:
- a company that’s never produced anything, run by a CEO with no experience? Or
- a five-year-old company run by a CEO who’s already made himself a million dollars?
You might have to pay more for the second company, but you’ll make that money back.
For many hard-working authors who DON’T want to self-publish forever, this new world is something they’ll just have to grin and bear. No, they don’t want to pay for professional covers for the rest of their life. They don’t want to find their own editors. They don’t want to do their own marketing. But they’ll have to do those things at first if they hope to gain the audience that will attract a publisher.
In today’s world, if you truly believe in yourself, all you have to do is run the whole show long enough to get yourself an audience. Then take that audience to a traditional publisher and say, “Look. I’m making money. I will make more money if you sign me, and you will have part of that money.”
THE PURE WRITER
The only person truly, unquestionably, negatively, adverbily affected by all of this is the “pure” writer. The person who doesn’t want to do ANYTHING except for write and get paid for it.
This person can’t confront the idea of designing their own cover.
“Market myself? I’d rather die.”
The thought of typesetting and preparing a book for publication through Createspace or LightningSource gives this author the shivers.
I feel sorry for the “pure” writer. They might still succeed and be picked up by a publisher for millions. But they should double their chances of success and buy a lottery ticket every week, too.
Or buck up and do what they’ve got to do to get noticed by the people who can pay big bucks to a “pure” writer.
Personally, I would put a maximum of one or two books with a traditional publisher. I love the control I have over my books, and I love the work. And I’m not going to lie, I love 70% royalties, or 90% in some marketplaces.
My own personal philosophy is, “I worked my ass off to build my audience, why would I hand that work off to someone else?”
Maybe you still have dreams of making it the old way. You could do it. You could be the one-in-a-million who gets signed with no lead-up.
But it’s more likely you’ll have to fly solo for a bit. Then once you’ve got your readers, you can appeal to the Big House and have them start doing all of your own editing and covers and printing and distribution.
It’s not all gloom and doom. It’s change. And articles like the one above, articles that complain about change, don’t change the change.