Sunday, February 20, 2011

This Blog Post Has No Answers

There are big things going on in the world of publishing. If you're paying any attention at all you know who Amanda Hocking is and why unpublished writers of all genres are so avidly following her success.

But just in case you haven't been following all of it, the upshot is this: Amanda Hocking is an "indie" publishing phenomenon (aka self-published writer) who, according to a recent USA Today article, sold more than 450,000 copies of her ebooks in January. Just in January. Not through one of The Big Six traditional publishing houses (as J.A. Konrath calls them), but straight from her computer to digital bookstores like Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

I don't know how to explain what she's done. I'm not sure anybody really can explain exactly how it happened. But the fact that she—and lots of other independently e-published writershave done it raises all sorts of questions. You know, little questions. Little easy questions like, Who am I? What am I doing here?

And my particular favorite, at the age of 48, What do I want to be when I grow up?

Questions I used to know the answers to.

Hi, I'm Yvonne and I'm a writer. Some day a publisher in NY will buy one of my books and bookstores will put it on their shelves and I will be able to hold it in my hands.

That used to be the answer.

For almost 40 freaking years, that was the answer.

But the economy sucks and publishing is adjusting and making cuts, just like any other business. And now you can self publish without having to buy cases of your own book and then selling it out of the trunk of your car.

 You can format it for digital platforms and upload it to Amazon and B&N where story-hungry readers are trolling for low-priced ebooks and depending on how much effort you put into promoting yourself, you too might become an indie publishing success.

The thing about answers, though, is that once you figure them out, once you've got them fixed in your mind, they're really really nice to hold onto.

And really really hard to let go.

That sound you're hearing out there in the world of writing, that low, sub-woofer-y, bone-rattling noise that you're hearing is the sound of our long-held dreams hitting the rumble strips as we take the exit ramps off the publishing highway.  We need to pull over and have a think.

Our dreams are in publishing. And publishing is changing. Do our dreams have to change with it? Or will the dream still, always and forever, remain the same?

We in the Rockville 8 are all—to varying degrees and in different ways—struggling with these questions. And so far, like the title of this post says, we have no answers.

What about you?

If you're a writer are you thinking about publishing straight to digital? Or is that too far away from your dream?

If you're a reader, do you pay any attention to who publishes the books you read? Would it make any difference to you if you found out the book that's been keeping you turning the pages wasn't published by one of the traditional publishing houses?

Inquiring minds want to know . . .

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  1. I think it comes down to is intention. What is your intention?
    A.To be published by any means necessary?
    B.To be published by the Big Six?
    If the answer is A than do you have the guts to go through with it no matter what. Amanda succeeded but my story may not. It's all a crap shoot and timing is everything.
    So, apparently I have no answers either...happy to help ;0)

  2. Intention, yes. Figure out what you want and go get it!

  3. It may also depend on your market. I know some teenagers who have self-published books on amazon so that their friends could buy them. That worked for them. Those same kids by a LOT of ebooks for their kindles and iPads, so I think we are looking at a very early iteration (v 1.9, let's say) of the future of publishing.

  4. Yes, Kathryn, ebooks are here to stay (until the next new delivery system comes along), and this is the future. But where does your publishing dream fall on the spectrum? Since you're writing for the YA market, does that mean your readers are there? Since I'm working on my 2nd YA book, that's something I'm really considering.

  5. I self-published about six years ago and will again soon but this time I'm doing all the promotion necessary to stand a bit taller in the crowd of the 2,000-some books published each day...

    I think the changes in publishing, once the kinks and growing pains subside, will give the reader much more say in who gets read...

  6. I'm always a little intimidated by the questions, let alone the answers (or answers-for-now). Maybe I'm still so stuck in the write-the-best-book-I-can frying pan that I haven't made the leap into to the ohmygodnowwhat fire.

    The fairy-tale believer in me, though, wants to say that it's still about the story no matter the platform. I don't care who has good buzz on a first book, if it doesn't live up to the hype, I'm not buying the second book. Longevity is still the aim, right? Crafting an entire career, not just a flash in the pan?

    So I guess that's one answer for me. Story counts. It still counts. (At least today, ask me again tomorrow...)

  7. Alexander, I agree the reader seems to be taking on more responsibility for finding their own good reading material (fewer publishers as gatekeepers). But what kinds of things are you planning to do to promote you upcoming release? Are you investing a set amount of money in it?

    Keely -- publishing is changing so fast these days, it's probably not necessary to choose your answers until you get to that point. Longevity IS the aim, but how can you craft a career when you can't see what's right around the bend? LOL.