In order to be published successfully, you need to write for a few years. Anywhere between three and fifty should do. Then you need to write a book that’s new, fresh, unique, but still adheres to a best-selling genre that will set the next new trend without hoping to set a trend or follow a trend. Then you have to write a gripping query and query agents for a few years. Because agents are the gateway to a successful career in publishing. Then get a contract with a big publishing house and hope to sell enough copies to pay back your advance.
Wait, no, stop. Things have changed. In order to be published successfully, you need to write a gripping story about whatever the hell you want. Then get it professionally edited and invest in a flashy cover. And then upload it to a highly successfully e-reader distributer like Amazon or Barnes & Nobles. Then use your online platform to market and sell!
Wait, no, stop. Things have changed again. In order to be published successfully, you need to write a gripping story in one of the bestselling genres, and fly on the coat tails of already-established indie authors because the market is saturated and new authors aren’t seeing as much success on their own or with genres that don’t fit the mold.
Wait, no, stop. In order to be a successful author, you need to be both traditionally published and self-publish because, reportedly, ‘hybrid’ authors make the best living.
Wait, no, stop.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t miss the days of printing out queries and snail mailing them to London agents found in the year’s Writers’ and Authors’ Yearbook, only to get a rejection card in the mail a few weeks later. I think the direction publishing has taken puts greater value on craft and content, because it’s the masses who decide what rises to the top. Which is a good thing.
And yet, I can’t help wondering, will the dust ever settle? I miss the clarity that publishing used to have. Sometimes I feel like I’ve taken a step back from it all because things have just changed and evolved so fast in the last four years, it makes me dizzy. It almost reminds me of a poem we were forced to learn in the seventh grade:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
- Road Less Taken, Robert Frost
I can’t help the feeling that the moment I finally decide to jump in, the winds will change once again, hurling me toward the unknown; caught up and invested in ‘a side’ of this tug of war between indies and tradies and hybrids, oh my!
Anyone else feel like they’re still ‘one traveler’- looking down each path, and uncertain and wondering what direction the industry will take?
I feel totally out of the publishing pulse at the moment! LOL!! I'm also an old dinosaur and will always do things the old fashioned way but I'm also happy that there are choices for others who are far more with it and far more determined and focused than me! I doubt the dust will ever settle - things are always moving and changing!
Oh but I love this poem! Thank you! Take care
First of all, the spam comment above makes me groan and slap my head. Idjit.
Secondly, yes -- the new paradigms are mind-boggling, and in my opinion, the ease of self-publishing has resulted in an explosion of ebooks that aren't ready to be out yet. I'm not trying to be snobby about this, but I recently finished a first draft on the same day a fellow (unnamed) blogger finished a first draft. Our celebratory posts were quite different. I was planning to write 3-4 revised drafts over the next 3 months before letting an editor see it. She was planning to fix up the editing and have it uploaded to Amazon in 2 weeks.
I don't care HOW you publish your books, but please, please, please take honing your craft more seriously than to think that a first draft is ready to publish after you check the spelling!! Argh!
I'm glad there are more options out there for writers now. It's great that those who can't get published traditionally and have honed their craft have options now.
But it is overwhelming with the number of books coming out now that they are also being self-published. Like Dianne says, people need to hone their craft and be sure their books are ready before sending them out in the world.
For me, I hope to get published traditionally some day but I'm getting okay with writing for the enjoyment of it. I realize that it's not going to support my family and me so I'm glad I have another fulfilling career.
There are so many options now it would make your head swim. (Don't forget finding a publisher without an agent.)
I'm happy on my path and hope I don't have to choose a new one anytime soon.
I think I just got motion sickness from digesting this. LOL The constantly changing times can be a little nauseating. Even the positives of the changes can make one's head spin. So, I believe each writer must find his/her grounding source, whatever that may be. A place, both physically and emotionally (could be family, a book, painting, house cleaning, etc...), he/she can rest within the regroup the brain and forge ahead. I find I have to do this daily. LOL
Well, at least you are in good company...eh
Brilliant post I can really identify with. This is one of my favourite poems and sometimes I feel I am actually trying to take both roads at once... splitting myself in two and losing sight of the other half. Nice to know other authors feel the same!
I like how you capsulized the trends in a few short paragraphs! Too many choices paralyzes the shopper-- which is why Costco limits what they sell-- it's easy to see now why writers feel paralyzed by all the choices out there. Good luck and keep writing!
It's like trying to hit moving target. Not for the faint of heart. The roller coaster of emotions is taking its toll, but I'm learning a lot.
The last one's the ticket, and I can say that because I'm a hybrid author. Things are indeed moving incredibly fast, and with ever more traditionally published authors now self-publishing also, the quality is going up and it's getting hard to get visibility.
Becoming an author who makes a living from their craft has never been easier, but it's also never been harder. The contradiction is in the method: fewer bookshops and publishers means fewer new trad' contracts: a massive Indie market means newcomers are swamped.
All you can do is keep going and never quit, because just like before those that succeed are those that don't quit.
Yes. Lol. All we can do is keep writing the books we want to read, throw them up (whether traditionally or on WattPad or by self-pubbing) and see what sticks.
I look forward to the day you get published, which ever way it happens :)
I wouldn't listen to half of what you've mentioned in your post. Successful publishing is about how each author defines it, not what other industry professionals or best selling authors say. At the end of the day, if you're not happy, then you're not successful.
If the path ahead is confusing, it's the perfect time to be creative and figure out what is best for you, as an individual. I love that we can now choose so many different avenues towards our publishing futures. Agency is always good.
If you're a creative professional, then this should be easy. You already know how to access your creative powers, so use them to blaze your own trail!
The times, they are constantly changing. Perhaps it's because my paying gig is in an industry where change is the only constant that the changes swirling in the publishing industry aren't as mind-bending for me.
I've had to learn to roll with the punches (a few of them gut-punches) with my job so the wonky, wild world that is publishing is ever intriguing.
The formula to success varies from author to author. Just a matter of treading the waves and currents to find what works best for you.
I'm staying on the traditional route of querying agents. As far as choosing the genre, write a novel a year in a few genres or sub-genres you like, that way you'll have something that will match a best-selling genre (or even a flooded genre, if yours is original enough) when things cycle around.
Have I been published yet? Nope. But that's the same result as other people who go through more drama.
As a late-arriver to the world of writing for publishing, at the ripe old age of 59, I also wonder if the dust will ever settle. And where will it settle when it does?
Great post. But I'm on the selfie side. I do at least 4-5 drafts before handing it to beta readers, and then, and only then, do I seek the help of an editor.
I agree that writers should check their work thoroughly before putting it out there. But then I've also read books by well known authors who still have typos etc.
As for the industry as a whole, all we can do is write the best damn book we can, and hope someone out there likes it.
Posting from Blog Blitz.
I love how with all the frantic "ahhh! Eeep! Let me do this the right way!" you came up with Robert Frost at the end. When does Robert Frost NOT fit, afterall?
This is my first visit here (Blog Blitz sent me) and I feel like we could be long lost friends.
I'm going to follow you around and it looks like you may have something to do to A to Z also. :-)
Makes me smile!
Happy Blitz Day!
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