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?