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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Show me the way…

It’s no surprise to anyone who reads the blog that I’m a little obsessed with England and the past. In fact, every manuscript and story idea I’ve written in the last three years has been set around two hundred years ago in the regency period. I’ve even convinced my dh to move the family to Great Britain should we ever be in a position to do so. But until that lucky day, I need to focus on the here and now, including trying to make sense of the future of publishing.

Given the recent failures of Borders both in the US and here in Australia, it seems the chances of securing shelf space for a new novel has become that much more difficult. For a new author with their first book about to hit the shelves, now non-existent shelves, it must be a particularly nerve wracking time, especially if they weren’t totally onboard with the increasing popularity of ebooks.

As I read through my daily dose of blogs and twitter posts I notice that every man and his dog has an opinion on which way the cards will fall. The only thing I can be sure of is that to succeed, to get a new book before readers, the authors must remain in control of their careers.

I’m newish to the publishing world, just over three years as an author, but I listen a lot and one of the first things I learned was that getting an agent and landing a contract with one of the big six publishing houses should be my priority. However if the big six have less places to shelf their sparkly new books then new authors have far less chance of securing space next to the NYT bestsellers.

Given all I’ve read in the last six months I no longer believe print publishing should be my priority. I’m already digitally published, and quite happy with how things have gone. And I’m reading of more and more established authors taking the initiative to digitally independently publish their backlist. I’m proud of them for embracing change. Good stories, well told, deserve to be available to readers and the beauty of digital publishing is the endless shelf space. No more hunting for an authors back list in every secondhand bookshop you find, not that I don’t love secondhand book shops, but its easier now to discover an author’s backlist with a few clicks of a button.

But that does beg the question: With established authors self-publishing their work and new authors considering it too could Indie publishing become the norm? And will readers care?

Ooh, late addition to the blog. I just stumbled upon this video of Margaret Atwood speaking at the O'Reilly TOC Conference. She very funny.


  1. These are questions I'm asking myself every day.

  2. Heather, this is a great topic, and one that is quite close to home :) Having been published in print and ebook with a small house, I was unhappy with my dividends at the end of the year. As much as I like my publisher, they can't give me what I want: money in my pocket for all the hard work I've put in to these manuscripts. So when a fellow author told me she'd pubbed on Amazon and B&N, I followed her lead. 2 weeks down, and I've already made more than I made in a *year* with my publisher. I don't know why or how, but what I do know is that I'm super glad I kept my manuscripts in my pocket until the path became clear to me. It may not be the path for everyone, but as I see the bookstores crumbling around me, I know the dream of having my books on the "shelves" is probably not going to happen. I'm very happy having them on the virtual shelves and actually selling :)

  3. Great to hear of your indie publishing success, Jerrica! One of the things on the Margaret Atwood presentation was that the primary source, authors, recieve so little for their hard work. To my way of thinking this is so very wrong.

  4. great post and I watched the entire video of M. Atwood. A lovely, lovely lady who is a fantastic grip on the past and present publishing industry. So insightful,

    thanks, heather, keta

  5. Keta, I'll think of her every time I look at a cheese sandwhich. LOL. Thanks for dropping by.

  6. Great post Heather. We must be in the same mood lately, I just posted a similar discussion on this topic elsewhere--though I fear mine was not as well thought out :).

    The future holds a wealth of possibilities, both good and bad. All we can do is try to roll with the punches and stay true to ourselves.

  7. Call me the eternal optimist, but just because print books are going the way of the 8 track tape - remember those? - doesn't mean the big six are going to be publishing less. If anything, their overhead will be less so it may open doors for more authors.

    One thing I appreciate about my publisher, Sourcebooks, is their dedication to promoting their authors and their focus on building careers. My hope is to reach a larger audience through my publisher. And a publisher who contracts with an author is lending their name and reputation, so there are things authors get from big publishers too. I still agree that authors should be paid more, so I'm not disputing that argument. :)

    As far as indie publishing goes, I think it's a great avenue for some authors. My personal opinion is that experienced authors probably have an advantage because they have been through the editing process and know how to create a polished product. I think if you are unpublished you shouldn't be discouraged from indie publishing, but I think you should consider hiring a copy editor at a minimum. You only have one opportunity to make a first impression. If your story is filled with grammatical errors, typos and formatting issues, your work won't be seen as professional and you might not be taken seriously.

  8. Thanks for dropping by Sami. Loved your post too. I miss shopping for CD's but I dont dare spend too much time in iTunes. I'd go overboard. LOL. You can find Sami blogging at: http://romantix10.blogspot.com/2011/02/always-look-on-b-side-of-life.html?showComment=1298496099974#c1240805480985867981

  9. Samantha, its not so much the publishers overheads I'm thinking of but the reduction of retail outlets for a print editions to be shelved. The independant booksellers are having a rough time and so are some of the biggest sellers. That has to have an impact on a print published author's work finding new readers.
    Finding a balance between promoting print and digital editions will be essential.

    I agree that not everyone can self-publish a successful book. Self-publishing needs to be undertakent as a business. It's not just a case of flinging a polished manuscript onto the market. There needs to be a clean professional product published. By that I mean good covers and professional presentation (front and back matter). Obtaining the services of professionals can help achieve that.

  10. Heather,
    I hear what you're saying about shelf space, but what I meant is that the big pubs are going the way of ebooks too. I don't equate larger publishers with only print books, so I don't think writers have to give up the dream of working with a publisher if that is what they want. Maybe I have my head in the sand, but I'm not worried. Readers will always be on the hunt for good stories in whatever form they are published.