C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

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The Publishing Revolution will be televised, podcasted, tweeted and POD

Publishers want their authors to have these platforms, and with them an established following before they launch a book. They don’t have the skills, resources or inclination to go viral, but they do expect authors to shoulder that job. A good manuscript isn’t going to be enough for publishers, especially as the tech wave gathers strength. Publishers will be changing their expectations because non-English publishers are leading the charge to a revolutionized industry. They want you to have a website, a platform and a ready-made fan base (for the same reasons Hollywood keeps redoing old but familiar formulae, making movies out of old TV shows with varied success.)

This is not news, but it largely applied to non-fiction writers. Now many publishers are expecting the same electronically interactive wizardry from fiction writers as well. You still have to be a good writer, but your teeth should be straight and you should be comfortable in front of a live studio audience. It’s preferable that you be a gorgeous celebrity, so get to work on that if you haven’t already been interviewed by Regis Philbin.

The best case scenario for non-fiction writers is an area of expertise, a writing track record, a platform (preferably with a lot of speaking engagements to large groups.) The killer outline in their book proposal is a must, but so is a business plan and  a business case.

For fiction writers, publishers are going to be looking for many of these elements soon if they aren’t already. In other words, it’s more important than ever that you be ready to do the work of getting the book known. Advances used to be there so the author could eat while he finishes the book. More publishers will expect you to eat bark off trees and use that advance to hire a publicist and do your own tour of the Midwest, thanks very much, possibly in the actual Partridge Family bus.

The economic crunch will mean fewer books. It may also mean better books, but smaller promotional budgets. No matter. Those budgets were barely there unless it was for a book that didn’t need it anyway. (Read: King or Koontz.) As a result, more authors will flee to what smaller publishers who are left, or go DIY.

And what’s next beyond that? A writer friend of mine is writing literary travelogues on his Blackberry. The length of each epistle is determined by the limit of the text message file so it makes for nice uniform chapters. It turns out he’s ahead of his time. Cell phone novels are huge in Japan. They’re typically written on trains ( it’s a commuting culture) by urban young woman from age 15 to 24. Then they are uploaded to websites and followings grow. These romances (featuring lots of sex and violence in fairly simple language) have been picked up by eager publishers who get the cell novels to bookshelves, often at lengths of 300-400 pages. Many of the authors didn’t even consider themselves writers when they started out. Now they’re in bookstores all over Japan. Nobody’s doing something that innovative among the big publishers yet. Look for the phenomenon to catch on in a year or two, and expect it to be reviled by critics who’ll long for the dusty and respectable old days. Meanwhile the kids will eat ’em up.

Self-publishing houses getting more sophisticated. If they are smart–and they’re smaller so they’ll change quicker than the big guns–they’ll work harder to assist authors in promoting themselves. DIY is going huge. Much of publishing promotion has always been DIY since marketing budgets have always been miniscule. The person most interested in selling the author’s books is always the author, anyway. That may mean Do It Yourself marketing, or maybe it means you’ll go whole hog and form your own publishing company with the shipping department organized in your mom’s garage. Or maybe you’ll have no inventory and go Print on Demand in full.

More good news: the short story is coming back. Your audience has a shorter attention span and lots of distractions. They want to read something quick over lunch or on their commute. They’ll take short fiction with them on their MP3 and IPOD. You can serialize your fiction on your nifty new website to keep them coming back for more.

Big changes are coming and if you’re tech-savvy, you might have a good shot over the rest of the herd. If you aren’t tech-savvy, you’ll have to pay to get someone else to do it. Maybe you can teach yourself a bunch of website skills on YouTube.

Another fresh resource:  a book on establishing your platform before you send your manuscript is out by the woman behind Writer Mama. It’s called Get Known before the Book Deal by Christian Katz. I recommend you have a look. No sense letting everyone have another advantage over you. 

How will you survive the coming Publishing Apocalypse? It’s up to you. Literally.

Filed under: Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Rant, Writers, , ,

2 Responses

  1. milkfever says:

    Interesting post. Thank you.

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