I just read a (way too long) piece about the future of publishing, that used big words and convoluted sentences and basically said nothing at all. As I read it, I realized the headline was designed to draw readers to the site, (I had to jump through significant hoops just to get to read the piece) while delivering nothing that the title promised. NOTHING. I was very disappointed, and I thought, I can predict the future of publishing better and more accurately than they just did. Because not only have I been in this business for nearly 20 years, I know how the Universe works. So then I decided that’s exactly what I would do with today’s blog post. So here it is, The Future of Publishing in Three Easy Steps.
First the obligatory setup. Right now, publishing is in flux. Publishers are hurting for money and taking it out of the skin of their authors. They’re also driving us nuts trying to push us to write what their marketing departments think will sell, pushing more of us to try to take the do-it-yourself route. The choices seem to be: A. Write what they tell you for 8% of cover for print and 12.5% – 20% of cover price for e, or B. Write whatever you want for 70% of cover price in e. Authors are making an apparent mass exodus from their publishers. At least, they are if you believe the Internet buzz. I don’t really buy it. I live from advance to advance, and if I skip one, my bills aren’t going to be paid, for one thing. I think most authors are like me. Besides, I like my publisher, I love my editor, we get along well, we have a nice thing going, and I’m really not about casting them in the role of Big Bad Enemy of the Universe.
Yes, Jo Konrath, I write for Harlequin. I signed the contract. We disagree from time to time. We discuss it privately. This is a business, and I am a grown up making my own decisions. The terms to which I agree are between my agent, my publisher and myself, period. If you disapprove of what I do, I can only drop my favorite quote on you,”What you think of me is none of my business.” I love my job. I am the luckiest person in the world to be paid to do what I love to do best.
So back to my topic. The flip side of this current boom in electronic publishing, is that everyone who can string together a coherent sentence, and most of those who can’t, are now self-publishing, calling themselves authors, and glutting the net with their titles. They’ve become more and more savvy about cover art, so you can’t tell anything by that anymore, and many of them have figured out how to manipulate the system to hit the Amazon bestseller lists, even though they have grammatical errors in their one-paragraph book description. Yes, it’s true. I’ve talked to them, visited their book pages at Amazon and BN, and they’re all over the bestseller lists, and they can’t spell. It’s insane right now. People who can’t write their way out of a paper bag are outselling seasoned, award winning novelists. And it’s enough to make a lot of people consider tossing their careers and starting to look for new ones. It’s unfair, authors yell! It’s criminal, even, they moan.
But, authors, colleagues, friends, scribes, remember this bit of wisdom. No one can sell enough books to make you sell fewer. And no one can sell poorly enough to make you sell more. Each person’s journey is her own, personal, private journey, and the things you experience come to you according to what you are attracting, what you believe in, what you expect, what you focus on. Period. No one else matters.
So take a deep breath with me now, fill those lungs to bursting. And now hold it for a beat or two. And now blow it out, all of it. Repeat. Repeat again. And read on.
Here’s the future of publishing in three easy steps.
1. The cream will rise to the top as it always does.
Some indie authors who are truly talented will take their place among their peers, as they should, and those who can’t write and shouldn’t write, will eventually move on to their next get rich quick notion. Not that what they do matters one little bit.
2. Some publishers will figure out how to master the new frontier of ebooks while making money and paying their authors decently. Those who embrace change, and are open to new ways of doing business will thrive. Others, those who resist change, and fear it, will not, and they will fade away. Some of the new publishers who’ve sprung up almost as thickly as the rash of new “authors” have, will prove themselves worthy and will thrive. Most will not. Most will vanish.
But some new presses are going to emerge from this book revolution as real, viable new options for authors. Already several of the new houses born of this chaos are looking very promising. (Entangled is my favorite new publisher, I like what they’re doing and would buy stock if it were available. I have nothing invested there, and get no cut for saying so, but I love their unique, forward thinking business model immensely and I believe they’ll do very well going forward. They are positive thinkers, innovative, outside the box people, highly creative, and open minded, and that’s just the type who will do well.)
And some of the long time, old school publishers whose names we’ve long known, if they cannot adapt, will become extinct. Like dinosaurs. And that’s okay. That’s their journey.
3. In ten years, maybe five, because this is moving fast, we’ll see a new publishing landscape, with new players on the scene, but things will once again have settled into a comfortable, navigable pattern. Some of the big publishers we currently know will still be in existence. Some will not. And some new ones will be standing beside them.
There will still be print books, and there will still be ebooks, and there will still be hardcover and paperback, and maybe trade. It’s okay. It’s all going to be just fine.
Some authors will have gone away, some newcomers will have risen to stardom, and some old beloved bestsellers will still be bestsellers. Some authors will be publishing independently and having great success, others will be publishing traditionally, and having great success. Some will be doing both and having great success.
Some authors will still be bitching that the world is ending and that everything sucks and that terms are unfair and that Amazon or Harlequin or both are the Anti-Christ, and they will not be doing so well, but I suspect they will be enjoying wallowing in their misery. But that misery will have nothing to do with Harlequin or Amazon (or the Anti-Christ, for that matter.) It will have to do with their own vibration, expectations, mind-set, focus.
Basically, those who are acting right now, today, based on fear and panic, running around shouting that the sky is falling, certain that it’s the end of the world as we know it, aren’t going to make it into publishing’s future.
Those who are acting right now from a place of recognizing this time as one of great opportunity, who are excited about the new horizons in publishing and seeking ways to embrace them and make the most of them, are the ones who will not just survive, but thrive.
Be excited about the future. Expect good things, and good things will come.
That’s not just the future of publishing. It’s the future, period.