Monday, January 28, 2013

Ah, Publishing, How You Have Changed

Okay, so I started writing about 6 years ago. I queried my first book in 2008, and my second in 2009. I got an agent in 2009, and a publishing deal in 2010. My debut novel, Possession, was published in 2011.

And let me tell you, publishing is so much different today than it was in 2009, which was only 3 short years ago.

I've known this, of course, but I don't think it truly sunk in until this past week, when I went to a local book group. See, they were reading Possession, and they'd invited me to come talk about writing, and the book, and whatever.

Someone asked me how I got published, and I started telling the story. As I was speaking, I realized just how different things are today.

See, in 2008, the Kindle was still new. Ebooks were still a novelty. Everything about publishing was wrapped up in print -- and to do what I wanted to do, I needed an agent.

Well, now in 2013, the Kindle (and other eReaders) is not new. A lot of people have them, and digital books are commonplace. It's amazing to me how things can change in a relatively short amount of time.

So I found myself speaking about my publishing journey, and as I was, I realized that one thing has NOT changed. And it's this: No matter what you want to do in publishing - go out on your own, submit to a small press, a medium press, or try to land one of the big New York publishers - you have to first know what you want, and then be willing to work to make it happen.

At least that much hasn't changed.

What do you think? Have you seen publishing evolve over the last 5-6 years? In what ways? Has your perspective of it changed too? In what ways?

34 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

Yes, and it's been fun, scary, awesome to see the changes. I self published and realized that I wasn't giving up a dream. I was just going a different route to get there - find readers and work my way toward a part-time and eventually full-time income.

There's room for all ways to publishing and I think that's cool.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I'm one of those who wants the traditional way with an agent and I working together for love of my novel. But I love love love that there are other ways.

Jessica Bell said...

Absolutely. I wrote a post about it last week actually! It's an exciting time for authors and it's nice to finally see the self-publishing stigma lifting a little. Things are different, and many people complain about it, but if we just embrace it, and follow the path that is right for us, success can happen in a number of ways regardless of the path. You just need to know what you want and go for it!

Jemi Fraser said...

The growth in popularity of the ereader has changed the industry by leaps and bounds. It's an exciting time for authors :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I purchased the first iPad when it came out and am now a total eBook convert. The change has happened fast, and a lot of writers have adapted quickly.

Richard Hughes said...

I'm 66 years old. For me, it changed at warp speed. I'm happy with the additional outlet for our writing: ebooks, blogging, twitter, FB. It's all amazing to me. I'm having fun with it.

SA Larsenッ said...

I completely agree with you. The industry has changed, and especially over the last 24 months or so. Writers are more confident to take hold of their careers, which gives agents/publishers more time to hon the authors' work. The same goes in the Indie industry. Authors are there for each other, whether it's for editing, marketing, or promoting. I won't even touch upon social media.

Angela Brown said...

The roads to publication have increased in number. But not the need to first have the desire to write and publish. Whether it's to get an agent and hopefully get picked up by one of the big publishing houses, or to get involved in a self-publishing career, the desire to write is the one thing that doesn't change.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

My perceptions have definitely changed. At one point, I never considered self publishing as a viable option.

It doesn't matter which route you take, there's one thing that's extremely important: craft.

Miranda Hardy said...

Very true! It really does depend on what you want to do and learning how to achieve it properly.

JeffO said...

It's changed a lot, and yet it also hasn't changed much at all. If you're set on 'old school' publishing, it's still a ponderous beast. It's definitely great that there are so many viable options, however.

Jessica Nelson said...

I've definitely seen it change and I imagine my perspective will continue evolving with it. :-)

Claude Nougat said...

The Digital revolution is a game changer: think of it, you went about it in the traditional way in 2008, now perhaps half the people (or more) who have written a first book don't!

Other things remain the same, particularly the need for book marketing. What worries me is that in the tsunami of new books caused by self-publishing, book discovery is becoming more and more difficult. People who are traditionally published have a definite advantage: access to literary critics where they count, access to national contests, prizes etc - important ones like the Pulitzer are simply closed to self-published authors...

I think that if I had realized that sooner, I would not have rushed into self-publishing as I did. Oh well, live and learn...But I hope that aspiring authors now stop and think twice before they go ahead and self-publish! True: the stigma attached to self-publishing is (largely) gone but the road that way is a lot harder...

mshatch said...

when I first started queries could only be submitted via snail mail; no one accepted equeries. Oh yeah, publishing has sure changed!

Ann Carbine Best said...

Hey, I was a teen in the 1950s! I borrowed books from the library in Sugarhouse (Salt Lake City) and from the high school library. That was it. Didn't buy books (just magazines such as Redbook that was a great resource for short story writers "back then"). No computers. Composed my stories on a typewriter. There were no e-Readers. NOW, in a whole different reading/publishing world, I love the computer and e-readers. Reading on the iPad is my favorite way to read. I can increase the font as much as I want to!!

Martina at Adventures in YA Publishing said...

I love this post. It's a long, slow process, and you're right, we have to know how much we want it as well as why.

Ann Carbine Best said...

p.s. re: Claude's comment above. Yes, self-publishing does shut you out of a lot of possibilities. I'm so grateful that an excellent small press took my memoir, just before the "publishing revolution" struck back in December of 2009. I know it wouldn't have been as good as it is without their editorial input, and I know I couldn't have marketed it by myself.

Alice said...

I've seen a lot of changes just in the last ten years since I started writing. I used to send my manuscripts directly to the publisher. Now many of them don't take Unsolicited mss. Now I submit to agents instead because that's sometimes the only way to have a ms. looked at. I think it's harder to get things published now-a-days with the economy and e-books, unless you self-publish. That's just my take on it.

Kelly Hashway said...

Definitely! I've noticed that with all the books popping up because of these different avenues, advances are not as good for debut authors as they were a few years ago. That's one change I'm not happy to see.

Patti said...

I think you're right on. The publishing world has changed so much since I tried querying many years ago. Lots of agents wanted snail mail queries with SASE, so glad its changed to email queries.

amyknichols said...

I've been surprised by some of the reactions people have when I tell them I got a traditional book deal. They balk when I tell them how long it will take for the first book to come out and then they ask why I didn't just publish it myself. Some get so soap-boxy about it, I feel I have to defend my decision to traditionally publish. What a strange shift. I say choose whichever path best fits your goals and dreams.

Matthew MacNish said...

We have to know what we want? Crap.

Nicole said...

It's changed and continues to change, sometimes in different ways for writers AND readers. Time to hang on for a wild ride!

Natalie Aguirre said...

So agree Elana. It's changed and will continue to change for at least awhile. And I think agent roles may also evolve with some authors keeping e-book rights.

Jessie Humphries said...

You only started writing 6 years ago? You're such a pro! In such little time! I'm even more impressed with you Elana Johnson.

Jeanette W. Stickel said...

I certainly agree with you – things have changed. I didn’t think young children would find eBooks all that appealing but I was wrong. When I give my young students a choice of reading the same picture book on an iPad or in its print form, they consistently choose the iPad version. That may disappoint me (I love the feel of a book in my hands) but it is important information as I look to publishing options.

Liza said...

I have no issue with E-books. I love reading on my I-Pad. But I think there are a lot of self-published folks out there who may not have been considered by traditional publishers, and I'm sorry to say that a lot of times I see why. Though self-publishing offers its own challenges, if you are willing to learn the technical piece...anything can be published. But just because something is "published," it doesn't mean it's good. You have to put in the work to make it good too. I do think for the most part, traditional publication methods help to ensure that quality.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

I'm with Matt on this one. :)

It is a little scary having so many now acceptable options, and choosing which will bring me the most fulfillment as a writer. Ok, a lot scary. But so exciting things usually are.

Jenny S. Morris said...

It has changed fast and you are completely right. You still have to know what you want and go after it!

Shallee said...

I've definitely seen changes, and I think we'll see more. I like that there are more options now. Like you said-- if you know what you want, there's a path to get there.

Carolyn V said...

I have seen so many changes in the last few years! Good and bad. But I totally agree with you. You have to know what you want and go for it!

Donna K. Weaver said...

I've only been doing this for three years, but even so it's changed a lot. I've seen people who vowed never to read a self-pubbed book now self-pubbing.

Amy Jarecki said...

I started writing in the late 90's, and then took a hiatus for family, work, and divorce. When I got back into it EVERYTHING had changed...even what was considered good writing. The one thing that concerns me is the glut of self-published books that are released before they're ready for the market. I wonder where we'll be in the next three years!

GunDiva said...

One of my closest friends was with a major publishing house for twenty years. That's a long time and we're talking a MAJOR publisher and a NYT Best Seller.

She left the publisher and fired her agent about a year and a half ago. She began acquiring all of the rights to her books (a long and arduous process) and has become her own publisher. In the last year or so of e-publishing, she has made more money than she did with a traditional publisher. Rather than only making 30% off her sales, she now makes about 80%. The drawback is that she has to pay for so many things upfront that a traditional publisher would normally do, but, for her, this is worth it.

I don't expect that everyone who self-publishes will have the same kind of success, because she made the transition with twenty years of loyal readers following her. For the most part, they didn't even notice the transition.

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