Book Publishing is Broken.
That was the title of a weekly “marketing tip” I received recently via email.
The essence of the tip, it turned out, wasn’t so much that publishing is broken as that its current business model is broken and a new one is in the throes of being born. For example, with rare exception, the days of big advances (up front money) are over. And–this is rather intimidating for many of us–publishers are beginning to look for authors skilled with social media.
That is, there’s a premium being placed “on authors who are adept with social media and offer a ‘media-genic” personality.” In simpler terms, at least some publishers are gravitating toward acquiring the work of writers who blog, tweet and do Facebooky things–and probably a lot of other stuff that old farts like me haven’t stuck their toes into.
Anyhow, I forwarded the email to members of my writers critique group since we’d just had a discussion the previous Saturday about the tectonic shift taking place within the publishing industry. I thought the article would be of interest to them.
I didn’t expect the response I got from a couple of members. Both vented about the negative aspect of authors having to become marketeers in the new world of publishing.
Said one, “For me the point of writing is to enjoy it, not start my own business where I have to be the marketing department on a national level.”
Said the other, “If we are confident in our work [and] don’t view it [as] some temporary or some cheap thing we must unnaturally hustle our asses off to tout (Websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other self-serving gimmicks), we will do well–despite those who want to scare us.” And later: “I’m a writer, not a carnival barker.”
The responses surprised me. Well, a little bit. I understand where they’re coming from. As writers we’d rather write than “carnival bark.” Maintaining a Website, blogging regularly and nurturing a Facebook presence take time. More often than not, it’s time stolen from our real love, writing.
But. Since writing is a form of communication, it’s a given that authors wish to touch others with their words. I’ve never bought into the notion that we write for ourselves. Well, maybe as a form of catharsis some people do, but not me.
As I write, I’m always thinking How can I keep readers engaged? How can I keep them turning pages? I’m thinking about how to effectively and entertainingly communicate.
Part of that communication involves making people aware that you’ve written something you’d like to have them read. So I’ve embraced–somewhat reluctantly, I’ll admit–several of the new forms, electronic genres, of communication. It ain’t that bad. Things such as Facebook and Websites appear to me to be cost-effective, and even occasionally fun, ways of connecting with readers.
I view marketing as a shared endeavor with my publisher. They engage in certain efforts, and I try to chip in with others. The old days, the days of handing in a manuscript to a publisher and then sitting back and waiting for the royalty checks to roll in are gone.
Book publishing isn’t broken, but it’s certainly cracked and wobbly and searching for a new direction in life. And I think that means we, as authors, must find new directions in ours, too.
I’d like to know what you think, either as authors or readers. Fire at will.
-January 20, 2012-