Monday, December 14, 2009


For those of you who noticed I didn’t blog the last couple of weeks, I had quite an adventure. I was up in the mountains celebrating the completion of my newest novel. Driving back toward home, I ran into a terrible snow storm. My car slid off the road and when I woke up, I was in Florida. The good news is that I was alive—and warm. The bad news is that I discovered I’d been kidnapped by a crazy giant female mouse. She demanded I write her another Shandra Covington mystery novel. When I tried to escape, she put me through sheer torture. I had to climb a mountain and face a Yeti. I was thrown over a waterfall and into a briar patch. I was shot into space, launched through dizzying loops, nearly killed in a malfunctioning elevator, and fed to dinosaurs. I barely escaped with my life.

For those of you who didn’t notice—you go on the bad children list.

But I’m back and trying to reacquaint myself with all this cold white stuff. As I was being shaken, rattled, and rolled last week, I thought about how much our industry has changed and is continuing to change. For example:

1) When I started publishing, one of my biggest complaints was the SASE. I didn’t have a problem with paying the price of a stamp. That’s a cheap cost for having a quality agent look at your work. I just didn’t like the idea of including a self-paid rejection envelope. Now most agents accept e-mail queries and many don’t even send out rejection forms. If you haven’t heard from them by a certain date, consider yourself rejected.

2) About ten years ago, I attended an internet CEO conference. The two main speakers were a representative of the music publishing industry and the CEO of a hot startup called Napster. The CEO argued that music file sharing would happen no matter what the music industry did. He was right. Now the same thing is coming for authors. Will the book publishers be any wiser than the music industry? Will it make any difference?

3) My newest contract with Covenant, (the publisher who does my Shandra Covington mysteries) included an e-book section. When I started with them, they were just moving from cassettes to CDs.

4) Ten years ago, self-publishing was so cost prohibitive that people who published their own books could get them into many stores. Now you can e-publish your book for free and sell it on the Internet. Talk about cutting out the middleman.

5) When I started publishing, people were just starting to hear about this new YA fantasy series about a kid who goes to magic school. Almost no one was reading vampire books, dystopian, or fairies/zombies/werewolves. Steam punk was homeless kids who hung around the sewers of New York. The New York Times bestseller list was even broken out by adult and children’s hard cover. Edward was just the name of your great uncle.

6) Very few authors had web sites. Social networking meant hanging out at a bar. Tweeting was what birds did. Blogging was for geeks. Now we have blog tours and if you don’t twitter, you are out of date. Kids assume you have a blog and want to know what kids of games it has.

7) The big question was whether you would buy your books on Amazon (which was still trying to get its legs) or a brick and mortar store. Not whether you buy your book in print or electronically. Kindle? Nook? Never heard of them.

8) Goodreads? Shelfari? Librarything? If you wanted to hear what people thought of books, you went to the library. Now you can actually have an author come to your school or book club all done over the internet.
9) Google had not only NOT started scanning books, but most people didn’t even know who they were. The top search engines were Yahoo!, Lycos, and MSN. Now Google is actually a verb.

Yeah, okay, so I’ve probably spent too much time in the carousel of progress. (Which by the way used to be in Disneyland, not across the country in Florida.) And I really have no conclusions to make, other than that things have changed in ways author couldn’t have imagined. I expect they will continue to change. As authors, we may feel out of control or left behind. You may find yourself wondering, “Do I twitter or facebook? Should I write about zombies or are they out of style? Will people buy audio books or e-books?”

I’m sure publishers are worrying about all these things. But somehow I’m sure they’ll continue to find ways to make money. And if they do, authors will as well. We definitely need to try and keep up with technology. Even if we don’t twitter, our readers do. We may feel weird about accepting “friends” on facebook that we don’t know. But our readers are all over it. But don’t let all this change scare you. Long before any of us were born, the story was what mattered. And it will long after we’re gone. A great web site will not make a lousy novel into a bestseller. But if you write a great enough story, your publisher will be help you get all the tweets, blogs, blurbs, and friends worked out.