Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Golden Age of Publishing?

Wow, what a crazy couple of months. I don’t know if there will ever be another time in my life when I can say that I had three books from three different publishers come out within three months of each other. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve had some great reviews. I did some really fun signings and got to catch up with a lot of good friends I haven’t seen in a while. And the truth is that things are just getting started. I haven’t even begun my two month Farworld book tour that will fly me from coast to coast and north to south. I can’t wait!

I know I promised you I would write updates about the tour, and I really will. But today, in retrospect of three days at the awesome SF/F conference Life the Universe and Everything, I’d like to reflect for a moment on why it is such an amazing time to be a writer. Yes, I did say amazing. Not scary, disillusioning, disheartening, disappointing, or any of those other dis- words. Amazing. With a capital A.

Yes, I know there is news of bookstores closing, publishers cutting back, agents leaving the business. And those are all bad (if slightly overblown in many cases) stories. I heard more than one person at the conference bemoan how the industry is changing. So maybe it’s just my cold meds talking, but I honestly agree with Little Brown publisher, Michael Pietsch, who called this “the golden age of publishing.”

Here’s why.
  1.  There are more opportunities than ever to do what you want. As I was walking down the hall, an author I know and respect told me how much she enjoyed reading Sariah Wilson’s “The Ugly Step Sister Strikes Back.” I happen to know Sariah’s story (both book and real life) pretty well, having blogged with her in the past and helped her brainstorm the blurb for TUSSSB. Long story short, Sariah published a couple of books with a local publisher. They did moderately well, but not what she was hoping for. She took some time off, wrote a book she really loved, polished the cover, the story, the marketing, and sent it out into the world.
    This book is almost definitely one her old publisher would not have published. And if they did, sales would have been moderate. But last time I checked, Sariah had 213 Amazon reviews. TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTEEN, with an average rating of 4.6. I have no idea how much Sariah is making off this book—and I don’t even care. 213 reviews means a ton of people are reading and loving it. Could she have done this even five years ago? No.
  2.  Contrary to what you hear, publishers are still signing new authors, paying advances, and doing multi-book contracts. I had dinner Thursday night with a bunch of friends including a group I like to call the YA babes. This are smart, witty, talented, and beautiful women who have all recently signed multiple book contracts with big six publishers. Every one of them got a good advance and a multiple book contract. And for all of them, this was their first book deal. I don’t care what you might hear. The opportunities are still out there. And you could be next.
  3.  It’s never been easier to buy a book. There’s an interesting phenomenon I see when I do school visits or conferences. Obviously I sell books at the signing afterward. It’s a thrill to have a line of kids and parents waiting to get books and posters signed and take pictures. I wouldn’t trade that for the world. But I also see a very clear spike in my online sales. A boy or girl comes home and tells their parents about my book. Maybe the parents can’t make it to the store. But they can jump on their laptop, tablet, or phone and order my book at that moment—while both they and their child are excited about it. At a conference, if I mention that the new Farworld book is out, people in the room, listening to the conference, can order or download a copy before I have even finished my workshop or panel.
  4. It’s much, much easier to have good word of mouth carry. I started writing books over ten years ago. Back then, if someone read one of my books and liked it, they might mention it to a friend. That friend might go buy the book. And maybe they mention it to a family member. That was cool. There were also a couple of online places where they might mention it. But most people didn't.  Now, with Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, and tons of online review sites, if someone likes one of my books, they can tell hundreds or thousands of people at a time. I’m no longer praying a newspaper, magazine, or TV station picks up the story. It’s great if they do. But they are not the only option to get a big spike in sales.
  5. I can stay in better touch with my readers. Again, tied to the social media thing, in the past, the only way to know when a new author’s book was coming out was by checking in regularly with the library or bookstore. Now I can follow that author directly and hear it straight from their mouth or keyboard. I love having my readers go, “OH, my gosh! I can’t believe Air Keep is out. I am going to go buy it right now.” Readers of my Zombie Kid book, can already go online and pre-order the next book.
  6. I could go on and on, but I’ll finish with this. E-readers and social media are creating more readers at the same time that better classes, conferences, and critique groups are creating more and better authors. Does it really get any better than that? I met such amazing readers at LTUE these last few days. The kinds of people who really and truly cherish good books. At the same time, I had the chance to chat with new authors that really get what it takes to create a great story and are willing to put in the blood, sweat, and tears.
I know, I know. There are plenty of people preaching doom and gloom. Book stores will all disappear. Publishers only want to rip you off. Agents wouldn’t recognize a good story if it hit them in the face and paper cut their nose. But you know what? Don’t believe them. There have been doom and gloomers for as long as there has been doom and gloom. This is a great time to a reader and a great time to be a writer. Enjoy it!