Open Gate

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

I was looking at past blogs. Here is a blog I wrote six years ago. At that time it was somewhat of a futurist post. Now, so much of it has come true. Do you believe the outcome is what we predicted then? Here goes:

In the past I’ve blogged about broken things. Today I’m going to take a different tack and look at the new options in a positive light.

Writers used to rail against the gatekeepers in publishing. And gatekeepers are legion. You’ve heard the complaints from writers: “You can’t get to the publishers without an agent and you can’t get an agent with out being published.”  I’ve also heard publishers moan about the bookstore buyers as gatekeepers. If a powerful chain doesn’t like a cover, the book is dead-in-the-water. Or if a conservative bookstore owner takes exception to content, the publisher will never be able to sell that author into that store again. Gatekeepers!

Well, here’s the good news: With so many new ways to publish, the gates have been flung wide open. If you can’t get an agent or a publisher to take notice, you can self-publish and distribute your own book. Or, you can self-publish as an e-book. Or you can do a combination of the two and make your book available as a POD (print-on-demand) physical book and an e-book. Or a self-published physical edition and an e-book.

Voilá! Gatekeepers banished. With no one standing in your way you are completely responsible for your own success. You have an open gate.  It’s a big responsibility since you are accountable for brilliant writing, a gorgeous cover, perfect editing and dazzling marketing. But the upside is that no one will slam a gate in your face.

More good news: With an investment commitment, some of the above can be outsourced. It’s a far different world than the shuttered halls of yesterday’s publishing. It’s an open gate. You don’t need to have an agent or a publisher to hold your book in your hands or be able to download your book to your e-reader. You are free to fly.

So, do we agents worry that we will become obsolete? Not at all. Our work is value-added to the writer. There is a substantial return on every penny of commission I receive. We may be considered gatekeepers by some, but to our clients we are an important part of their team. We help brainstorm, coach, plan careers, encourage, run interference, collect money, negotiate contracts, make important decisions, etc., etc. And as the industry changes, our unique contributions remain valuable. We are constantly evolving, creating innovative tools for our clients and developing all new strategies for success. As the industry evolves, so do we. Who knows what agenting will look like over the next few years? It’s exciting.

It is the same with publishers. Once a writer begins publishing on his own, he will come to value the many things publishers now do on his behalf even more. Who wants to spend time securing ISBN numbers and writing press releases? Yes, writers can do it all but will a writer do it all and still write? That’s one of the nagging questions that remains to be seen.

So while questions remain about the success of walking through those open gates, it’s all in your hands. In the years to come I’m guessing that some of you will become successful authors outside of traditional publishers. Others, I hope, will someday become clients and our team will help you to success within traditional publishing. Or perhaps we’ll help you create a hybrid of both models.

It’s an exciting new world out there.

Your turn to be a futurist: Squeeze your eyes shut for a minute and then squint at the future. What do you see? What will publishing look like in five years? Ten years? Where will the challenges be? What will success look like?