A Futuristic View of the Publishing Life

Mary Keeley

Blogger: Mary Keeley

My daughter made up a crazy, mixed-up story for her two young children. My granddaughter laughed with delight at the silliness of a school bus taking her to her brother’s school and the messed up order of the rest of her day. My grandson stopped his mom early into the story with a pained expression and urged, “MOM! Stop! I don’t like things to be out of order.” Which reaction best describes your comfort level with new and different?

Take, for example, new technologies. The long lines that begin forming the day before Apple stores open their doors to release a new product attest that some people embrace these changes easily. I confess that isn’t me. Initially, I experience angst about making this sort of change, imagining all that could go wrong in transferring data, losing files, and then having to learn how to use the new device. But I’m working to improve my comfort level because many of these tools soon become necessities for functioning in business.

Not too many years ago authors needed only to email an overview or synopsis to their publisher for consideration of a new contract. Unpublished authors could count on a publisher’s editorial department to do the heavy polishing and proofreading and the marketing and promotions departments to do the majority of that work. How times have changed. But authors have adjusted. Looking back, I see how I’ve grown in resiliency. I’m sure you can see where you have grown too.

Celebrate your resiliency. Nurture it. Each setback, rejection, or innovative change is an opportunity to strengthen it for future change. Google Glass Prescriptions

I recently read an article in the ABA Journal about Google’s newest techy device, Google Glass. Essentially, it is a computer in a pair of glasses. The point of the article is that our laws cannot keep up with technology. Several real occurrences were offered to illustrate the point, and issues of possible privacy violations were introduced. It made me think ahead to potential ramifications for writers and professionals in the industry.

These wearable computers will contain all your files and documents. No need to heft laptop bags or tablets. I like that idea. But as with anything new, some amount of risk is involved. I am no techy, but I can imagine the need to find new ways to protect electronic manuscript documents, contracts, and correspondence. For example, a techy friend suggested these devices might soon have the capability to scan a person’s face and obtain personal information.

Most publishing contracts contain clauses requiring authors to allow the publisher to use the author’s image in their promotional materials. Agents will have to be diligent to ensure contract language provides full protection for our clients and their intellectual property, especially until laws catch up with technology. Whether you traditionally publish or self-publish, having an agent is more important than ever.

These are exciting times for authors. Resiliency and an occasional, imaginative glance to the future help all of us to embrace and navigate change.

Are you an embracer of change or a reluctant adjuster? How easily do you think you can learn to embrace change to stay current with publishing opportunities? Are you aware of other new technologies that might affect writers or publishing in general?


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67 Responses

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  1. There’s an axiom in medicine about being “neither first nor last” to try a new drug or procedure. I feel the same way about technology. Truth is, I’ve been technologically challenged since my last child left home [sigh].

  2. Technology challenged, I am. We recently purchased a Note Tablet (like an iPad) … I SO resisted. Why do we need that? We have a laptop just feet away.

    After years, I finally consented to an updated cell phone. I love the text word sweep/swipe and larger text print capability (don’t need eyeglasses to read texts anymore!) … I love my new phone!

    I’m always taken a bit kicking, but then I adjust. Just don’t tell me to implant a microchip in my body!! 🙂

  3. Norma Horton says:

    Box? What box? Change? Bring it on.

  4. I’ll change as needed for what I want to accomplish, but I won’t adopt changes for their own sake, or to fill needs created by the development of a new technology.

    For example – I do use the Internet, but don’t need a connection or computer fast enough to stream movies or television. There’s not enough on TV that I find worth watching, I can either buy or rent the movies I want to see, and if all else fails (or, rather, first!) I have books.

    No, I don’t have a Kindle. I have a library. I like it.

    I wouldn’t buy stock in whoever’s going to produce the eyeglass-computer just yet. It’s not new. It’s a development of the monocle worn by crewmen flying the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, in which application it provides all sorts of neat information related to aircraft and weapons status, navigation, and a digital overview of the battlespace.

    It’s also one of the hardest things a human being can learn to use (for a complete description, read Ed Macy’s engaging memoir “Apache”). The need to be able to focus one eye at infinity and focus the other eye very close causes a battle for dominance between the two, resulting in headaches which can only be described as epic. They take up to a year to go away, and many prospective Apache warriors are binned at this point, never making the adjustment. (Keep in mind that these are very highly motivated and physically capable young men and women, who fear failure far more than death…for them, not mastering the monocle is a lifetime shame.)

    There is a point at which change and what CAN be done runs up against practicality, and what’s worth doing.

    • Wow, I had no idea they had to train their eyes like that!

      I have no desire to try Google Glass, because I know I’d walk into people and fall off the curb, etc.

      • That’s the other problem – safety. Way worse than texting while driving.

        Apache pilots can typically read – and understand – two books at the same time.

      • Whoa. Two at once?

      • Yes. The workload is so high that the brain literally has to divide its activity to what’s happening outside, and what’s displayed on the monocle – and what needs to be chosen as the next page to bring up.

        Think of it as driving a car using one hand, both feet, and one eye, while using the other eye to work on a manuscript using a laptop built into the dash. And really working on it – not paying half attention.

        Now throw in higher speeds, the fact that you’re airborne, bad weather and/or night, blowing dust, and, oh, yes, people who want to kill you.

        That is Apache.

    • Mary Keeley says:

      I’m with you on some things, Andrew. I prefer to watch movies on my TV. When at home, I’d rather read a print book than one on my iPad.

      Your Apache experience truly is a heart stopper. Yes, “there is a point at which change and what can be done runs up against practicality and what’s worth doing.” I remember that being said when the first cell phones were released. Over time useful technologies overcome initial opposition such as safety concerns. The many testers of the new, advanced Google Glass, probably techies, seem happy with them. I’ll be holding out on this one for a while, but I don’t see it going away.

  5. I’m not afraid of change, and some change is actually exciting. My problem is that I hate seeing something disappear. Like the typewriter. It was in use from roughly the 1880s to the 1980s and now it’s practically nonexistent. It makes me sad, but not sad enough to use a typewriter to write my next 100,000 word manuscript. 🙂 I agree with Andrew, I don’t change for the sake of changing. I change when it is beneficial to change.

    • I learned to type on a manual Royal, and used a Selectric to write my masters’ thesis, as well as many, many short stories. I miss the aural and tactile feedback a typewriter gives, but would not go back to using one (and don’t have one now).

      Their disappearance is not an unmixed blessing; being able to lay out several pages at once (real paper!) gave a somewhat better overview of what was happening in the story, what changes needed to be made, and how those changes would affect other areas.

      With a computer, we’re looking at the MS through ‘the wrong ends of the telescope’, and seeing only a limited number of lines at once has changed (and to some degree hampered) the editing process.

      (Yes, I know about huge screens and multi-screen presentations…great if you have the space and the cash. I don’t.)

      • Andrew, there is no telling how much I’ve spent on printer ink to print out MS copies for edits. And then it goes to the burn pile outside when I’m finished. It is nice to have something to hold in hand.

    • Gabe, that made me think of my first manuscript I typed 20+ years ago on a typewriter and then snail mailed the old fashioned way. The editor appreciated the “pristine” manuscript and the “heartfelt story,” but unfortunately saw romance as “a dying genre.” Lol

    • Last year I bought my daughter a manual typewriter for her birthday because she saw one in a museum and had to have one. She uses it to type up her personal stories.

    • I am thankful for nearly flat keyboards. With my arthritis, a typewriter would be brutal, but not as bad as hand writing everything.

    • Jenny Leo says:

      I’m with you, Gabrielle. I embrace changes when I can see that they make sense for me (i.e., to keep pace with my business or improve my health in some way). But I hate change just for the sake of change, and I mourn the loss of things I’ve loved. I have yet to swap my flip phone for a smartphone, to the amusement of my friends. If I had the space, I’d collect old typewriters! I have one (a 1920s-era Corona), wear typewriter-key jewelry, and use an antique typewriter image as my logo. I figure I can get away with that, as most of my writing is history-related. 🙂

    • Mary Keeley says:

      Gabrielle, you and Andrew nailed the point: not to change for the sake of changing, but when it’s beneficial for our writing and publishing work.

  6. My husband is always among the first to try every new device that comes out. Often, it’s only after his insistence that I try it. (And usually, I like it–eventually!)

    If something is working well enough, I’m reluctant to learn a whole new product and I’m hesitant to do anything that might “mess up” what I already have going. But when it comes to things like publishing trends, I’m willing to go with the flow. It’s that, or get left behind. 🙂

    • My husband was forced, yes, forced to have a cell phone with him when he went “into the field” while doing experiments. He’s a tree nerd, and umm, out in the woods, bears can smell sandwiches and coffee. It was a safety issue, plain and simple.

      But to USE the phone? Like, who does THAT?

      But at work? He has all kinds of gadgets, including a scale that can weigh one dried pine needle.

      • Ha! 🙂 Cell phones were just becoming common as I graduated from high school. (Sigh…Could that have already been over a decade ago?) Nobody had to twist my arm to make me get one, but that’s the last technological gadget I remember really wanting. (Besides a good laptop or computer to write on!) Now, your husband, he’s braver than I am…I don’t even venture outside the house without my phone now. Lol

    • Mary Keeley says:

      Jennifer, that’s the resilient writer spirit: “But when it comes to things like publishing trends, I’m willing to go with the flow. It’s that, or get left behind.” So true.

  7. Change is exciting, but I like to ponder it awhile. Like with my latest iPhone updates. There are usually some bugs to work through first before everything works up to speed as it should.

    Like Gabe, I miss some of “the old.” Preserving history is so important.

    I think, too, that it’s fun being on the cusp of advancement. New ways of doing “old” things is exciting when we envision potential.

    That being said, there’s not enough tea in China that could make me eat a fast food chicken nugget made from pressed “whatever.” I prefer the real thing! (Sorry, Mary… a bit of a bunny trail, but it kind of ties in with change, right?) 🙂

    • What? You don’t like chicken nuggets?
      But(gag)they’re so(ohhh, tossing stuff now)healthy and (there goes another cookie) deep fried.

    • Mary Keeley says:

      I agree with you, Cynthia. Many kinds of change (chicken nuggets excluded) are exciting because they keep our batteries charged, so to speak. Embracing select changes that benefit the writing life and publishing trends also can make our work easier.

      At the same time I, too, want to preserve history’s best “technology” so future generations have a sense of their roots.

  8. I don’t embrace change. I accept it–kicking, screaming, and dragging my heels. All of us, whether authors or teachers or physicians or agents or whatever, have to accept the fact that change is inevitable. But, with OC Detective Adrian Monk, my mantra remains, “I don’t mind change. I just don’t like to be around when it happens.”
    Thanks, Mary, for a helpful (yet slightly disconcerting) post.

  9. Susan Mathis says:

    Insightful. I’m with you!

  10. I should be on the committee that discusses the time for which the symposium on the thought of using an upper case C in the logo of the soon to be thought about focus group that ponders the night that the moderator for the trial run of the new light switch in the meeting room.



    Only if I want do so, and even then, I’m scared.


    A bit.

  11. I don’t mind changes in technology. I won’t rush out to buy new devices, but I know I will get them eventually. Right now, I am the only one in the house without an iPad. I’m slowly learning how to use them, so that when I buy one, I’ll know what I’m doing. As a lover of history, however, I hate to hear about the disappearance of historical sites; like what is happening with Civil War battlefields. I still hope there is a way to find a better balance between preservation and progress.

  12. Sarah Sundin says:

    Since my basic nature is analytical and cautious, I’m slower to accept change than some. When new technologies or platforms arrive, I study them suspiciously, like my youngest son would eye new foods on his high chair tray. Poke it – is it dangerous? Examine it – what are the possible positives and negatives about it? Watch others taste it – do they like it? Take a nibble – all right, I can do this…

    On the downside, sometimes I miss a benefit of a new technology and wish I’d started earlier. On the upside, when I decide to do something new, I’ve already watched and studied and can jump in wholeheartedly.

  13. Here’s a question for historical writers…does adopting new technology make it harder to put yourself back into the mindset of the characters from the period about which you write?

    How do you do it?

    • Yes, and no.
      I think about what a character is wearing, starting from their feet, and move on up to their head.
      I try to be period specific in the ‘costume’ they wear. And oddly enough, my experiences in Bolivia taught me how little technology one needs to survive. So that helps me get to the bare bones of the story world.

      • Jaime Wright says:

        Yes because I keep thinking how much easier it’d be for my heroine if she could just grab her coffee on the way, or pull a iPhone from her pocket and Google the question. LOLOL

    • Ann Bracken says:

      No, because I read books released in my time period on my Kindle to get me in the right mind-set. It works for how they described things, what technologies were in use, and how they spoke. So, I embrace the new technology while immersing myself in the past.

  14. Elissa says:

    I don’t have a problem with change. I have a problem with people assuming that all the latest (and not-so-latest) technology is available everywhere. And I really don’t like being judged a technophobe or Luddite because I have no access to a particular technological advance.

    That said, I agree with those saying change just for the sake of change is not the best way to go.

  15. I’m not much against change itself.

    I’ve learned that I balk at the >>thought<< of change.

    I stand there like the Princess of Hello-look-at-me-astan and think I'm IT. Like I defined awesome and all others may get in line. Then I spin in circles at the thought of changing something.

    That phrase "good is the enemy of best" has come back and bit me in the glutes lately and taught me that ONLY when I press on, even though the sword is heavy and my armor is covered in mud, will I win.

    I fought with myself, and whined for days, over ANOTHER re-write. The suggestion that I drop 8, EIGHT, HUIT, OCHO, chapters and fix a few things had me firing off emails, and then…nearly had me sending flowers to someone.

    Ahem. I wonder who?

    The thing is? The sharp as a tack editor was completely and totally right.

    Take a photo of this…

    You ready?

    I was wrong.

    And totally biased and too close to the work to see that I'd over-written parts of it.

    Now I think the story kicks butt like a Rockette on Red Bull.

  16. Jaime Wright says:

    I’m blessed in that I work for a technology company. So we depend on everything from Android to iPads to apps to bluetooth keyboards, cloud-based servers and social media. That being said, while I still want my Kindle Paperwhite, I prefer real paper when possible. Change? It’s inevitable. I think being a Gen-Xer maybe helps. There has been so much technological change and industry change and change period since I was a kid that it’s kinda standard. So it stands to reason the publishing industry changes and it doesn’t really shock me. However, I also don’t hold publishing contracts (yet) so I could be speaking a tad bit in ignorance. LOL go with the flow, I say, until you start messing with my foundational beliefs, then release the KRAKEN, there’ll be a fight on your hands. Ahem. I’m not a very spirited personality, not really. Sigh. 😉

    • Mary Keeley says:

      Jaime, being a Gen-Xer definitely makes it easier to embrace new technology. When you picking up technology in the same natural way you were learning words and how to put them together in a sentence.

  17. I knew this post would make me shiver when I saw the word Futuristic, Mary. I’m in the camp of those who don’t like technology change, primarily because of concerns over privacy and security. My husband is a computer science professor with a master’s, and he is the most reluctant of all we know to embrace anything new because he knows the security risk. I’ll learn something new when I need to (you saw my iPad at the ACFW conference 🙂 ), but safety must always be top priority. Shelli mentioned microchip implants. I have one thing to say to that — even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus! 🙂

  18. Anne Riess says:

    “some people embrace these changes easily. I confess that isn’t me. Initially, I experience angst about making this sort of change, imagining all that could go wrong…”
    This is exactly how I feel. Mary, maybe we do have a lot in common!

  19. I consider myself a techno-idiot, but the amount I’ve learned in the last few years is amazing. If only I could afford all the new stuff I’d probably buy it, but I have to “make do” with things I couldn’t have imagined a decade ago.

  20. “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
    ― George Bernard Shaw