Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
As everyone in publishing deals with a rapidly changing environment, replete with opportunities as well as disappointments, it’s easy to lose sight of the overarching truths that can serve to keep us centered. I think it’s important to go back to basics every now and then so that we can better focus on what’s important. Here are a few points that come to my mind:
1. NOT everything is changing.
Most aspects of publishing are in the midst of transition — the form and format of books, the way books are sold, the way books are marketed, the way readers discover books. What isn’t changing is the need for authors to continue writing the best books they can. People are still reading, so the pipeline still needs to be fed, regardless of what the pipeline looks like. Keep writing!
2. There’s NO single correct way to approach your writing career.
From self-publishing to traditional to everything in between, you have choices when it comes to publishing. There are some very loud voices out there on the Internet trying to convince you that their way is best. But these are personal and individualized decisions, and what works for someone else isn’t necessarily what will work for you. There’s not a “right” way, there’s only your way, which you might only find through experimentation and risk. (See Jane Friedman’s handy and detailed infographic in which she categorizes your choices into 5 Key Book Publishing Paths.)
3. You’ve got to pay attention to your influences.
You need to be able to make informed, wise decisions about your publishing career, so you have the responsibility to surround yourself with varied perspectives and points of view. Strive to get a balanced mix of opinions so you’re prepared to make the best choices. Anything you read on the Internet or hear from a friend could be dead-on, or dead-wrong, or anything in between. Be discerning, and be wary of exposing yourself to only a single kind of influence.
4. You must participate in promoting your work.
Whether you self-publish, go traditional or whichever path you choose, you’ll need to take an active role in publicizing your books or you’ll have a hard time selling any. This is a new reality that is not going away. You cannot get away from it. The truth is simple: There is art, and there is commerce. If you wish to mix the two, you MUST take part in the “commerce” aspect.
5. “Nobody knows anything.”
This is a phrase coined decades ago by famous screenwriter William Goldman, capturing the idea that we can’t predict the future. When a studio plunks down millions of dollars to make a movie, or an author writes and publishes a book, there is no guarantee that it will sell. This has always been true, and it will always be true. When trying to produce bestselling books, we can write the book that calls us; we can look to the past and see what has previously been successful; we can pay attention to what’s going on in our culture; we can examine politics, the economy and the news; and we can trust our instincts. When we have created a product in which we believe, then we can do our best to advertise, publicize and market it to the target audience.
Even with all of that, there are no guarantees. Some books will be bestsellers and some will languish. Some authors will be able to make a living from their writing and some won’t. You can learn from the experiences of successful authors, but you can’t necessarily replicate their success. Your path is your own, it probably won’t be fair and often won’t seem to make sense, but it’s all yours.
It’s your turn. What do you think of these truths? And what are some things you would add to this list of things authors should be keeping in mind?
A lot is changing in publishing – except for one important thing. Know what it is? Click to Tweet.
“No single right way to approach publishing” & other truths to keep you centered. Click to Tweet.
“5 Things Authors Need to Know Right Now.” Click to Tweet.