Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Old New Castle, Delaware
No one doubts that the publishing world is experiencing a major sea change. Some have even compared it to the changes that took place during the industrial revolution. A blog post isn’t long enough to list all the changes but here are a few:
- I’m going to talk about e-books on Wednesday. Everyone is talking about e-books but that’s just one part of the change.
- Another important dynamic is that people are not reading as much as they used to. There’s far more competition for entertainment time.
- Because of the recession, readers are even more dollar-conscious. The price cutting on e-books is setting the stage for expectations of bargain basement prices on all books. Free is in.
- Also because of the recession many publishers are cutting staff–trying to do more with fewer professionals.
- It’s harder than ever for publishers to maintain a healthy bottom line. With gas prices going up, manufacturing of all kinds, including books, will be affected.
- Brick and mortar bookstores are struggling. This means high returns.
All of these changes impact the author. And those are only a fraction of the changes taking place in the book world.
Some of the questions I ask my clients in their intake data are, “What are your immediate goals?” and “What goals do you hope to have achieved in five years?” and “At the end of your career as a writer, what would you like to have accomplished?”
I need to know those things so that we can plan to make them happen if they are realistic goals. Career planning has always been one of the things we do best. We work hard to make sure that every decision takes the writer closer to his goals. Sometimes that means turning down a seemingly wonderful opportunity that will take a writer off course.
So, then, what is broken? We’re finding that as the market gets tighter and tighter and as things change, there are no guarantees. We’re not even seeing the same patterns we saw in the past. If we turn down an off-track opportunity there are no guarantees another will come. It’s crazymaking.
It used to be we could plot a writer’s potential career trajectory based on the number patterns of the first few books. We used to expect to up the advance on each subsequent book. Now? All kinds of strange patterns are emerging. We’re watching and keeping track of all the data.
So what does it come down to? The basic truth we all knew– it’s all in God’s hands. Miracles happen. And, on the other hand, the “sure thing” can fall flat with no explanation.
What can an author do? The author can work harder than ever at her craft. She can take care of her readers, collecting their names and keeping in touch with them. She can use social media skillfully and appropriately.
What can an agent do? We need to be reading everything, tracking everything, watching trends and keeping in touch with publishers and our fellow agents. We need to start identifying patterns and spotting new opportunities for our clients. We need to think out of the box.
We’re sensing fear and desperation on the part of many writers these days. Our job is to diffuse that. Just as smart investors get rich in tough times, change means new opportunities for writers. We need to grab hold of those opportunities on behalf of our clients.
It may not be as easy to chart a career these days, but these are exciting times. We stand at the portal of a new era. And, best of all, we know who’s in control.
Your turn: Where do you hope to be in five years? At the end of your career? Do any of the changes we’re observing threaten those goals? Do any offer new opportunities?