Blogger: Michelle Ule
What Writers Can Learn from Kodak
Part 1 of 2
Rachelle Gardner started her blogging with Books & Such Literary Agency with a bang this week. Owing to technical difficulties, some of you may have missed her important and intriguing posts about the need for change as she surveyed the publishing business through Kodak’s recent failure. If you haven’t read her posts, please, scroll down to take a look.
I’m going to spend the next two days talking about practical steps a writer can take in the light of Rachelle’s ideas and questions. Today I’ll be looking at ways writers can gain a broader understanding of the publishing business, in an effort to stay on top of an ever-changing landscape.
1. Recognize writing for publication is a small business, and apply business thinking to your work.
Unfortunately, it’s not about simply sitting at your computer and writing a story. The manuscript may be your product, but there’s more to publishing than just producing beautiful words. You’re trying to sell your story. To do that, you need to be a student of the writing business.
My father owned a small business. I grew up hearing about marketing plans, customer service and late payments. You probably know a business person and might pick his or her brain about the problems and concerns and about where that person sees the economy headed–and why.
After listening, look at your own writing business. Do you see commonalities? Areas where the business owner offered insights? Places you could change in your own writing business?
2. Learn all you can about the publishing business.
Blogs like ours are all over the Internet, but some are more insightful on the business of publishing than others. Former Thomas Nelson chairman Michael Hyatt writes daily about writing, publishing, business and productivity.
Michael Shatzkin’s The Shatzkin Files provides information about the evolving nature of publishing, particularly ebook publishing, from the perspective of fifty years in the book-selling business.
Media professor Jane Friedman also has good insight into publishing and the changing media landscape.
Writer’s conferences also can provide you with information about the ins and outs of the publishing business–from basics like how to submit your work, to more advanced information like the Career Writer’s Track at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference.
3. Keep tabs on the changing business landscape.
You don’t need to own a Kindle, but you should know what it is and how it affects the publishing business. (Although there’s nothing like using technology to make you aware of how it could change publishing’s landscape.) Pay attention to why Borders went out of business and the pressures on independent booksellers.
Understand the role writers need to play in the marketing realm and where your unique selling points can help to promote your book. Know who owns the publishing house to which you’re aiming your work–are they fiscally solvent?
Notice what happens to popular writers, and the things they do that end up in the news. Why did J. K. Rowling sue a publishing house? Is Salman Rushdie still under a fatwa? Why did Barry Eisler turn down a $500,000 advance?
4. Don’t stress over what you can’t control
You just need to be informed; you don’t have to be an expert. Set aside a certain amount of time each week to scan headlines, read through blogs and let it go.
You don’t need to know how to put together all the different ebook formats, you just need to know they exist. If Twitter appeals to you, experiment. If you need a website, hire someone to put one together. You need to focus on what you do best–create–and let the marketplace or professionals help you with the rest.
What are you doing to be proactively business-like in your writing career?
Where do you find helpful information?
What have you learned from the problems of “big name” writers that are applicable to your writing life?