Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Writers in a Changing World

If I had a fiver for every time I had read a blog post about the changing landscape of the publishing industry, I'd be making more money than JA Konrath :p Everyone is saying something different - that print is becoming a subsidiary right, that signing a traditional publishing deal is a bad move financially, that no one beats traditional publishing for getting books out there. In short, to quote the wonderful William Goldman's maxim for working in Hollywood - Nobody knows anything.

Not right now. In time, I'm sure we will. But at the moment, as an unpublished writer trying to decide on the next step, there are so many conflicting points of view out there that it can feel a bit overwhelming.

But you know what else? It's exciting.

This is an exciting time to be a creative person. The way we appreciate art is changing. I'm a paper obsessive (hint: check out my blog header) and I'm doing most of my reading on a Kindle now. I'm complaining that most mp3 players don't meet my needs, which are suddenly far more complex than they were when I used to carry a Walkman AND a Discman everywhere because my music collection was in two formats.

More writers can get their books out there. In some cases, that's a bad thing - but I can choose not to read books I think are crap. In other cases, it's great. If you've written a niche book, or you can't find a traditional home for it, you can still get it out there.

Yes, it has been well documented that you have to work your arse off to make a success of that. But I'm not seeing how this is different to any other kind of art, which has never been a get-rich-quick scheme.

It's scary, it's changing all the time and it's hard to get enough of a handle on what's happening to make good decisions. But it is exciting to be working in a time of change rather than a time of stagnation.


  1. I agree with you! I think it is tremendously exciting! Note all the exclamation points that show my enthusiasm! And every writer should be reading about what's going on in the industry. There's no excuse for ignorance with so much information out there about the publishing world.

  2. You use exclamation marks a lot though :)

    The amount of information out there is a great point actually, I didn't even think of it. It's a time of more transparency than we've ever had before.

    Also, the publishing industry and agents are putting more and more time into helping people they make never make money from, and I think that's just lovely. I blogged about it back in 2009:

    Definitely a good time to be a writer.

  3. This is a timely post for me as I've just decided to stop being scared by all this change and start getting excited by it :)

    I really feel there's a place for everyone now, we just have to find it!

  4. I agree, Sarah - the downside is that we have to put more time into figuring out what's right for us, rather than following the usual route. But overall I think it's definitely a good thing!

  5. I think it's a great time to be a writer. The artistic world is forever changing.

    Lately society has been going through amazing changes with how different artists, whether they be painters or sculptors, can showcase their work in new and exciting ways. In more recent years, musical success has been so much more accessible through reality tv talent shows and the rise of viral music videos online.

    Looks like now it's the time of the storytellers to discover how to use this new world for our benefit.

  6. I actually think reality TV is doing the opposite - each reality TV music show is a giant advert for a major corporation, who will ensure that the product that has tested the best with the (extremely large) focus group is the one that will be launched to the public. After a three-month ad campaign largely paid for by viewers' votes. It's the best piece of marketing genius I've ever seen.

    Luckily, it's happening at a time when everything else about music is democratising. I think it may even be a response to it! But it's definitely a change, and change is ultimately a positive thing, even if all we do is rebel against it by making 'Killing in the Name' Christmas number one (which made a metric arseload of money for the same record label that the X Factor winner is realeased on. Sigh!).

  7. Yes, I do agree : we live in exciting times. And, whatever happens, people are going to carry on reading and writing ...


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