Today’s Authors Wear Many HatsPosted: October 3, 2016
In days gone by, authors needed only to wear a “Writer’s Hat”, their agent taking care of finding a publisher for their work, the publisher taking care of the actual publication and all of the marketing and promotion. But, today’s author has seen the rise of Amazon and digital publishing, and a surge in the self-publishing industry as a whole. The surge in the self-publishing industry brought about many changes, including what an author’s role is in the publication process. The rise of Amazon and digital publishing changed the way readers consumed the written word and the ways in which a writer’s works reach the general public, and boosted their book’s potential readership to a global scale.
With traditional publishing, an author writes a novel or has an idea for a book, in the case of non-fiction, so they query publishers to if they can find one who is interested in their work. When they finally receive a letter expressing a publisher’s interest in their work, amid all the letters of rejection, they send their complete manuscript o the publisher, or in the case of non-fiction, they finish writing their book and then send it. Then they wait some more while other read and ponder their work, and then pass judgement on it. If they are accepted they may receive an advance, but some publishers only offer royalties. My M.F.A. professor, Russel Davis advised, “Get as big an advance as you possibly can because chances are you’ll never see any royalties.” He advised this because he knows the advance is just that, and it must be paid back before any royalties can be owed you, so that advance may be all you ever get for your book, unless of course it goes viral and hits all the best seller lists. (Hey, stranger things have happened.)
The rise of digital publishing offered more publishing choices than ever before. Now an author can publish their book digitally or in print, or both. The rise of Amazon, with their 70% royalty for authors made it possible for authors to publish their work with very little out of packet expense, and Amazon’s market spans the globe, offering a much broader potential readership than would have been possible before. Amazon does offer any advance, in exchange for a higher percentage of royalties, so you still have to sell a lot of books to make any real money, although small amounts will trickle in from time to time.
Other changes Amazon and digital publishing brought about may not have been quite so positive. Amazon doesn’t charge the author up front to publish a book, so anyone can afford to publish with Amazon, and anyone did. There was a rise in the number of authors who chose to self-publish, but many of them weren’t any good, or were just too lazy to have their book edited and revise it before publication. The result was a lot of poor quality books out there, giving self-published authors a bad reputation in “reader world”. And that’s where it counts. Although many good authors self-publish high quality books, you know the old cliché, all it takes is one bad author the reputation of the whole bunch.
I’m told that even if you manage to land a traditional publisher, especially if it’s one of the smaller, independent houses, publishers are expecting more out of authors. The author may still end up doing a lot of promoting and marketing, because even the big publishing don’t want to invest the time and energy anymore. Maybe independent publishing has proven to them that authors are capable of functioning quite well under so many hats.
So, which way is better, independent or traditional publishing? I still don’t know, but be on the lookout for a series of articles that look at the pros and cons of each, “Traditional vs. Independent Publishing”, which will delve into this question further. I suspect it will depend on what your individual needs are, and what you’re expectations from publication are. I plan to interview authors and publishers to find out the answers. To be sure you don’t miss them, subscribe by email in the upper right hand corner, and you’ll receive notification every time there is a new post.
For now, it looks like either way an author chooses to go, he or she had better purchase a hat rack, because it doesn’t like we’ll be hanging any of them up for good any time soon. On top of writing, authors today must also know how to market and promote our work, build an author platform, create book trailers, and those of us who are gifted with artistic talent even illustrate their own books and design their own book covers. For now, it looks like that’s what we have to do to publish our books successfully.
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