Old Publishing Rant That’s Still Relevant

I originally posted this on August 21 of 2008.  And given that two pieces of news came out yesterday that seem to conflict with each other, I realized the content of the rant is even truer today.  The two pieces of news?

Essentially, that means more units of a product are being produced when demand for that product seems to be in a decline.  Why?  I think this old post explains why.  Feel free to leave your comments.

To say the world of publishing is in a constant state of change is a lot like saying the sun is hot. The ever-advancing realm of technology has not only transformed the method of production and delivery of books, it has also changed the buying habits of the reading public. Because of print-on-demand and the growth of online commerce, the barriers to getting a book to market are virtually gone. Anyone with a computer can write a book, upload it to a POD provider and make it available for sale with an online retailer. Inventory is no longer necessary. The cost of publishing is frighteningly reasonable, certainly more so than it ever has been before. The publishing world is no longer for the elite. It is an industry for the everyman. In short, we are in the midst of a publishing revolution. The question begs, however, is it too late?

Trends suggest we are reading less, yet more books were published last year than ever before. In fact a greater percentage of Americans would rather write a book than read one. I doubt this phenomenon exist with any other product on the market today.

So what is our love affair with writing, and ultimately publishing? Why is there a seemingly compulsive need to be an author in America when there’s arguably a relatively small market for books? It is a desire based on a lie or at the very least a misconception. Popular culture would have you believe that an author lives a life of leisure and luxury. They attend parties and rub elbows with celebrities from every walk of life. People want to publish for the same reason they want to be on reality shows. It seems less like work and more like being the center of attention.

If you want to write to be famous, put away that story idea. There are easier ways to be famous. Becoming a doctor and separating conjoined twins in a 27 hour surgery may be easier. It is certainly less time consuming. Training everyday for the Boston Marathon may be easier than achieving fame through publishing. You’ll certainly be in better shape than 99.9% of writers. Winning the nomination for presidency from one of the major parties may be easier than becoming famous through the written word. You will at least get to do less work and attend those parties with celebrities that you wanted to attend.

Writing is hard work. Publishing is hard work. Selling books is hard work. The rewards are not usually commensurate with the amount of work you will expend. Write because you love it not because you think there is a pot of gold at the end of the publishing rainbow. If you’ve ever said, “I need to publish this book because I have to pay some bills.” Back away from the computer keyboard and start flipping through the classifieds.

Publishing should come from a place of passion. If you want it to be your main source of income, then plan to do the following:

    • Practice your craft.There are enough crappy writers on the market.Don’t be one of them.
    • Hire a professional designer for the interior and cover.Don’t be all things to your book.You’re the writer.Leave the rest to more qualified artists.There are rare cases where one person can write and design the book, but chances are you’re not one of them.
    • Work with an editor you trust, and by all means don’t be your own editor.
    • Invest time and money in marketing.If you think the book can sell itself, you’re wrong.If you don’t have a lot of money, spend a lot of time marketing your book.If you don’t have a lot of time, spend a lot of money on marketing your book.If you don’t have either, don’t plan on selling a lot of books.
    • Read books.If you’re not a reader, don’t kid yourself, you’re not a writer.
    • Give it time.Don’t measure in months here.Measure in years.

      If you follow these simple rules, you can succeed in publishing even if this new publishing revolution is too late in coming. The reading public is hungry for books of high quality. Give it to them. It’s your duty as an author. You’re part of the revolution. Act like it. Write like it.

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      What is a writer worth? (Repost… because I’m lazy like that.)

      The typical scene after a writer cashes his first royalty check.

      So what does a blogger do when he runs out of things to say?  He reposts old blog entries.  This is from February 12, 2008, the day John Scalzi shook my world and actually announced how much money he made as writer.  Totally insane and undeniably educational!

      Ever wonder what a working writer makes? Wonder no more. John Scalzi, winner of the John W. Campbell Award and a Hugo Award nominee, gives a very revealing look into the finances of a working writer. Along with letting you peer into his wallet, he also gives you some salient advice on how to manage your money and stay out of credit hell. Here’s an excerpt:

      It’s possible to make a good amount of money as a writer. Most writers don’t. You should assume, strictly for business purposes, that you won’t, or at the very least, won’t for a very long time. It’s not all about you, it’s also about the market. Don’t get defensive. The median personal income in the US in 2005 was $28,500. You have a lot of company in the bottom half.

      It’s a long article (or posting or whatever you call a blog entry), but it is well worth the read. John is a very successful writer. The key to his success is beyond being an exceptional novelist he is also a gun for hire. By his own admission, he will write most anything as long as the money is good. Click here to read the entire post, and I would also make it a habit to visit John’s blog on a regular basis. He’s got a lot to say and most of it is worth listening to.

      If you’ve never read any of Scalzi’s books, I recommend Old Man’s War. It’s a military sci-fi novel, but the writing is good enough to make it enjoyable even if you’re not into that particular genre.

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      A Rant on Publishing & Writing

      To say the world of publishing is in a constant state of change is a lot like saying the sun is hot. The ever-advancing realm of technology has not only transformed the method of production and delivery of books, it has also changed the buying habits of the reading public. Because of print-on-demand and the growth of online commerce, the barriers to getting a book to market are virtually gone. Anyone with a computer can write a book, upload it to a POD provider and make it available for sale with an online retailer. Inventory is no longer necessary. The cost of publishing is frighteningly reasonable, certainly more so than it ever has been before. The publishing world is no longer for the elite. It is an industry for the everyman. In short, we are in the midst of a publishing revolution. The question begs, however, is it too late?

      Trends suggest we are reading less, yet more books were published last year than ever before. In fact a greater percentage of Americans would rather write a book than read one. I doubt this phenomenon exist with any other product on the market today.

      So what is our love affair with writing, and ultimately publishing? Why is there a seemingly compulsive need to be an author in America when there’s arguably a relatively small market for books? It is a desire based on a lie or at the very least a misconception. Popular culture would have you believe that an author lives a life of leisure and luxury. They attend parties and rub elbows with celebrities from every walk of life. People want to publish for the same reason they want to be on reality shows. It seems less work and more like being the center of attention.

      If you want to write to be famous, put away that story idea. There are easier ways to be famous. Becoming a doctor and separating conjoined twins in a 27 hour surgery may be easier. It is certainly less time consuming. Training everyday for the Boston Marathon may be easier than achieving fame through publishing. You’ll certainly be in better shape than 99.9% of writers. Winning the nomination for presidency from one of the major parties may be easier than becoming famous through the written word. You will at least get to do less work and attend those parties with celebrities that you wanted to attend.

      Writing is hard work. Publishing is hard work. Selling books is hard work. The rewards are not usually commensurate with the amount of work you will expend. Write because you love it not because you think there is a pot of gold at the end of the publishing rainbow. If you’ve ever said, “I need to publish this book because I have to pay some bills.” Back away from the computer keyboard and start flipping through the classifieds.

      Publishing should come from a place of passion. If you want it to be your main source of income, then plan to do the following:

      1. Practice your craft. There are enough crappy writers on the market. Don’t be one of them.
      2. Hire a professional designer for the interior and cover. Don’t be all things to your book. You’re the writer. Leave the rest to more qualified artists. There are rare cases where one person can write and design the book, but chances are you’re not one of them.
      3. Work with an editor you trust, and by all means don’t be your own editor.
      4. Invest time and money in marketing. If you think the book can sell itself, you’re wrong. If you don’t have a lot of money, spend a lot of time marketing your book. If you don’t have a lot of time, spend a lot of money on marketing your book. If you don’t have either, don’t plan on selling a lot of books.
      5. Read books. If you’re not a reader, don’t kid yourself, you’re not a writer.
      6. Give it time. Don’t measure in months here. Measure in years.

      If you follow these six simple rules, you can succeed in publishing even if this new publishing revolution is too late in coming. The reading public is hungry for books of high quality. Give it to them. It’s your duty as an author. You’re part of the revolution. Act like it. Write like it.

      Dennis Cass is My New Hero!

      You really want to see what an author has to go through to sell a book today? I give you Dennis Cass and his Book Launch 2.0.

      You loved the video. I’m guessing you’ll love the book: Head Case: How I Almost Lost My Mind Trying to Understand My Brain

      Now, I’ve got to go because I have to bring my Myspace page up to date, join Facebook, figure out how to use Twitter, and see if my mother’s book club will have me back.

      (Hereo? WTF)