The real gatekeepers in publishing now? Authors.
I already hear the screams. What about readers? Agents? Publishers? Bookstores? The aliens from Roswell? That single book buyer for Wal-Mart?
Let me explain.
For many years the choke point in publishing was distribution. That is no longer true with the rise of the eBook. So the traditional route of writer-agent-editor-publisher-sales forces-book buyer-bookstore-reader has been broken. We’ve got writer-reader (of course there is editing, formatting, etc. but that can be outsourced so it’s not a chokepoint any more).
Left with those two choices, most people would say readers are now the gatekeepers. To an extent they are. But here’s the deal: writers create the product. The quality of the product is going to determine how readers react to it. The ability to promote/market the product is going to determine if readers even get a chance to react to it.
So it’s actually the writer who is going to determine their own success or failure.
99.5% of indie/self-published authors will be gone in two years. Other will take their place. And be gone in two years. The gatekeeper to a writer’s success is the writer. Here are the trends I see that will determine the few who get through the gate:
- In it for the long haul, rather than thinking you’re playing the publishing lottery. I see way too many writers who want success now. They check sales figures every day. Instead, they need to think about perhaps succeeding in 3 to 5 years with at least a half-dozen titles under their belt.
- Plan for the long haul. At Who Dares Wins Publishing we’re looking at least three years ahead. We have a writing and production schedule laid out that keeps us on task.
- Stay one step of ahead of the trends. Act, don’t react. This means sometimes you must take risks. Many of these attempts will fail, but the ones who succeed will be on the front end of the trends.
- Writing good books. This one seems so basic, but I see too many writers spend so much more time worrying about promotion than worrying about the quality of their craft. I’ve learned more in the last two years about writing than in my first 20.
- Sweat equity. This aint easy. Never has been. I’ve watched the careers or many writers. The majority of writers who are having the most success as indies have backlist, which is the sweat equity from the time they spent in the trenches in traditional publishing.
- Running an efficient business. Most writers just want to write. They don’t want to deal with all the details of running a business but being an indie author means you are self-employed. I know people who were great doctors or lawyers but went bankrupt because they couldn’t run their business.
- Networking and team building. “Indie” is an interesting term because in fact, I believe it’s very difficult to succeed on one’s own. You’re going to need help with the books (editing, covers, formatting, etc) and you’re going to need help with the promoting.
- Building a platform that as a specific message. At Write It Forward I view my platform as author advocate. I see too many writers whose platform seems to be “buy my book”. People have to have a reason to read your blog, RT your tweets, listen to you. Kristen Lamb’s book: We Are Not Alone: A Writer’s Guide to Social Media is a good place to start in this as she focuses on content before procedure.
- Stay informed. Things are changing fast. Many people are trying a lot of different things. Some will work, some will fail. But staying up to date on everything that’s happening can help you make informed decisions.
- Be assertive but not obnoxious. I’ve grown much more assertive in the past six months. One of the largest mistakes I made coming out of Special Forces and going into traditional publishing was trusting that other people would do their jobs without having to look over their shoulders. This cost me. Now I push others, gently, but consistently, in order to achieve goals.
In sum. Writers, your fate is in your hands now.
PS: We’re proud to announce The Jefferson Allegiance peaked as the #2 overall bestseller on Nook over Labor Day weekend. We plan on releasing it on other platforms later this month.
Posted on September 14, 2011, in Write It forward and tagged Bob Mayer, eBooks, ePublishing, Future, Self-Publishing, The Future of Publishing, Write It Forward, Writer Resources. Bookmark the permalink. 67 Comments.