The other day I had to make my typical 25 mile drive to go buy horse feed and a few groceries. Got to feed the “kids” and the kids! While I was waiting at a stoplight at a busy intersection, I heard a whoosh of wind and caught sight of a dust devil approaching on my right. The whirlwind swept across the street, my truck right in the middle of its path, and I watched, and felt, as the mini tornado zipped over me and sped across to a nearby parking lot, making the ornamental trees on the edge of the lot whip in a wild dance. Within a matter of seconds the spectacle was over.
Having lived my entire life in the Midwest I’m no stranger to dust devils and tornadoes. We can see plenty of them here during the warmer months. Although dust devils are usually small and pretty much harmless, as we know, tornadoes are not. A swirling vortex of wind with unimaginable forces propelling it forward, a tornado can wreak all kinds of havoc on whatever might have the misfortune of being in its path, leaving a mountain of chaos and devastation in its wake. Fortunately, knock on wood, my home has never been in the direct path of a tornado. Gee, I hope like heck I haven’t jinxed myself by stating this publicly and end up having all I hold dear wiped away by the wrath of nature in a matter of hours after this posts!
But sitting through that dust devil got me to thinking about tornadoes, and thinking about tornadoes got me to thinking about the current state of publishing. I’ve been in this biz a long, long time, as both a bookseller and an author, and right now the publishing world is experiencing a swirling vortex of uncertainty and chaos unlike it ever has before.
Why? Well, and these are my humble opinions, but I think the straw finally broke the proverbial Camel’s publishing back because of:
- The development, rise, and dominance of the Internet.
- The recent massive rise of the e-book, which btw, has been slowly making its presence known for well over a decade.
- The availability and ease of independent e-book publishing.
- The availability of online booksellers where those indie books can stand tall beside traditionally published books rather than hide in shame on a bottom shelf because they were independently published.
- Authors who are tired of the big publishing houses wielding God-like power.
- Authors who are weary of feeling like a hamster on a wheel, cranking out book after book for what they consider to be inadequate compensation, but a paycheck is a paycheck.
- Frustrated authors who feel as though their creative juices are being stifled for the sake of marketing departments who, apparently, for a variety of reasons, don’t like to step out of their comfort zones.
- And authors who, because of contractual and financial obligations, are chained to that hamster wheel with little or no choice.
Unlike a dust devil or tornado, this is one storm that isn’t going to be over in a matter of seconds, or even minutes. I’m no cooperate business guru, and I’m not a seer. I’m not sure how all of this is going to shake out. But at this point I’m not making any bets as to who will be the clear-cut winner. And maybe, just maybe no one will be. Personally, I think there’s room for all in the book world. Independent. Traditional. And small press.
But which path do I follow? Should I forgo a publisher and publish myself and potentially see more money in the long run, but where I have to wear a multitude of hats besides the one of writer—editor, cover artist, promoter, accountant, etc.?
Or do I sign with a traditional publisher who has worldwide distribution, and in the process of building my name and readership, locks in the rights to my books for years to come, possibly for the rest of my life?
Or do I opt for a smaller publisher who might not have a huge following, but is strong and growing and who can help wear some of those hats I mentioned above, but because it’s not a powerhouse publisher limits my income potential?
Or can I navigate all three?
Wow. I feel like I’m personally caught in that swirling vortex, not sure which course is the best one to take for my career. Will what I decide is right for my career today still hold true tomorrow? Six months from now? One year from now, and so on? Up until the last few years, the publishing world typically moved at a snail’s pace. That isn’t necessarily the case today. Now, the right or wrong course can change as fast a tornado can switch directions. If you’ve been following e-book publishing/indie book publishing, you get where I’m coming from.
Cripes. I’m just an author who is trying to make a living doing what I love—writing. What am I supposed to do? And how do I know I’m making the right decisions?
Well, on the positive side, I think it’s a great time to be a writer. Why? Because we have options. Options we didn’t have all that long ago. I remember the years when authors were limited to a handful of big houses and a handful of editors. This left us waiting months on end for a response, and more often than not a response in the form of a rejection. Thanks to OUR timing being off.
Today, if I write something a little different and off the wall, I can find a home for it. If I write on a traditional contemporary plain, I can find a home for it. It doesn’t matter if I’m writing cowboys, vampires, shape shifters, alpha males, billionaires, or setting my book during WWII, the American West, in Victorian England, or on another planet, my odds of finding a publisher are pretty darn good. After all, great writing is great writing!
Yes, in spite of the current swirling vortex of the publishing world, it’s a great time to be a writer. Besides, I love a good challenge.
Be sure and visit my web site for all the latest on my books. And through 5/12/12 you can download my Studs 4 Hire books for free at Amazon!
Until next month,