Today’s Publishing Landscape: What Do You See?

Girl with binocularsEvery once in a while I have to stop my work, look up from my computer, and take a good long look around me. What does the publishing landscape look like from one agent’s perspective? Here are a few things I see:

♦  I see a higher level of stress surrounding publishing than I’ve ever seen in 17 years in this business.

♦  I see authors pulled in too many different directions, no longer having the “luxury” of focusing on just writing the best book they can, but needing to be experts at marketing and social media too.

♦  I see many authors doing an amazing job at both writing and marketing, and I’m in awe of this.

♦  I see amazing opportunities for authors that they’ve never had before: opportunities to reach more readers through digital publishing; opportunities to connect with their readers through social media.

♦  I see a totally unnecessary “us vs. them” mentality when it comes to traditional publishing vs. indie or self-publishing. I see tremendous potential for many authors to take advantage of both avenues.

♦  I see people trying to demonize agents and other “middlemen” or gatekeepers whose role has been to facilitate the connection between writer and reader, claiming all the middlemen will be extinct.

♦  Meanwhile, I see agents staying completely on top of all the changes in our industry, being the eyes and ears of publishing for their clients, and remaining confident that their unique knowledge and skills will remain valuable regardless of how things change.

♦  I see some publishers being astonishingly creative and proactive when it comes to marketing in today’s new environment, and other publishers that aren’t quite rising to the challenge.

♦  I see publishers constantly revising their contracts to protect their own interests as the publishing landscape continues to make it more difficult for them to profit (keeping agents on their toes).

♦  I see technology companies and certain giant online retailers profiting much more than publishers or authors in the new economy of publishing.

♦  I see books and reading continuing to be as popular as ever, regardless of form or format.

♦  I see a stunning amount of disagreement over where publishing is headed and where we’ll all be in five years; the only thing anyone agrees on is that things are changing too fast to keep up with.

Those are a few of my thoughts for today.

What do YOU see as you look around the publishing landscape?

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  • http://bethvogt.com Beth K. Vogt

    I see one more thing needing to be done … yeah, that whole mentality adds to that stress you’re seeing, Rachelle.
    And whenever I think I’ve finally crested the social media wave, I see the latest, greatest thing coming at me … so I keep on paddling (or swimming, as my refrain went the last time I posted.)
    I see lots of writers willing to help each other out — share information,encouragement, and insight. This makes all the difference in the (writing) world.

    • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

      Good point, Beth! The support of other writers is a tremendous boost!

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  • Seth Kay

    I totally agree with the aspect of being pulled in too many different directions. Right now I’m really trying to work on my new blogging enterprise, and getting my name out there as an author. At the same time, I wish I could just focus on getting my next draft finished so I could head off in search of an agent sooner.

    I feel like if I don’t already have a good grasp on social media and marketing, I’ll never have a chance of securing a contract or book deal.

    Something interesting that I’ve noticed is the demographic that seems to be using e-readers and e-books. From what I’ve seen, at least on transit, is that it’s mostly middle-aged to older people using e-readers. This observation is interesting to me, because from what I’ve seen, my target audience doesn’t like ebooks, which actually really affects how I plan to get published, and is one of the reasons I still want to get my book in actual paper pages format.

    Does anyone actually know any statistics on who buys e-books/e-readers?

    • http://www.christianreads.blogspot.com Iola

      I don’t have any stats, but from what I have observed, it tends to be working-age people who buy dedicated e-readers. Older people still use the library; younger people might read on their phones (or not read at all). After all, reading is a time-consuming hobby that not everyone is interested in or can indulge in.

      • Cindy Quilter

        We have three Kindles in the house. I am in my 50s and I work full time. It is just easier to keep track of the Kindle than all the books (some of which after sitting dustily on my shelves for years will soon be donated to thrift stores). My 20 something daughters both have Kindles (my youngest because it is easier and cheaper for college textbooks), and my 20 something son reads on his smart phone. That screen is too small for me. My husband (60) still enjoys the library. I don’t have time to go to the library and that may be one of the reasons so many middle aged working people have Kindles.

      • http://www.terryodell.com Terry Odell

        Hubster and I (both of Medicare age) have Nooks. I get more people asking, “Can I get it for my Kindle/Nook/Sony?” when I tell them about my books. Used to be I’d get, “Tell me when you write a “REAL” book.” And I see e-readers across the age demographics. Those with fading eyesight love the ability to enlarge fonts without dealing with more expensive or huge, thick, large print books.

      • http://mikalatos.com Matt Mikalatos

        My nine year old just saved up enough money to buy her own Kindle…

    • http://www.robynechols.com Robyn Echols

      Regarding the use of e-readers, one big advantage for middle to older readers is the portability. The older people get, the less weight they like to lug around. More and more of my fellow church members are bringing their scriptures on their smart phones or tablets, partly for the search capability and partly because of the weight issue. Once they become comfortable with that, other e-books follow.

      How many of you who are avid readers out there find you start getting pains in your neck and upper back when you spend too many hours holding a heavy paper book? Solution: E-reader.

      I personally believe that the best means of initial publishing is in traditional print book format by a traditional publisher because:
      1. It is easier to develop name recognition. As one fellow responder on this topic pointed out, people prefer a few dozen of their favorites over access to thousands. But, in order to enjoy those few dozen, we need to find them first. As much as I enjoy e-books, I tend to find my of my favorites in traditionally-published format as I peruse the current offerings at a bookstore or the new-released novels at the library.
      2. There is a sociability involved in sharing print books. We read a book someone has loaned us and it opens a new topic of conversation we can share. If we find that the author of the book loaned to us falls into our few dozen favorites category, we will be more inclined to seek out and purchase other books by that same author rather than risk $5-$25 on an unknown author only to get a few chapters into the book and decide we have no desire to finish reading it.

      I find the comment about the younger readers still prefering print books interesting. If you don’t believe it, go to your favorite Walmart or Target and check out their offerings. YA and middle grade children’s books used to get a few feet of shelf space allocated to them. Now, in my county, anyway, they account for possibly a third or a fourth of the shelf space. I wonder how much is due to parental influence and how much is due to the sociability factor involved with showing off to friends and sharing with them.

  • http://www.penultimateword.com Arlene Prunkl

    From an editor’s point of view: Even as I see many books out there in every format (traditional and self-pubbed) that are sadly lacking in quality editing, I see an ever-increasing awareness among authors of the need for editing, especially for self-published books. My freelance editing business has never been busier, and that is a great thing for the self-publishing industry as a whole.

    • http://www.heatherdaygilbert.blogspot.com Heather Gilbert

      Totally agree on that! With the publishing industry so tight, pre-editing your book makes sense (before even querying!). I just blogged on this, actually. An editor can truly get you out of the slush pile and make your MS get noticed fast.

  • http://www.startingthedialgoue.wordpress.com Laura Diane

    I see that there will be continued change and adjustment needed to that change so I’m dealing with a “go with the flow mentality.”

    I see a need to learn to balance marketing my book (esp. r/t social media) and getting the writing/editing/revising done in a timely manner.

    I see opportunities opening increasingly for writers and for publishers willing to think outside of the box.

    I see that “this too will pass” and we’ll be down the road someday looking back and wondering what all the fuss was about.

    I see that what I really desire to continue doing in my life, despite all the changes and challenges, is to write and share.

  • http://www.gabrielle-meyer.blogspot.com Gabrielle Meyer

    I see social media as a major bonus to current authors. Readers are able to have personal access to them and vice versa. Members of an author’s “tribe” are vital for word of mouth advertising and creating a “tribe” would be impossible without it.

    I also see social media as a hindrance, in that it’s time consuming and distracts the author from her real job, which is writing a block buster book.

    We’re adaptable and tougher than we look. With each new change in the publishing industry, we’ll rise to the occasion and keep meeting the challenges head on.

  • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

    My first memory as a child was seeing a light at the end of a tunnel and then someone spanked the snot out of me. What we’re seeing is not the end result, but a birthing process. Right now we feel like we’re hanging upside down and things are out of control, but things will settle down because the readers don’t actually want a hundred thousand options. They want a few dozen in their favorite category. Those who know how to give readers quality options in an easy to access format will surface. However, when it comes to publishing, I admit my severe lack of understanding. Or better, “I don’t know nothing ’bout birthin’ no babies.”

    • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major

      But tomorrow is another day, maybe you’ll know more by then? Maybe we all will.

    • http://bethvogt.com Beth K. Vogt

      P.J. — Agreed! Readers don’t want a hundred thousand options and good writing does (eventually) stand out from the crowd. Which is why quitting isn’t (or shouldn’t be) and option. Because when all is said and done, our goal must be writing well, no matter what else is going on.

    • Amanda

      Well said, PJ.

  • http://thebloggingofanaspiringwriter.blogspot.com.au Bonnee

    I’m new to it, so I’m seeing new things everywhere I look, different opinions about those things, and good and bad things about them. I like to focus on the good, so I just keep the bad at the back of my mind. Thanks for sharing these thoughts, they made me feel better for some reason. Probably because you were putting emphasis on the positive aspects of each dot point :) And most of it was positive anyway.

  • http://algardis.wordpress.com Al-Gardis Books

    I’m seeing how difficult it is to succeed in the self-publishing format without a strong marketing platform. But as of yet…I don’t know what that ‘marketing’ platform could entail for a newbie/indie author without access to the reviews, financial capital & media access that a traditional publisher does.

    I’ve seen examples of perfect cover art, intriguing synopsis, decent kindle price of $2.99 and a great author website but a year after release it doesn’t look like that same author is generating any significant buzz.

    And yet…Amazon is clearly making strides. They acquired the entire James Bond series just this week. I don’t see how that helps the new or middle grade author though.

    • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

      Self publishing on Amazon is only sticking your book in the middle of a huge library. The problem is, you don’t get to have a book display or even a book signing there. Instead, you have to stand in a trench-coat at the door and say, “psst, buddy, let me tell you where to find a treasure.” This wouldn’t be so bad if there weren’t ten thousand other people in trench-coats doing the same thing. Readers who look at the self pub market hear so many “pssssts” at once that they flee to anyplace where they can find display.

      Publishing companies, even on Amazon, will get you a display table and maybe even the equivalent to a book signing. Yeah, it is worth it.

  • http://rebeccaberto.com Rebecca Berto

    I see that … if someone doesn’t find the right agent after twenty, thirty or forty queries, they can still self-publish their book and end up the traditional route anyway if they become an effective publisher.

    It’s much easier to launch and sell a self-published book today than it was a decade ago.

  • Kara

    I see the incredible heights to which CBA fiction has risen to in the last five years. As a reader, it is so amazing knowing that pretty much any book I chose to buy these days is pretty much, without exception, breathtakingly well written.

    As a writer it’s intimidating how high the bar is now set, but that’s a great thing.

  • http://www.JulieJWrites.blogspot.com Julie Jarnagin

    Ten years ago it seemed liked unpublished writers spent half their time worrying about things like how to format their manuscript and how to follow the rules. The technology available in today’s landscape has given writers more freedom and provided a ton of easily accessible information about the industry, which is exciting!

  • http://elainecougler.wordpress.com Elaine Cougler

    I see so much change and challenge that I’ve had to put on my blinders and just write the best I can and focus on what I can control: the quality of my writing, the scope of my social media presence, and the day-to-day pushing on to the pinnacle. All else is important but not crucial to my well-being. I just work on doing the best I can. Hopefully, it is enough.

    • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major

      well said!

  • http://www.laurapauling.com Laura Pauling

    I see many things as truths. I still think the writing is way more important than the social media platform – that is for the talented writers. Sometimes social media can bring an average writer good sales. Or sometimes it’s just about what the market wants. In both traditional and self published books I’ve seen some books take off with little social media; and yet, I see other authors kicking social media butt and their books not take off. I don’t think we have as much control as we’d like to think.

    I wish/hope for the biases on both sides to go away but I don’t see that happening any time soon. Too much disruption happening. But the dust will settle eventually – hopefully!

    One of many aspects I like about self publishing is that we can take the feedback of low sales to realize this might not be what the market is looking for. We can try something different, a different story. Who knows what will take off and then those back series could take off too. It’s about the long haul for most authors. I’m assuming it works that way with the traditional model too – or it used too.

  • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major

    I feel like I’m at base camp, wondering which route up is the best. Okay. I AM at base camp. Who am I kidding? (ADD moment-I just almost typed ‘kissing’…best to check the fingers first thing in the morning). Back to kidding…I completely agree with Elaine Cougler, first I do MY best. Then, Lord willing, the rest of the best will fall in line.
    I’m looking forward to today’s comments, this is going to be interesting.

  • http://www.cgblake.wordpress.com CG Blake

    The word that comes to mind for me is “transition.” Sales of ebooks will continue to rise, self-publishing will continue to be a viable option for writers and a certain percentage of readers will always prefer print books. The interesting question for me is whether the big six publishers will adopt technology and lower the price of ebooks. It is an uncertain but exciting time to be a writer.

  • http://www.10minutewriter.com Katharine

    It’s always good to be inside your head, Rachelle. This perspective is optimistic and comforting. Thanks!

  • http://writeitforward.wordpress.com Bob Mayer

    I see the loudest voices in the divide between trad and indie coming from the trad side now. Especially as they defend the Agency Model. These are mostly authors in the top 5%, who naturally want to defend a system that treats them well. Scott Turow and Malcolm Gladwell are hardly representative of the vast majority of authors. The minute a trad author doesn’t get their contract renewed it is interesting to see how their tune will change about self-publishing.

    In essence, what people say depends on where they’re sitting. An agent will defend the role of agents. Editors will favor the role of editors. A trad published author will defend the Big 6. An indie author will defend self-publishing. The Big 6 defend their role and demonize Amazon. Amazon just seems to be chugging along, making deals.

    The people who will be successful will be focused on how ALL the aspects and players can be synergized.

    • Rachelle Gardner

      I could not have said it better myself.

    • Nathan Perkins

      I just responded to another blog that it would be great to be naturally gifted and well disciplined in a craft. It seems like people are one, the other or successful. When we think there is always greener grass somewhere else, we don’t work at planting and caring for the grass on the side of the fence where we live. I think there are more opportunities to create writing success than there has ever been, but as always, we’ve got to work at it.

  • http://theotherstephenkingonwriting.blogspot.com Stephen H. King

    First and foremost, I see exactly the same things I read about in all those Harvard Business case studies I had to read in MBA school whenever we talked about mature markets being shocked by a disruption. Some people think it’s the end of the world (as we know it, and I feel…um, yeah, still jiving to that RG post the other day) while others think it’s only the end of the world for some of the market leaders. Me? I think it’s an awfully exciting time to be in the industry, watching it all play out in what may be yet another future Harvard Business case study.

    I do, however, find it interesting that you mention, and rightly so, that there’s a “totally unnecessary ‘us vs. them’ mentality” and then, just a few points later, you subtly slam on Amazon for “profiting much more than publishers or authors….” And I don’t see an unwarranted disparity in profit from my end, either. For me, Amazon does their share of the marketing and all the distribution and retailing, and for that I’m pleased as pickled peaches to let them keep the mere 30% they ask for. I still keep well over two-thirds of the sales revenue, amounting to several hundred dollars a month of extra income for my family–a miserable failure by traditional pub terms, but quite the success by my own. Back to topic, I’ve been curious how the Amazon payment distribution works for traditional publishers and authors, but all I can find is Joe Konrath talking about how it used to be and folks like the president of the Writer’s Guild preaching “Amazon bad.”

    Bottom line, I think, is your next to last point. Readers aren’t going anywhere. Neither are writers, and frankly, traditionally published or self published, we’re all in the same big happy (ish) industry together. I don’t know what the publishing industry is going to look like five years from now, and I’d suggest that anyone who says they do is telling a fib. But I am pretty sure that five, ten, and even fifty years from now, people will still be hungry for good stories, and they’ll find ways to read them whether that’s on archaic pressed pieces of tree pulp, LCD screens, or some new technology we don’t even know yet.

    -TOSK

  • http://heathersunseri.com/blog Heather Sunseri

    I see a landscape where writing a great (almost perfect) story should still be a writer’s most important goal.

  • http://www.laramsey.com Lori

    At least now, if an author chooses to go “indie” they have a better chance with marketing through social media. I also feel that mainstream publishers see the digital arena as an opportunity to further their efforts, and I see more publishers offering to work with authors through this as well. Now getting ones foot in the door, that’s a different story. However, I will say that NOW is a great time to try, because 15 years ago when I was submitting, I spent a fortune in postage, mailing actual paper. I LOVE email and the ability to submit digital queries and manuscripts.

  • http://rmabry.com Richard Mabry

    Pulled several different ways? Oh, yeah! Looking at publishing today reminds me of the harried air traffic controller in the movie spoof, Airplane, who, as disasters mount, keeps saying, “Looks like I picked the wrong time to quit smoking.” Only in my case, it’s “Looks like I picked the wrong time to get into writing.” Grateful for agents such as you who do indeed stay on top of things.

    • http://www.meghancarver.blogspot.com Meghan Carver

      I have often wondered if I “picked the wrong time” and waited too long to get into writing. Perhaps I should have pursued it during college twenty years ago and not gone on to law school? Although, the legal education is proving helpful in the writing. You can see the cycle of thinking!

      On the other hand, blogs such as this one have educated me beyond what I could have discovered then. Or, at least, it’s been a lot easier!

  • http://www.katieganshert.com/blog Katie Ganshert

    Love this post, Rachelle.

  • http://lindenbarrick.wordpress.com Linden

    As an unpublished author, I see fear and confusion (both my own and that of others like myself) as I don hip-boots to wade my way through “stuff” I thought would be handled by others if I wrote well enough. As I steal time away from writing and the rest of my life to try to learn this business and build an online presence, I struggle to compress the anxiety. Choosing to be proud of the baby-steps I take, instead of comparing my “presence” with others who have reached a higher level of success, helps keep me motivated to continue. That and a lot of prayer!

    • http://nataliesharpston.com/ Natalie Sharpston

      Linden – I second that! :)

  • http://annbracken.weebly.com Ann Bracken

    I see sites like Goodreads becoming more and more important as people look for quality writing.

    I see in-depth fact-checking becoming more important but easier to do, thanks to the internet.

    I see more people reading because of the convenience of e-readers and the affordability of e-books, and by extension, more books being sold.

    I see blogs and websites giving me free information on how to be a better writer, how to formulate a query, how to format my manuscript, etc. It’s amazing, to me, how much support the great people of this community give others.

  • http://www.loripotter.com Lori Potter

    As one slightly anxious and mildly intimidated “newbee” who’s delving into a ton of research prior to dipping her toe into this industry, I see a great deal of extremely valuable “Publishing 101″ information brought forth from your site and several others. You are letting us know exactly what it’s all about, what we can expect *realistically* and what each contributing role entails – from author hopefuls to agents, editors and publishers. I really appreciate all of this practical insight, because frankly, I’d be completely lost otherwise.

    • Jennifer Major

      I agree wholeheartedly with you! Without this generous education, many of us would be stuck Publishing Kindergarten. With watered down juice and stale crackers. And no naps. And a Barney video on an 8 hour loop.

  • http://www.pczick.com Patricia Zick

    I was so happy to see your blog this morning. I’m on a very high learning curve right now to keep up with all the changes. Yes, there are days when I feel absolutely overwhelmed. I agree that there is more opportunity for authors. I also believe as authors we can have it all from both traditional and nontraditional publishing. That’s exciting. The Internet has given us all a level playing field. Thanks for putting this out there.

  • http://livingthebodyofchrist.blogspot.com/ Connie Almony

    What’s more is that some of the changes will become the norm and others will be a passing fad. Which do we invest in and are we prepared to change when it happens? You mention the online retailers making more money than publishers and authors. That’s because they are putting out lots of product without regard to quality. People love it cause it’s cheap, but eventually, they may begin to appreciate the role of the “gatekeeper.” I LOVE cheap and will be the first in line for free or near free. But at some point I want something that’s worth, not just the money I paid, but the time I put into it. If I’m going to read a book, it’s an investment of my time.

  • Josh C.

    What I see is a cycle. While it is no longer necessary for an author to be traditionally published in order to reach a large audience, I believe that after the mega-millions indie authors will inspire everyone and their mother to write a book. That’s a good thing, but there will be many of these types who slap their stuff on the web and sit back, expecting the money to roll in. Not everyone who sellf-publishes, but enough to saturate the markets will huge numbers of books. That’s going to drown out a lot of good work. I think two things will happen here. Someone, somewhere, will become basically what the Big 6 have been in the past and weed out the best stuff and distribute it. Also, after seeing that writing a book doesn’t make one rich, I think we’ll see the number of authors (and books) drop.

  • Lanny

    Another top-notch post. To me, the biggest doubtmaker is whether to attempt digital publishing vs. traditional types. But is traditional publishing even an option for 90% of us? I draw back when I read that BookBaby wants $199 to format my book; but that may just be ignorance on my part. But if you spend the $200 and then you sell three e-books, that’s not a profitable avenue. So is it better to let a good work lie languid in a drawer, or have it out there electronically?

  • http://www.brentstratford.com Brent Stratford

    I think I’ve said this before but I will draw the parallel to another industry.

    When I started in the market research industry it was the only way to evaluate your market. Surveys were only conducted by mail or by phone. As technology improved, businesses captured more customer data and Internet usage grew. The market research industry was so high and mighty about the science of gathering attitudinal data that they missed the point. Businesses just want a feel for what’s going on with their customers. Small start ups who offered Internet surveys at lower cost and/or offered ways to combine attitudinal data with behavioral data started kicking the collective butts of the big market research companies. It’s still evolving but the big market research companies have consolidated and most people only use them for very large or hard to sample studies. The bulk of market research spend is given to low cost online interviewing.

    What does this have to do with publishing?

    I see the same thing happening. There are alternative publishing methods that are appealing to authors and readers.

    Publishers, and agents need to understand that the vast majority of people just want a good story. All authors want is someone to help publicize their story and get it into the distribution channel. In many cases the quicker less expensive model of e-publishing is going to have the greatest appeal.

    Yes this means a lot of terrible writing gets published…but people are buying it. Editors and publishers can complain all they want. If the money is coming in and the reader and the writer are happy then the model is working.

    I think we will see some specialists emerge who are neither agents nor publishers. Specialists who focus only on getting story publicized and in the distribution channel.

    I see traditional publishing companies either consolidating or developing their own online/indie models. The traditional publishing model isn’t going to disappear any time soon. However, the new alternatives put traditional publishers in the same position other businesses have been in for years – adapt or die.

  • http://tcavey.blogspot.com/ TC Avey

    Hope.

  • http://www.jilliankent.com Jillian Kent

    A higher level of stress all the way around for sure, Rachelle. I think if we are breathing today we are pulled in too many different directions. But within all this is opportunity. I have a June 1st deadline: Yeah! I’m working a full time day job: Yeah! I’m part of the baby boom generation and am very SANDWICHED! Not so yeah, but I’m hanging in there.:)

    I’ve had the incredible opportunity to be published in the last year in this economy! Way Yeah!

    I have no idea if I’ll get another contract, but with all the possibilities today I’ll find a way to do something with my writing.

    The biggest issue I see for me personally and I’m guessing others are in the same boat, is how to get noticed in such a saturated market? There are great writers out there, how do we figure out this marketing thing without driving ourselves crazy and still get bought and read?

  • http://www.sundaybysunday.com Cristy Fossum

    Your succinct overview seems accurate to me and oddly calming and encouraging. The tech aspects of marketing are the biggest challenge for me as a writer, a blessing as well as a curse. I revel in the community resulting from all the changes. The unfair profits of retailers and tech companies incenses me.

    But I’m loving the writing life anyway. Self-pub was perfect for getting out my small town church fiction trilogy. Traditional publishing and all the affirmation and support system that goes with it will be intention from now on.

    Thanks, Rachelle!

  • http://www.SandraDBricker.com Sandie Bricker

    I see more ulcers in my future as I consider going back to a 40-hr-per-week job in order to pay the bills while I try to maintain a writing career that pays about 18 cents an hour when you add up the time spent on writing, posting, blogging, marketing, signing………

  • http://dalesittonrogers.wordpress.com Dale S. Rogers

    Thanks for the insight, Rachelle!

  • http://crowproductions.com Joan Cimyotte

    Ugh. That word; “change”. I think everything you have stated in your post is spot on. All of your twelve points show the complexity involved. There is no cut and dry. Now that other word I used to hear; “hope”. I hope I can have my story read by someone that would enjoy it. I hope more readers might like my story. I hope I can get published the old fashioned way before the old fashioned way disappears.

  • http://www.dorinewhite.blogspot.com Dorine White

    I see book blogs and twitter as the marketing tools of today. There just aren’t the resources for big time publicity if you aren’t a NYT bestseller.

  • http://www.shootthewounded.org Lynn Dove

    I completely agree with you on all points, although I think we may be underestimating the impact that e-book technology will have on the industry. Already I see schools and offices, in an effort to become “paperless”, invest in iPads or other such tablets for students and staff.

    Personally, I think e-book technology will advance to a point where all books will be in e-book format and our libraries will have to adapt. Not saying I like it, but I see it going in that direction.

    I also agree that there seems to be an “us vs. them” mentality with regards to self and traditional publishing. Personally, I think there is definitely opportunity for authors to find happy mediums between the two and utilize both in an effort to get their books out to readers.

  • http://writerhpinski.tumblr.com/ Hilary Sierpinski

    I see writers morphing into content creators, allowing for a far more collaborative relationship with agents, editors and publishers alike.

    I see new technologies exploding in the middle-grade & YA arenas, allowing for more audience engagement and a rich, immersive reading experience (if us content creators get it right).

    I see print companions becoming the illuminated manuscripts of the past; artfully produced collectibles to be cherished.

  • http://www.marcusbrotherton.com Marcus Brotherton

    Very helpful post Rachelle, thanks.

  • http://lindsayharrel.blogspot.com Lindsay Harrel

    I see the opportunity to not “go at it” alone, since social media helps me connect so easily with other writers. I’ve loved the chance to read others’ blogs and nod as I mumble to myself, “That’s EXACTLY what I’m feeling.” And others willingly share their advice and experience as they travel ahead of me on the publishing road.

    Maybe I’m naive, but I’m excited about the publishing world, not scared by it.

  • http://alifegoneawry.com/ Wayne Kernochan

    I see the conversations, and they’re about writers and agents, and publishers. Self publishing vs Traditional. Marketing. What are agents looking for? What are publishers looking for?

    Honestly, I don’t care what you like, or what Jonathan Karp likes. I’m studying readers. I think they’re ignored. Not completely, but considering their importance, yeah, they’re ignored

    Almost 80% of my readers are women. I study what women like. For a self published memoirist, I’ve done well, and I contribute my small success to the fact that every step of the process is devoted to what I’ve found that they like

  • http://robinpatchen.com Robin Patchen

    Oh, so many changes! We could be filled with fear and uncertainty. Instead let’s be thankful.

    I’m thankful for the new technology that’s bringing about all these changes. I’m thankful for a word processor–I don’t know that I’d do it if it meant hand writing!

    Mostly, I’m thankful to be walking this path with faithful believers of Christ. Can you imagine how hard these changes are for the non-Christians among us? They have neither the confidence in Christ nor the fellowship with other believing writers, editors and agents to walk with them. I see God at work even in our messed up human institutions.

  • Sandra Gardner

    Hi,
    I’m new to your blog and already enjoying it. I agree with your point that today’s writers have to be marketing, especially with social media, experts — along with writing the best book they can. I’m finding it challenging to do the marketing of my first mystery (published by a small publisher) while working on writing the 2nd book in the series. The one good thing: writing and marketing are two distinct skills, brain areas (?), so that one doesn’t seem to interfere with the other’s creativity. But both require lots of time and energy.
    Sandy Gardner
    sgardner2@hvc.rr.com

    • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

      First, welcome to the funny farm. :) That’s a good point about the two separate skills. When I am in my writing time module and I need a break, I can go to social marketing to chill a bit while my author recharges.

  • http://www.nebraskagraceful.blogspot.com Michelle DeRusha

    I see a positive side to social media that I never expected: community, camaraderie, support, encouragement. So yeah, while social media is work, it also provides comfort, too – and that’s a blessing I never anticipated.

  • http://www.rebastanley.com Reba

    Thank you Rachel for you post, I want to thank you personally for you comment of ‘us vs them’. I totally appreciate you not making me feel lesser of an author because I am self-published.
    This past weekend there was a guest speaker from a big well known publishing company at the writers group I attend and have for the past 4-5 yrs. This person right off the bat talked downed and spoke negatively about self-publishing. People like her is why there is a ‘us vs them’. She Made me feel bad about myself. on my way back home, I called my husband, I was so upset and feeling like a loser. He reminded me that the Lord has blessed me a lot in my writing, reminded me I have 3 books out that a lot of people have bought and have asked repeatedly when the next one will be out. He also reminded me of my readers who have contacted me and told me they enjoyed the book and could not put it down, and couldn’t wait until the next one came out. Yes, the Lord has blessed me.
    In the short time I have visited this blog you have never made me fee lesser or a writer for any reason. Thank you. You give me encouragement and teach me ways to improve my craft, sales and other needed information about this business.
    Sure which everyone in this business was more like you.

  • http://jrwhitener.com J. R. Whitener

    Regardless of the direction, regardless of the ancillary duties I see a career both fulfilling and rewarding.

  • http://publishness.blogspot.com/ Angela B

    These are the main two I see:

    I see a totally unnecessary “us vs. them” mentality when it comes to traditional publishing vs. indie or self-publishing. I see tremendous potential for many authors to take advantage of both avenues.

    I see people trying to demonize agents and other “middlemen” or gatekeepers whose role has been to facilitate the connection between writer and reader, claiming all the middlemen will be extinct.

    As someone, a novice by many standards, on the outside trying to get in, I don’t understand these two. There’s so much opportunity. Working together and maximizing the utilization of all routes available to an aspiring author seems the best way for author and agent to succeed.

  • http://www.marcykennedy.com/blog Marcy Kennedy

    I see a lot of fear and confusion over what constitutes a strong platform for a fiction author, but I also see a lot of fiction authors getting excited about making their websites a place where readers can go for the extras that already come on most DVDs for movies. For me, that’s one of the most exciting changes, and provides a way to keep readers engaged between books.

    I also see a lot of writers rushing into publication too soon simply because they can. Sometimes traditional publishing isn’t the place for a particular book, and sometimes authors chose the indie route because of the benefits it offers, but sometimes authors grow tired of the rejection and leap into self-publishing because it’s easier and quicker, not realizing that they’re simply not ready. It makes me sad to see a stellar idea put out before it’s ready.

    • Josh C.

      I have to agree, and for those authors who jump in, any damage caused may take a long time to repair, if ever. Anything put online stays there. Personally, I wouldn’t want anything I’m not at least a little proud of lurking around out there, waiting to bite me in the behind later on.

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  • Jerry Eckert

    To someone (me) with a career in making bureaucratic systems work better, what you describe is an industry in enormous flux. Change is happening so fast and on so many fronts at once that the present makes for an unsustainable disequilibrium. You, Rachelle, are a smart, savvy, experienced person in this business. How about looking into your crystal ball, take a 5-8 year perspective, and tell us what it will look like after the dust settles. What “New Normal” can we writers expect for the publishing industry.

  • http://www.changetheworldwithwords.com/ Karen

    I see extra stress, but also extra opportunities. I see more power but more responsibility. I see the happiness that comes with autonomy and the chaos that comes with having everything under your own control so you end up micro managing every aspect your career.I see authors burning out and soaring high. It’s an exciting time, as times of change always are :)

  • http://www.atlasmediaink.com Adam (@AtlasProWriter)

    Some thoughts, excerpted from a recent blog post…

    The current publishing debate is “when print publishing will officially ‘die’.” When will new books go the way of records, 8-tracks and cassette tapes? E-readers have taken the reading world by storm. Even textbooks, long the unapologetic cash cow of many publishers, are beginning to go digital. So, when will the Reaper come for the noble hardback or the paperback beach books? He won’t. In fact, I don’t foresee print dying at all. I’m betting on a long slide into “indie” status…

    Read more:
    http://atlasmediaink.com/kindle-books-–-what-comes-next/

  • http://www.melissatagg.com Melissa Tagg

    Something I see which I totally didn’t expect when I first dipped a toe into the writing world: writers supporting writers. Even more, awesome published authors reaching behind for those of us farther back on the journey – teaching, inspiring, encouraging, challenging. I love it. I don’t know if that’s true industry-wide or if it’s more of a CBA thing, but I know it’s blown me away.

  • http://einefeistyberg.wordpress.com Cherry Odelberg

    I like your thoughts. Some of them, I have thought before. Others were new and worth pondering.

  • http://einefeistyberg.wordpress.com Cherry Odelberg

    I like your thoughts. Some, I have thought before. Others are new and worth pondering. As always, it is a good reminder that changes do not necessarily mean the sky is falling and all is lost.

  • http://www.sally-apokedak.com/index.htm sally apokedak

    I see:

    1) very happy readers with Kindles full of cheap or free books.

    2) small presses scrambling to attract writers by seeking the writers out and competing by offering to make up for what they lack in advance dollars by pouring on the love and marketing.

    3) big publishers preferring debut novelists to midlist authors and small presses trying to snap up the midlist authors.

    4) PW and others getting rich on what they charge self-pubbed authors for the opportunity to be reviewed.

  • http://pibarrington.wordpress.com P.I. Barrington

    I agree on #3 of Sally’s post. Big publishing houses do seem to be focused on debut authors. I’m in the middle with a trilogy series and several novellas and short stories published by independent mid-list and small press houses and am concerned that I could be passed over for a “debut’ novelist by agents. I’m wondering if I should have skipped those presses’ credentials and just submitted my first novels directly to agents/editors. Rachelle, are agents truly leaning toward debut novelists only or do credentials still mean something?

  • http://home.primus.ca/~gmuller/ Glenn

    I’ve read numerous blogs from publishers and agents, and this is one of the best. However, the overall impression I get is that, to be published, having written one book is no longer good enough.

    The general consensus is that the first (three) books are just practice, the fourth might be the real deal, but you’d better have two (three is better) more books ready to go when you get the call.

    The blogs also state that many good manuscripts never see the light of day because (insert well-known reasons here), yet the technology companies and online retailers don’t seem to have a problem handling the surge of new (and old) material.

    I’m all for quality over quantity but I see an upheaval in the industry that has caused a tidal wave – those who want to keep the traditional ways are going to need more lifeboats in order to survive.

  • http://jackiesbackporch.blogspot.com Jackie Layton

    I’m not published yet, and I still feel pulled in different directions.

    Thanks for posting this, it’s a lot to think about. I think the main thing I’m leaving with is the most important thing is a good story.

    Jackie

  • http://blog.authorpeterdehaan.com/ Peter DeHaan

    I see opportunity!

  • http://annemartinfletcher.wordpress.com/ Anne Martin Fletcher

    I agree with everything you, P. J. Casselman, and Sandie Bricker said.

    I think we need to expand our creativity beyond the written word and figure out how to more richly communicate, taking advantage of all the new media. Authors and agents sell intellectual property, not only text. But just as Mozart’s genius lay in his musical pauses, our genius has to be in knowing the right combination of text, spoken word, video, animation, interactive game, color, black and white, and silence. Now, if only I could figure out how . . .

  • http://mediaintercept.blogspot.com/ Patrick J. Walsh

    If past is prologue, it may be instructive to consider how the periodical part of the publishing industry has evolved in the years since online publishing has become widespread.

    In the years I worked for trade magazines (as both a staffer and later, as a freelancer), I witnessed the convergence of two trends: 1) the rise of online competition to traditional media (which in many cases was “independent” in nature— an early analog to the current situation with the self-publishing of books); and 2) a concurrent trend toward acquisition and downsizing. Taken together, these two developments left many once-strong publishers unable to compete with smaller, more nimble competitors, and ultimately led to serious losses for many companies and abrupt career changes for many of those who worked in the traditional corporate environment.

    On the brighter side, the period of transition eventually led to a smarter, smaller trade press that features a healthy flow of information from both traditional and independent publishers, to the benefit of those who actually view and interact with the content.

    The similarities seem obvious in the book part of the publishing world: the sheer number of books that will be self-published will likely result over time in enough of them being successful to pose a risk to traditional publishers, who are already understandably concerned with the profitably of their current business model.

    As you note, it really does seem pretty bewildering right now, but I think in time the very best books will emerge as the ones that readers will most embrace — whether those books are published by individuals or traditional publishers. The lesson I take away is always the same, for everyone involved: writers should write as best they can, agents should shepherd the best projects forward, publishers should acquire the best books. And readers should read what they love…

    In keeping with this theme, I recently posted a short reminiscence about the early days of freelancing online that might be of interest:

    http://mediaintercept.blogspot.com/2012/04/dropping-oars-evolution-of-online.html

  • http://wolfmanbell.blogspot.com LupLun

    I’ve put some thought into the us vs. them mentality you mentioned, and it led to a guest post over at Reading and Writing Urban Fantasy. Rather than regurgitating here, I’ll just link it.

  • Mira

    I don’t like the “us vs. them”, but I understand it. People are fighting for different versions of the future, versions that conflict. And there is a lot at stake here. That understandably makes some people very scared and/or angry.

    Here’s what I imagine some of what people might be feeling:

    Many writers are very angry or hurt at how they’ve been treated and are still being treated by legacy publishing, an anger they were scared to express before, and it’s now finally coming out. Some may also be nervous about how the new ways of publishing will work out for them and their writing, and confused about which road to travel. Some may also be struggling with feelings of loyalty for publishing friends vs. a healthy self-interest.

    I’m guessing that many publishing folks are feeling unfairly accused and even betrayed. Their intentions have always been good; they work hard; they’ve been kind and helpful to authors and made their books better; so they may feel really hurt by accusations of being irrelevant. On the flip side, it also may not feel good to secretly think about the system they work for and whether it does treat writers well or not. That’s thought is likely to make some people angry or defensive. It may also bring up some feelings of powerlessness because their influence is limited, as is true of anyone not the CEO of a corporation. In addition, it is very scary to watch authors talking about leaving, which can bring up fears about their livilihood.

    Those are my guesses – I’m not other people, so I can’t know how they feel, of course, but that’s what I suspect people are grappling with. These are really strong emotions, with alot at stake.

    As for the future, I think there is a technological shift (print to e-books) that is causing a re-distribution of labor (writers), who will eventually migrate to the best working conditions (right now, Amazon, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Big Six start improving their service package for writers soon, they’d be insane not to).

    Whoever contracts with them, writers need mentors and guides, and agents are perfect for stepping into those shoes. I think, after some choas, everything will settle down and everyone will be alright.

    I do see one other thing happening, though, that I think is absolutely wonderful. I know this is a scary and painful transition for many, but I see an incredibly positive thing happenening: The writer is free of limitations and controls, something that has never occured before in the history of mankind. There has been a tremendous loss to society that writers have been unable to publish except through an extremely narrow channel. So many lost books, so many people not in a position to have a voice.

    E-books offer accessiblity and access to books that is unprecedented.

    This post is getting too long, so I’ll stop, but I can’t overstate how incredible it is that the writer is free to write and be read. And the fact that writers who contribute to society will be paid a living wage to do so, allowing them to spend all their time on writing – it just doesn’t get much better than that.

  • Mira

    Btw, Rachelle, this may be completely presumptious of me, and I’m really sorry if it is, but I see you as an extremely talented writer first, and editor/agent second. Could be wrong of course, but when I read your blog, and happened on an article you co-wrote for Addiction Professional (was that it?) that’s what I thought. Not that anyone has to be definied in a narrow box, we all have many skills, but I think you are a Writer.

    • Rachelle Gardner

      Thanks, Mira.

      Incidentally, I sometimes keep track of the other “Rachelle Gardners” in the US and one of them runs an adolescent recovery & treatment center in Indiana (hence the Addiction Professional – that’s not me). Also there’s another RG who was a well-known college basketball player and is now a college basketball coach (uhhh… that’s not me either). At one point I was able to identify 16 Rachelle Gardners via the Internet. But when you Google my name, the results are mostly me. :-)

      • Mira

        Ah, well that explains it then! :)

        But I stand by my assertion that you are a Writer. :)

  • Dean K Miller

    I see my butt in the chair, writing the best I story I can, revising, revising, revising until it’s time to set it free. Then, and only then, I’ll look at the landscape around me and make the choice that is best at that time, and not a minute sooner.

    Writing is hard enough. I don’t need any more distractions then I already have.

  • http://pagesfromstages.wordpress.com Cherie Gagnon

    What a great list! The industry is definitely changing, but I expect good things in the end for writers, publishers and agents! It’ll just take time to sort things out.

  • http://community.advanceweb.com/blogs/pt_4/default.aspx Janey Goude

    I see a literary agent with an impressive ability to see both sides of the coin.
    Thanks for this big picture analysis.

  • http://www.infinitewordpress.com Robert Michael

    Rachelle, thank you for your post. I agree that the confrontational nature of publishing is quite off-putting. As I struggled with my own writing path, I decided to come down in neither camp. I am, as most authors, looking for an opportunity to share and be rewarded. To have a symbiotic relationship with an audience through the entertainment medium of literature. The debate isn’t which method of publishing is best, but which is the best fit for each individual author.

    Each avenue of publishing has its merit and appeal to authors. Each reaches an audience (although in arguably varying degrees of success). As long as all things are equal (quality of writing, story, cover art, distribution channels), the end user, the almighty and hallowed “Reader,” notices no difference between a small press, a large press or self-pressed book.

    In the end, it is up to the author to determine the team. Agent, Editor, Publisher and Marketing? Or go it alone with the help of a single source retailer with a wide distribution channel and a little help from your friends?

    I see the landscape changing so that all involved will need to adapt. Agents will continue to fulfill their roles as usual. Your existing clients will require you to work for them in different ways and new clients will always be interested in your classic services.

    But, the future holds possibly a need for a different skill set, either from a branch of the agency or from yet another hat that an agent must wear. It is not too big of leap, I think, to see agents offering their proposal packaging/preliminary editing/preliminary marketing strategies as a stand-alone service (a la carte) to self-published authors as a way to add value and publishing expertise to their work.

    The vilainization of Amazon, or of the Big 6 is a divisive way of propping up one’s own agenda. Those of us in the middle, those of us on the outside (budding “newbies,” classic wallflowers, long-time procrastinators, undiscovered gems)see this struggle as needless. If the gates to traditional (legacy) publishing open to us and are advantageous to us, then we will enter that domain. If it remains closed, we will enter the one that requires of us a larger toll, but greater potential reward. It isn’t a conflict, it shouldn’t be “us vs. them.” It’s merely a question of “which fits.”

    In the end, we want published. Simple as that. We want to have a good book that people enjoy, tell a yarn that tickles someone’s fancy. And we want to be rewarded. Sometimes, the book with our name attached is that reward. How we get there shouldn’t matter: publishing is its own reward, a victory, an achievement. Rejoice and be happy.

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  • http://www.scaredecat.com J.Perrino

    This is such an interesting discussion. What’s funny is that this is the same discussion (more or less) that’s been going on at every writer’s conference I’ve been to in the last three years or so.

    I’m learning one important feat: limit the amount of time I spend “marketing” otherwise it will eat up all the time that should be spent writing and editing.

  • http://jameshnicholson.com James H. Nicholson

    You nailed it! The clearest insight and perspective on writing’s present and uncertain future that I have read.
    James

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