What’s Changed and What Hasn’t

transformationI began this blog in January of 2008 when I became an agent, and it’s remarkable to look back over my past posts with an eye toward how much has changed in that brief 4 ½ years. When I started, I didn’t even have a Kindle. Now I’m on my third one, and I couldn’t imagine being in this business without one.

I wrote posts back then about how there was a stigma to self-publishing and I warned writers against it— if they wanted to be taken seriously. Now self-publishing is THE great new frontier for writers.

I wrote about how e-books were a minuscule percentage of any author’s total books sold.

I was not even on Twitter until a year after I started the blog (January, 2009). Facebook and Twitter were still optional and sort of curiosities.

What else has changed in the book business?

  • The closing of Borders was an epic blow to the industry, and many independents have closed as well.
  • Walmart and the big-box stores continued their rise and dominance in non-internet retail.
  • Amazon became the proverbial 600-pound gorilla in book retailing (600-pound gorilla doesn’t even begin to capture it); made it possible for self-published authors to compete with publishers; and began competing directly with publishers by starting to “traditionally” publish themselves.
  • Several small publishers went out of business; even larger publishers are at risk with the bankruptcy filing of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt last month.
  • E-books continue to grow in terms of their proportion of overall book sales, and the percentage of people owning e-readers keeps rising dramatically.
  • The popularity of the  iPad vastly increased the number of people buying e-books. 
  • The price of books became a huge issue as the low cost of self-published e-books and low publisher promotional prices began to affect consumers’ willingness to pay full-price for books.
  • An ideological war seems to have broken out between some proponents of self-publishing and those who still advocate for traditional publishing. 
  • Writers are expected to use every avenue of social media to promote their own books.

What hasn’t changed?

Pretty much everything about being a writer.  Writing books is the same as it ever was. You still have to spend the time in the chair. You still have to figure out how to balance writing with the rest of your life. You still have writer-insecurities and desperate craving for affirmation. You still have to study the craft and write and write and write to become any good at it.

What other changes have you noticed over the last few years? As a writer, how much does it matter to you?



  1. In addition to the many things already mentioned, people’s values have changed, and not always for the better. It seems that so often in our society, when some- thing is accomplished, something not-so-good comes after it. All we can do is pray
    the good will outweigh the bad, and try to keep our end where it needs to be.

  2. I’m not speaking from past experience, but from a learning perspective. Thank you for this post–it is very helpful! I am an aspiring author–have not published a book ye–and for the first time in my life I am dedicated to writing daily, almost full time! The ideas are endless, but I’m tackling the projects with great focus so that helps! An author friend of mine told me to follow your blog and learn, so that is what I am doing. Another author friend suggested I self publish, because I love to market, and he feels I would do much better than to go with traditional publishing. This post is very helpful on that front. I still had some of the leftover stigma from the past playing in my mind. You’ve helped eliminate that. 🙂 Thank you!

  3. If I can remember right, the change came when Amazon brought out the Kindle if anyone else can remember that? For years, publishing houses looked down on ebooks. I started out with a children’s ebook back in oh gosh let’s see…I think 2004. Back then the only thing you could do to sell ebooks was to promote the hell out of it and it still didn’t sell. I looked into self-publishing my own ebook ironically on promoting and publishing your own ebook and that’s when I discovered virtual book tours, etc. VBTs were new back then as well. When I published my own info-ebook, there was no Kindle. There was no Kindle store. What happened later is Amazon brought out the Kindle and made it very affordable. You gotta admit that was the smartest move Amazon ever made. And that’s what you need to do with your books. Make it something everyone would like to have and make it affordable.

  4. One big change I’ve noticed is in the number of book deals. A few years ago when I started reading blogs and then blogging, if a writer signed with an agent a book deal was a sure thing, usually within a couple months. That’s why landing an agent was such a big deal.

    And now? It’s not as big a deal, still a huge hurdle though, because the book deal is no longer a guarantee and it might not come for several years if it comes at all. Maybe it’s because new agents pop onto the scene every month or maybe because there are less book deals to go around. That I don’t know.

  5. Peter DeHaan says:

    So far, good content still prevails.

  6. Peter DeHaan says:

    So far, good content still prevails.

  7. Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts says:

    By the way, Rachelle, I forgot to say welcome back. I hope that your weekend adventure went well. 🙂

  8. Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts says:

    By the way, Rachelle, I forgot to say welcome back. I hope that your weekend adventure went well. 🙂

  9. I’ve become quite amazed at the amount of people who have decided that perhaps writing a book is more possible than it used to be. Courage to try new things seems to have accompanied new things being tried. If someone doesn’t want to be found out, as they type and type into the wee hours of the morning, a computer keyboard has silenced the clack-clack-clack of a typewriter. Bravery is so much easier of one can remain hidden from mocking ears.
    Many of the self-help gurus so popular in the late ’90’s and early 2000’s unleashed the “why can’t I?” in many people.
    SO many people have said “I’d love to write a book”. Instead of dreaming the dream, many are living it and learning more about themselves along the way.

  10. Kim Kasch says:

    4 years….OMG…seriously? It can’t be that long…time flies…

    Writing is the same for me. I write, I read, I write some more. Oh yeah and somewhere in there I try to squeeze life in…like I said time flies.

  11. Jennifer says:

    I am both encouraged and overwhelmed by the changes in the publishing
    landscape. I appreciated your words regarding what has not changed for
    writers and feel affirmed. Thank you!

  12. I’ve been reading posts and have thoroughly enjoyed the conversations. E-mail submissions created something great and something horrible. It’s great to see the industry more green and the ease of putting a package together. The ease is part of the horrible, however, because agents are now spammed as authors go through a list, cut and paste their queries with a couple of personal changes at the top.
    When an author had to create a package and mail it in, they thought more about making copies, paying postage, and developing a professional approach to agent. The flood of spam keeps agents swamped with mundane material and by the time they get to a good one, the human ones are glassy-eyed.

  13. Jill says:

    I started blogging in 2009, and I’ve been reading your blog since 2009, as well. It’s hard to believe it’s been 3 yrs. For me, nothing has changed that much, except that I’m more confident as a writer. That’s a tough one. Rejections still smart, and personal connections still bring hope and help.

  14. Timothy Fish says:

    I published my first book shortly before you became an agent. The thing I’ve noticed is the change in momentum of self-publishing. At that time, most of the people who were involved in self-publishing were self-publishing purists. To step off into self-publishing was an uphill battle, but most of the people who chose that route welcomed the challenge. These days, it feels more like self-publishing is the downhill route and we’re trying to slow our decent with the rush of authors pushing at our backs.

    It seems to me that we’ve moved from self-published authors who knew what to expect but welcomed the challenge to a predominance of authors who are jumping into self-publishing with unrealistic expectations.

    • Hi Timothy

      Since I am still in limbo, but leaning toward self publishing, what words of wisdom do you have as far as going in with realistic expectations? (I read somewhere today that anyone who leaves a cup at the end of a meeting, expecting someone else to pick it up, should not venture into anything that requires hard work. I take care of my own cup! 😉 I think I can handle the hard work!) I’d love to hear your thoughts!

  15. I hate to bring up the self-pub versus traditional pub subject because it does step on so many nerves, but it is an important issue. I’ve mentioned before my reasons for wanting to be published the traditional way, so I won’t repeat them now. Certainly there are many good reasons for self-publishing, and in all honesty, I find it tempting. The fact that self-publishing has become not only acceptable but a reality to be reckoned with is both good for writers, but not necessarily good for the future of writing. (Don’t scream. This is meant as a concern, not a criticism).

    It’s good for writers in many ways, not the least of which is that the traditional publishers have competition. This means that excellent writers may become a sought after commodity.

    My concern in regards to the mushrooming popularity of self-publishing is along the lines of Mark Williams’ comment about how not-ready-for-publication books are “tainting the many excellent self-published books” that are on the market.
    So anyone with enough capital can be a published author, even if his / her writing is mediocre. While brilliant writing SHOULD be what drives books sales, realistically publicity and well-crafted promotion often is what gets readers to buy a book. (Think 50 Shades of Grey). Yes, negative word of mouth may slow a book’s momentum, but the damage has already been done. If enough poorly written, poorly edited books are sold, readers may become desensitized to mediocre work. Think how much the standard of journalism has decreased since cable news came into being. When was the last time you saw a Walter Cronkite or an Edward R. Murrow?

    There also is a downside for writers. Self-publishing is not new. It’s been around for decades. What’s new is the dramatically improved ability to market a self-published book (via Amazon, for instance). This means more books on the market. While competition can be good, as everyone knows, supply and demand is key to determining price points and to a product’s chances of selling. So while the rise of self-publishing has made it easier for writers to be published, it may make it harder for their books to get sold.

    Of course this goes back to promotion, which more and more is the work of the author. So have you check your Klout today?

    • Hi Christine, I also don’t want to start an argument about self-publishing. Living on a boat, I have a Kindle. I’ve been surprised and appalled at how many ‘publisher-published’ eBooks are so badly formatted and badly proof-read. It’s not just the individual ‘publishers’ that are guilty of this. I wonder if we just didn’t notice all the ‘typos’ before eBooks?

      On your point about pricing right now, and of course it may change, the ‘800lb gorilla’ is paying out a much higher percentage in royalties than any publisher I’m aware of, so all in all the net difference to a mid-list author is probably zero, if you take the view that a publishing house will sell more books than you could. I’m beginning to be unsure of this, although I previously thought that a publishing house must be more successful at marketing than an individual.

      I have several manuscripts with an agent and have just signed a contract with an illustrator to share royalties on a childrens book I’ve written, also being handled by the agent. So you would think that I’m committed to a ‘traditional route’. I’m beginning, slightly reluctantly, to change my mind. My agent is a lovely lady, full of encouragement and works hard for her percentage in terms of proof-reading and editorial suggestions, but she can’t force a publisher to take on a manuscript no matter how worthy she thinks it may be.

      What I’ve done is to take a look at the ‘instant sales/royalties’ (if any of course) of self publishing against the looong wait involved in going the traditional route, but with the possibility of a sales advance from a publishing house. I don’t know for sure, but I reckon a new author would be lucky to get an advance of say US$3K. Basing my figures roughly on what a friend is achieving through self-publishing, in broad terms my agent has about three years to sell a m/s and get me a modest advance before it makes no financial sense to go the traditional route. That’s not allowing for the possibility that in the three years sales of a book rise. One thing about eBooks is they remain ‘on the shelf’ indefinitely.

      So to get a bit more ‘on topic’ what’s changed? I think the biggest thing that nobody has mentioned so far is the trend for self-publishes to produce three of four (or more!) books a year. I can’t help thinking that quality of writing must suffer. I’m in the throes of writing a book specifically for self ePublishing and the research/writing is taking as long as my other works, even though I’ve decided to produce a novella rather than a full-length 150K word novel.

      • Peter,

        Thank you for sharing insights from your experience. You bring up an important point about how long the traditional route takes–and that’s IF a writer is accepted by an agent and a publisher. Self-publishing is a much shorter road to publication. That’s part of what tempts me to it. If I went the self-publishing route, though, I would have to get a deluxe package–pay to have an editor, a distributor and a publicist. That’s the side of traditional publishing that appeals to me: having a team of professionals preparing the manuscript for market. I’m acutely aware of my weaknesses and limitations.

        Congratulations on the deal with the illustrator. I hope all goes well with your children’s book. 🙂

  16. E.Arroyo says:

    You’re right. At ground zero nothing has changed. We still strive to write great stories.

  17. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser says:

    One thing that does seem to have changed is ‘attention span’ of potential readers, and I guess sociologists have laid this at the doorstep of the technology itself, and the exponential increase in ‘choices’ we have.

    I used to teach in a college, and noticed that it became harder to keep kids engaged through the length of a class, over a period of ten years (2001-2011).

    From what I’ve seen, there seems to be more emphasis on banging into the action straight away – any character development or scene-setting in the first pages is a big no-no.

    One nice thing, Rachelle – you don’t seem to have changed in that you genuinely care about the people who read your blog. Technology’s put a lot more demands on your time – and you’re still here. As we say in Texas, “We sure appreciate y’all!”

  18. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser says:

    I pretty much just write, and adapt to the changes as needs be.

    It just doesn’t seem like all that big a deal. It’s technology; change happens. Get used to it.

  19. Joe Pote says:

    I’m reminded of the old adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

    All the major changes in the publishing industry seem to underscore the changlessness of writing itself.

  20. Cynthia says:

    Having lived both before an after the internet age, all these changes would not have been possible without it. My daughter just told me of a bridal store that cuts out all the tags on the dresses (women try on samples apparently and then the actual dress they choose is altered to fit). This is to prevent people from finding a dress they like and ordering it cheaper on-line.

    But then she went on to tell me that there is a website that can find a style based on a photo (that you presumably took with your phone)

    At some point I have to wonder if book stores and bridal stores with all the expenses of a physical store will cease to exist.

  21. Colin says:

    I recently read Janet Evanovich’s book HOW I WRITE, written in 2005, published in 2006. While reading, I couldn’t help but note a couple of things she said that have certainly changed:

    1) She discourages writers from emailing query letters. Apparently, agents want well-formatted queries on good quality paper stock.

    2) She says that when a writer secures a book deal, s/he should focus on writing the next novel, and not worry about promotion. I’m paraphrasing a little, but she essentially says that’s the job of the publisher.

    How much has changed in a mere 7 years! And I daresay much of this change has come about over the last 2 or 3 years.

  22. David Todd says:

    Actually, something has changed about being a writer: ease of research. I’m thinking more of the last ten years, but even over just the last four I’ve seen a change. We can now do a lot of research over the Internet. Google Earth makes it possible to “go” places we never dreamed of. I’ve “walked” the streets my great-grandparents lived in Yorkshire, and will someday work that into a book. It’s unlikely I’ll ever set foot in Yorkshire in real life.

    Through historical documents on-line, I’ve been able to research history without leaving my home. Years ago I’d have had to go to a library, use inter-library loan, and even travel to big city libraries for certain reference material. Now, I can do almost all of that on-line.

    • Joe Pote says:

      Good point, David.

      Even for biblical research, I now use mostly on-line tools, rather than my old trusted hard-copy concordances, lexicons, commentaries, and multiple translations.

    • Yes. This is the truth!
      Also, the laptop and e-submission make it so much easier than carbons, how much postage for 7 to 10 pages, etc.

      Still, I love Rachelle’s confirmation and affirmation, “You still have to spend the time in the chair (this, too is arguable). You still have to figure out how to balance writing with the rest of your life. You still have writer-insecurities and desperate craving for affirmation. You still have to study the craft and write and write and write to become any good at it.”

    • Very true, David. I do almost all of my research online now. It’s gotten to the point where I am surprised when I can’t find out about by googling it. And Google Earth — what an amazing invention! I’ve taken several virtual tours lately of places that I doubt I will ever be able to travel to. It certainly helps with writing settings. I can spend time examining a street or neighborhood in a way that I wouldn’t be able to do in person. Because of the way our society has changed in recent decades, if I were to sit and study a street or building the way I do with Google Earth, I might get picked up for loitering or be suspected of casing the place!

  23. Two things I would like to hear more from you on, Rachelle:

    1. Many of the most established, traditional publishing houses failed to see the turn coming ahead. Now that they’ve gone off the road, what are they planning to change in order to insure their future?

    2. Your sense of the future for both traditional publishers and writers with regard to this accelerating “ideological war”. Some of the traditionalist writers, publishers, reviewers, and agents are so threatening that some writers may fear to self publish.

    Thanks for your insights and good advice.

    • James, I’ll be covering these topics in posts ahead. But to briefly address #1 — I doubt anyone in publishing really failed to see this coming. The issue (which I addressed in my Kodak posts) is whether companies that large and entrenched are able to turn their ships quickly enough to avoid sinking. The jury’s still out on that.

  24. I’m reminded of the recurring scene in the spoof movie, Airplane, where the harried Air Traffic Controller says, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up smoking (or drinking or…).” I’m fortunate to be in the position where I find myself, but there are times when I think, “Looks like I picked the wrong era to try to try my hand at writing.”
    Thanks for what you do for all writers, at whatever stage of their career. Many of us–and I’m in the front row of that group–would be lost without your insights.

  25. Else says:

    What do you think about Goodreads? I haven’t really explored it doesn’t load well on my computer, but it seems to be a pretty major force as well.

  26. When considering the changes in the industry I am left curious as to what the tipping point will be. When I am searching for a book and I can buy it from:

    A bookstore for $25
    Amazon for $15
    Another independent online seller for $10
    As an ebook for $2

    That is, of course, a HUGE disparity in price. The old argument is that each price point serves a particular market…but, if market determines price…exactly who is paying full price? Folks who don’t trust online credit card processing?

    While I am a huge proponent of Indie bookstores and small shops in general, and I shop there when I can, with most authors now being forced by the market to publish at least 1 (but more like 2) books a year, why would a reader pay “cover price.”

    I can’t think of another product that is still trying this. Sure music production is still marketing CDs, but last time I was in Best Buy I think I saw a tumbleweed blow through the CD section.

    How much longer until the entire stock of brick and mortar stores consists of paperbacks? And how long, after that, will it take to see those prices drop by half online.

    • This makes me sad, as a reader even more so than as a writer. I know that I am old-fashioned, but I love to browse in bookshops (I buy too). As a reader, I prefer to hold an actual book in my hands and turn the pages. I’ve read on a Kindle, but I haven’t bought one yet because I really prefer to read a print book. Above, I said “thank heaven for technology,” and I meant it, but this is one aspect of it that I don’t relish.

      I realize, Adam, that your point was about price points, but the image of the erstwhile brick and mortar bookstore is another change in the industry and one that I grieve.

      • Christine…

        I hear ya. Some of my favorite places are local bookshops. Haslams in St. Pete, Book Shop in Vero Beach…etc. But I don’t believe these places will die…some might, but others will evolve. There’s a bookstore near Harvard that is printing on demand in store. Other shops, like Haslams and VB Book Shop have expended their used and out of print sections.

        I, too, do not own a kindle. I spend enough time looking at a computer screen, so at this point, at least, I neither need nor want another gadget. That’s not to say I don’t see the value, both monetary and intrinsic, in eReaders. I have written countless nonfic eBooks and have started converting these for various virtual devices for clients…but I just prefer the physical experience of turning pages…even the visceral, bittersweet “thrill” of getting to the tipping point – seeing fewer pages ahead than behind and knowing the shared reading experience will soon be over but realizing, as the climax approaches, that the best is yet to come.

        And I prefer the service and heartfelt hospitality experienced in most independent bookstores. Reading groups, giant cakes at author signings…an entire culture of connection because of shared stories. Something very ancient and, I believe, necessary for humanity.

        • Sounds like you and I are kindred spirits, Adam.

          I agree that e-readers are valuable and I certainly am not sorry that they have come into existence. It’s obvious, though, that you get my love of bookstores and the joy of holding and reading a print book. I hope that you’re right that bookstores will just evolve, not die. The bookstore near Harvard sounds like it has wise owners.

          “…an entire culture of connection because of shared stories.” I love that! And how true. An online book signing just wouldn’t be the same, would it? Seriously, you mentioned this being something ancient and necessary for humanity. I agree. Storytelling is a part of being human. All of us, writers or not, need to tell and share our stories, both the personal and the communal ones. And storytelling is a communal activity. We can connect to some degree online, as you and I are doing, but since we are physical as well as intellectual beings, technology cannot replace the experience of meeting someone face to face and encountering “heartfelt hospitality.”

  27. What I have noticed, both as a writer and a former Borders employee for over five years, is that even though the mode of reading a book is has been changing, the world still seems to really enjoy reading. I was amazed to see at the lowest points in the recession, there would still be people buying lots of books, because we all still love to read, and will willingly sacrifice other life enjoyments for this.

    It’s good news for us writers!

  28. When I started out, all the open slots went to published writers–publishers took on maybe one or two debut authors a year, it seemed. Now we see debut after debut, after debut. And sometimes that debut author this year, comes back next year, with book 2, and sometimes you never hear from them again. I think it’s a great time to be unpublished, but if you want to break in, you have to break in with a big book, or you won’t get a second chance.

    Maybe I’m overstating a little.

  29. Sarah Thomas says:

    Connections! I’m able to connect with favorite authors in a way I never imagined possible. I’ve had the opportunity to digitally “meet” some amazing writers who are incredibly generous with their time and advice. It’s fabulous and so, so helpful.

  30. I think nothing has changed about being a writer. But plenty has changed about being a published author.

    • I agree. As Larry Donner says: “A writer writes…always.”

      But, today, an AUTHOR…

      Writes. Edits. Blogs. Markets. Tours. Connects. Presses flesh. Kisses babies. Teaches seminars. Sits on discussion panels. Jets across the country. Signs in tiny bookshops and local arenas. Visits schools…there is an aspect of the political in today’s author game. A VERY interesting evolution.

      I wonder how Salinger would have handled building a platform?

  31. I like the fact that the writing itself hasn’t changed; however, it does seem to be more difficult to get noticed, since there are so many people online and so many self-pubbed books published. That can be discouraging, but it should make us want to be better writers all the more.

  32. As time goes by I’m learning to appreciate what hasn’t changed more and more and to become flexible in regards to all that has changed.
    ~ Wendy

  33. I think accessibility in general is a huge change. As a commenter noted above, writers can communicate with agents/editors or at least read their posts and Tweets now. Back in 2006, an agent tried to market a book of mine and it was all done through the US Post. Now, with my first book coming out next year, the world is wide open. Also: readers have more power now. Everyone can be a critic and help to bolster a writer’s career, thanks to book blogs and Goodreads.

    • This is so true – I should have mentioned it! For the first time ever, writers have virtually unlimited access to what used to be “insider information” about all aspects of publishing. If writers avail themselves of the resources, publishing can no longer be considered “mysterious.”

    • Well said, Claire. I had the same thought.

    • Great points. And speaking of the US Post, it’s wonderful to be able to submit manuscripts via email. I remember the days of sending short stories around to magazines. It was a costly, not to mention cumbersome, venture. Now the majority of markets accept manuscripts electronically (most won’t accept anything sent snail mail). It’s made the process much easier and certainly less expensive. Thank heaven for technology!

  34. Stephanie M. says:

    What I love about being a writer and “progress” is that it has no impact on my bottom line. At the end of the day I’m still a poor schmuck banging out words on my laptop. And by being that poor schmuck I join a community of people who have been doing this, agonizing over this, writing, sweating, yelling, plotting, walking away, walking back, through the ages. And that alone is enough to keep doing it 🙂

  35. Roxanne says:

    As an aspiring author it has been fascinating to witness the changes in the publishing industry.

    Many of us who’d initially felt it was traditional publisher or bust are now open to the possibility of self-publishing or working with a straight-to-digital publisher.

  36. We live in exciting times.

  37. Catherine Hudson says:

    I’ve noticed a building in pressure – it feels like there is never enough time to learn it all and be ready to meet with the right answers when faced with the publishing industry (or agents – you are scary beings you know 😉

    And still we must be writing, writing, writing.
    Speaking of, I’d better go do some…

  38. Thanks, Rachelle, for an excellent summing up of the major changes – to which I’d add Mark Williams comments about the expansion of genres and formats made possible by the digital revolution.

    I would also like to add that a new frontier is opening: the whole world, from Europe to Asia (even Africa, what do you say Mark?) is turning digital. Of course, markets like India are huge even for English – but it’s the translation market that is really ready to take off.

    • Digital will eventually transform education and reading in the “Third World”, Claude, making book distribution possible at almost zero cost in even the most remote villages.

      I’m currently involved in helping rewrite West African text books for digital, but until device prices come down or pre-owned equipment finds its way here then this will be a slow process. When you live on a dollar a day even a 99c ebook is beyond your means.

      There are some projects bringing over dedicated e-readers like the Kindle, but this misses an opportunity. Most text books cannot be read on the early Kindles, and with tablet prices plummeting the future of Third World development will be with solar-powered tablets and smart-phones, not near obsolete e-readers. India leads the way.

      For international ebook sales the future lies with companies like Kobo, so long as Amazon continue to impose surcharges on ebook deliveries to non-Kindle countries (that 99c ebook will cost $2.99 if you live in the wrong country) and to block many countries completely (here in The Gambia I cannot buy my, your or anyone else’s ebook from Amazon).

      • It’s interesting what you say about Amazon and Kobo, Mark. So far I’m only on Amazon because I haven’t figured out how to upload my books on other platforms though I’ll try Kobo as soon as it comes on (by end June, I understand) because I’ve got this new novel, A Hook in the Sky, ready to go…

        But I’m curious, can textbooks be read on smartphones? And how do you see such textbooks in the African context: is it education for adults, eg. for women to learn to balance their budget? I know a lot of women are marketing their produce directly but then don’t know how to keep the accounts. Is that – I mean education in rural areas – the work you do in the Gambia when you’re not into fiction writing?

        • Few girls are educated on the continent (when you can only afford to pay school fees for some children you choose the boys as they are more likely to be earners later, and will support their parents in old age) so reading for any purpose if often not an option for working-age women currently. But teaching basic business economics is crucial.

          On getting ebooks onto other platforms, I think few Americans realise B&N is off-limits to the rest of the world except through aggregators services.

          Claude, we offer a service that can get your ebooks into the “indie-unfriendly” stores like Apple and Kobo (soon to be “friendly”), and many of the up-and-coming non-US stores like the UK’s Waterstone’s, Foyles, Tesco, etc, and other stores intenationally. We can also get non-Americans into B&N. Drop me a line for further info.

  39. One of the biggest positive changes is that writers can write and sell what was previously commercially unviable. Short stories, novellas, niche genres, genres the big publishers said were dead, genres the big publishers didn’t know existed.

    One of the biggest negatives relates to the ideological wars you mention.

    Impressionable and inexperienced wannabe writers hang on the every word of celebrity self-publishers (who built their reputation and fan base through the same trad publishers they now demonize) and are encouraged to self-publish work that isn’t ready, tainting the many excellent self-published works out there.

    • I absolutely agree. The list of what it’s possible to write and see brought to life these days is endless, and now includes multi-author series, web-enhanced books, even webisodes… It’s mind-boggling. And a bit exhausting, but still – great fun.

      • Multi-author series is something we’re very much into, Laura. Apart from being a writing duo in our own right we are also working on several three-author projects and one-four-author YA series, with ambitions for much bigger collaborations in 2013.

        With so many opportunities it seems crazy that some people are determined still to see publishing as a them-and-us divide instead of savouring the best of both worlds.

        • But, Mark, how much of the “us against them” do you think is real and how much is hyped to keep the story alive? I mean, obviously, there are zealots in either camp, but for me at least, there is no divide.

          In my writers group, at my local chapter of Sisters in Crime, and among my writing friends, we’re all just happy to be playing in whatever sandbox we’re in and looking over to see how much fun the other one might be as well.

          PS: I can’t blame the self-publishing enthusiasts for all the junk out there. I’ve worked with TV and screenwriters for years, and some people just want to be done. I know one guy who doesn’t have a career, not because he can’t write, but because he won’t put in the extra effort to make his specs special. He convinces himself they’re good enough and won’t listen to anyone who says otherwise. How much advice is out there begging people to get professionally edited? Some people won’t listen. And the technology makes it possible to skate through without an honest opinion ever reaching one’s ears…

    • Mark, you wrote, “genres the big publishers didn’t know existed.”

      On the contrary, those are genres the big publishers nurtured, developed and published for decades.

      It’s only when the economics of publishing changed so drastically and it became impossible to sustain, that many of those niche-genres were dropped, and left to the independent literary houses.

      To criticize traditional publishing as if the entire system has always eschewed those genres is to ignore the entire history of publishing. Those genres wouldn’t exist if the major publishers hadn’t embraced them.

    • Diana Stevan says:

      Great post! Thank you. What I find most challenging, in terms of the difference today, is navigating through all the blogs and other writer information out there. There are a lot of minefields. I don’t want to get caught up in any negative wars between self-publishers, traditional ones, Amazon, etc. etc. etc.

  40. Bonnee says:

    I’m still too new to the whole idea to know any differences aside for the whole e-reader, self-pub, e-pub stuff. I’m not even really in the industry yet, so I’m not feeling any of the effects of anything :p

  41. One thing I think is awesome, as a writer who also started blogging in early 2009, is the connections between industry insiders and aspiring authors. There was a lot of distance and mystery regarding the publishing process. Now wanna-be authors can get the real scoop from agents and editors on a daily basis.

    I also like that agents are more vocal and supportive author advocates for self publishing. We all feel better when a book is just so good it needs to be published – can be. Maybe the sales will be small for a while, but the book is available to find its audience, someday.

    For me, as a writer, the biggest plus of electronic publishing is the unlimited shelf-life. The days of success-or-failure within 30 days is no longer the ax hanging over the head of the author. No longer do we have to fear the cover of our book will be ripped off and returned for credit.

    • carol brill says:

      I absolutely agree with Terri’s comment “the connections between industry insiders and aspiring authors…Now wanna-be authors can get the real scoop from agents and editors on a daily basis”

      A win for both agents/editors and writers.

  42. Hi Rachel, I’ve noticed there’s more pressure on the traditionally published authors than ever before. If they don’t make their quota, they’re dead meat in the publisher’s eyes. The last few years I’ve noticed there’s a huge interest in DIY books – another name for self-published. And I’ve noticed authors are making more off their books than ever before – thanks to ebooks. Now is the best time to get that book out there!

  43. I’d say there’s been a real shift in how agents are relating to queries.

    When I first queried in late 2009 with a VERY novice manuscript and only marginal professionalism, I got a lot of full requests, and agent feedback on all full requests and most of the partials.

    Last year, with vastly superior writing (relatively) a much tighter query and a great deal more professionalism, my hit rate dropped ten percent, and only ONE full request got feedback.

    I don’t think this is because agents don’t want to help, I think it’s just a mark of how much tighter time and money have become.

  44. Rachelle says:

    Oh yes – Pinterest. Goodreads. LinkedIn. Google+

    Am I forgetting any???

    • Lanny says:

      I don’t think you mentioned Smashwords for digital publishing or CreateSpace for self-publishing via print.

  45. Beth K. Vogt says:

    Thanks for sharing your perspective, Rachelle. I shall forever see Amazon as a 600-pound gorilla.
    Pinterest — who knew? Still haven’t tackled that as a writer, despite hearing how beneficial it is.

    • Beth, I haven’t jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon yet either. I’m not sure where I’d fit it into my day, though I must admit…I’m seeing it in a bit of a different light than I once was.

      You go first. Then maybe I’ll join you. 🙂

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