The Writers Have Left the Building
Writers may now begin to inform the publishing industry. Do we want to do that?
Writers who have stabilized their income through digital publishing can start telling publishers and the pool of professionals contained in that industry how to work with writers. We can ask for what we want.
As part of that new conversation, we can feed back what we are learning about our readers and how to engage them. How to keep readers and writers happy.
It’s really different to say what you want when you’ve got what you need.
Writers are in the driver’s seat now. And the roads aren’t particularly friendly toward the old school.
Publishers, blinded by self-serving ignorance and hobbled by greed, have made few friends of writers in recent decades. There’s a big dollop of hostility on the publishing pie as the world seems to turn its back on the traditions of the industry. The last few months have seen stories of publishers holding white-fisted to the rules they think still apply, like preventing authors from playing in digital publishing on their own.
Publishers seem to be turning out their own lights, going dreadfully stupid while writers get smarter by the hour.
What’s happened in the last months — we can barely call it years — is that writers have figured out how to live without publishers. I’ve been a self publishing advocate since the 80s, drinking from the fountain of Dan Poynter from his very first book. It’s not new to me. The opportunities now presenting are quite different from anything that came before. The biggest difference was mentioned in Sunday’s New York Times article on Amazon’s newest blow to publishers, “…only one relationship matters now: The one between writers and readers.”
Writers are in control now as long as they realize that readers are in control.
What am I proposing? That we abide by the 21st century mandate: Collaborate. Recognize interdependence and value all the players from a position of self-realization.
What do we have to gain? The best of what publishing can bring to the table. Brilliant editors, agents, forms of distribution and marketing. Recognition. Even as writers discover these are all available outside the “industry,” I see value in the bank of accomplishments, the deep understanding of book design and reader experience, still alive in the remains of the publishing nest.
As a writer who loves self publishing, I’ve worked hard to put my best-edited work up on Kindle. I am turning a profit, unlike the results of my traditionally published print book. I see this as a thrilling time to be a writer — probably the best time ever. But I also love print and I think it warrants a special place in our future. I think it can be valued for what it is: a sensory, artful form of delivering pages. Publishers might want to be involved in that. Writers might find more satisfying success by collaborating with talented professionals who once rode elevators to their offices.
Amazon’s recent actions to publish authors directly threw a real skull-crusher to the traditional publishing industry. Authors should beware, though, as Amazon’s tremendous service to authors can easily take a dark turn. Their focus on “end-to-end” publishing starting with “development of the writing” makes me feel like a cloud just blocked the sun on a cold day. But I see where they get the idea: That’s what traditional publishers did once upon a time. Could writers advocate for great editors and designers for their Amazon books? We don’t want Amazon to be the next Decider, now, do we?
That’s another reason why I think we should invite all the players, old and new, to the dance. Let’s keep looking at how we can two-step together for mutual benefit.
What might writers tell publishers?
It’s the giant neon sign of modern living: What has been unsustainable is now ceasing to exist. That’s just math. What innovative collaboration rises in its wake, however, is up to us.