When bestselling author Seth Godin dumped his publisher a few weeks ago and announced he'll be bringing his books and products direct to audience from now on, it set off a series of blog posts and articles about the death of publishing. Those who made the pronouncement admitted to using the headline more for attention than anything else, but the consensus was that publishers should be very afraid.
Of course, those posts inspired a host of "we still need publishers" posts and articles. So who is right? Is publishing dead or alive?
I say "Publishing is Born Again!" I like the idea of being a Born-Again Author: it has a nice ring. Being a born-again author in the born-again publishing world enables me to bring the best of the traditional publishing to a new, improved model. And I prefer to think of this time as a metamorphosis--like a butterfly emerging changed after being restricted within a cocoon.
I prefer this metaphor to that of a phoenix rising from the ashes because I don't believe everything from the traditional publishing system of the past 100 years deserves to be set aflame. No book burnings necessary!
And, btw, Godin is not the first bestselling author to venture into new territory, paving the way for lesser-known writers who feel the same need for emancipation. Earlier this year, Stephen Covey made a radical move to publish exclusively with Amazon.
And, JA Konrath has sparked a movement among published authors with a backlist of unpublished titles to publish their work digitally. The result? The self-published digital titles priced at $1.99 to $2.99 bring in more royalties than their books with their publishers do or ever did. Konrath announced he'd be self-publishing through Amazon from now on, too.
The truth is, however, that most authors (indie or not) are not going to rock the publishing world by making these "blasphemous" statements. No publishing house has shaken in its boots yet when indie authors went solo. Yet, clearly the numbers are starting to add up. 2009 was the first year ever to see more new self-pubbed titles than traditionally published.
The Writer Magazine has pitched its tent in the self-publishing area, sponsoring the pre-BEA writers conference which this year was a self-publishing event, rather than the Writers Digest "pitch an agent" fest of previous years. The Writer is also sponsoring the 2nd annual Self-Publishing Expo in October 2010.
The movement has started and writers needs to wake up and stop worrying about if publishing is dying or not. That's hardly the issue for us. Let the business analysts crunch the numbers and dull their pencil points. We've got books to publish.
For new and aspiring authors, what is important is how to prepare and succeed in the new environment. Good, bad, dead or alive--this is what we got. Seth Godin, Stephen Covey, JA Konrath and the others can do what they do because they are experienced in the publishing process. They know how to put together a good manuscript from an inspired idea, work with editors, produce the material in a form their audience will consume, and promote themselves using the tools available on the Internet today. They are not throwing away all their hard-earned, valuable knowledge of the publishing process, just adjusting the delivery system.
You can do what they do, too--with the proper education, and that begins with the basics that have been around since the beginning of publishing. It also requires knowledge of the new methods and formats and how to determine which best suits your goals. And, finally, publishing success in this new marketplace is totally dependent on your ability to build a thriving community of readers and communicate with them regularly.
The important question,then, is not whether publishing is alive, dead or born again---but are YOU as an author, ready to die with the old methods, plod along on the fringe, or be born again into the new age of publishing possibilities?
Are you ready to be "born-again" with the knowledge to become a successful author in the current publishing environment? If so, it's time to get the skills and strategies you need to succeed in this market.
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