We’ve all heard the doom and gloom: Publishing as we know is about to go extinct. The paper book will be a dinosaur. Bookstores will become obsolete. I’m not convinced of all of these looming extinctions. I do believe things are changing. Fast. So what’s a pre-published writer or midlist author with no current contract to do?
Writing Tip for Today: I heard a great talk by my friend Elizabeth Lyon, in which she detailed her predictions about the traditional “big house” publisher, e-books and self-publishing. She reassured the audience that not only will reading endure, paper books will not become curiosities of a previous age. As self-publishing and e-books grow as trends, she outlined a few important things for writers:
- Know what your goals are. Are you intent on becoming a best selling author (what writer isn’t at some level?) Prepare for a long, hard road, crowded with others who think they’ll get a big-time agent, a huge advance and receive a call from Oprah any minute now. For others, the goal might be to publish genre books, specific niche nonfiction or a term Lyon used, a legacy book. For those who only want a book to give to friends and family (especially a memoir) a legacy book makes a lot of sense.
- Grow your platform. Authors hate hearing about this subject, but it’s a reality. Unless you have a very large circle of family and friends, you’ll need to convince a publisher (or if it’s a self-pub, yourself) to take a risk. Even smaller or regional presses are in the risk-taking business. The larger your platform (which simply means those who know you and what you’re about) the more potential customers. Start by networking, starting and maintaining a web presence (blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc) and linking your writing to a cause, a theme or some issue. Even for fiction, this is becoming more important.
- Commit to producing outstanding writing. Agents and traditional pub houses are so deluged with submissions that outstanding writing is imperative. If your skills are good but not great, adopt the attitude of learning more and more about your art and trade: writing. Read widely, be open to instruction and most of all, write as if there’s no tomorrow.
Try This! One easy way to expand that dreaded platform is to talk about your book(s) in situations other than writing venues. At school, church, the grocery store or at work, you can mention your writing without bragging or sounding self-absorbed. This week, resolve to mention your writing project to someone you’ve never talked about it with.