Coming Into Fiction Publishing Right Now Is Confusing…
And I do mean really, really confusing.
As I said a number of weeks back, we are solidly in the middle of the transition between traditional paperback publishing and indie electronic publishing. So writers coming into fiction publishing now have no idea what to think and are faced with a million myths from both sides.
When I came into fiction publishing back in the 1970s and 1980s, there was only one way in. We were flat in the middle of the 50 year run of the paper traditional publishers. Everyone around me knew the way in. It was hard work, sure, but we knew it.
When I cam in, you wrote a lot, maybe sold to short fiction markets, met an editor at a convention who liked your work and got an agent. Then you hoped your books sold a little better each time so you didn’t have to start over with a new name. (Dave Farland, Robin Hobbs, Mike Shephard to name a few.)
That path in is still being taught. But when I came in there were maybe a thousand publishers. Now there are five of note remaining. When I came in contracts were basically licensing contracts and you could get your IP back at a certain point. Now the contracts are all rights for the life of the copyright and you never see your book again.
Indie publishing is just as bad as to knowing what to do as you come in. So much bad advice on how to go with Select, or how you have to spend a lot of money advertising your first novel and every novel. In fact, I think the indie myths are worse than the traditional ones these days. They are certainly more frightening because on top of the myths, the writer has to learn how to create a professional book. Back in my day all we had to know was how to type.
But the young writers, like the ones who won Writers of the Future, are getting buried under both sides of really bad myths, and no way to know what is good advice or bad on either side.
Indie publishing is already the dominant side, but in 10-15 more years it will be everything, and we will also be 10-15 years farther away from the traditional methods, so those myths will fade in time. The transition is and will happen. But that does not help the young writers stuck right here in the middle years of all this.
So my suggestion to any writer wanting to come in now, just do what feels right for you as far as the means of getting your work to readers.
But as that struggle plays out, do the following…
1… Focus on learning how to be a better writer. Focus on the craft.
2… Read a lot of writers who are above you in craft and if you like their book study it.
3… Learn licensing and new 2023 methods of getting your work to readers and then stay up on those new methods as more come along.
4… If someone says you “must” do something, ignore them.
5… Never quit. 49 years ago I sold my first couple of short stories and the reason I am still here and getting my work out to readers is because through it all, I never quit. Wanted to, tried to, but never did.
We are in a transition in the systems to get fiction to readers. The myths on both sides are brutal.
The myth that a traditional publisher can take care of you and do all the work and promotion and they care about you is so laughable it hurts.
But on the other side, the myth that it is easy to publish and distribute your own books is just as laughable. Maybe more confusing as well.
So as it has been a week since I got back from being at Writers of the Future awards event, my take away is that I feel bad for all new writers coming in right now. I have no way of knowing how they will all sort out the myths. My hope is that they all just put their had down and learn how to write and create a lot of great stories, no matter how they decide to get the stories to the readers.
And then just don’t stop.
Oh, one more thing. Keep the writing always fun.