A selection of articles and news items that caught my eye this week.
It's not about the tweeting.
Years ago, when I first broke in to publishing, self-promotion by authors was not only optional, it was considered rather tacky. Fewer books were being published back then, and there was less competition for reader eyeballs. Plus, the merger mania that has transformed the face of publishing hadn't yet begun; there were no big corporate owners to demand corporate-style profits from a traditionally low-profit business.
All that has changed, of course. Self-promotion can still be tacky, but it's no longer optional (although no publisher should ever contractually enforce it; if you see self-promo requirements in a contract, it's a signal that the publisher is trying to shift a big part of its job onto you). As a result, it seems that everywhere you turn you find discussions of self-promotion, tips for self-promotion, and articles on successful self-promoters. Many of these are of dubious usefulness (press releases, for instance, are a completely ineffective way to sell books), or present the same old suggestions (yes, we know we have to adopt social media), or assume that one promotional size fits all (when in fact, as for publishers, what sells one book won't necessarily sell another).
So I rarely recommend self-promo articles. This one's an exception, though: "Should I Tweet?" by literary agent Betsy Lerner. She makes the point that it's not so much about what kind of promo you should do, but about cultivating the mindset you need to market yourself.
Whether you should tweet is a little beside the point. The task at hand is to decipher what is most powerful in your work and connect it to every person, institution or media outlet who will listen. It’s not the form, it’s the content. What do you have? Why does it matter?
The down side of small press.
Canada's prestigious Giller prize is known to spur book sales, which has resulted in an unexpected snag for this year's winner: her tiny publisher isn't able to keep up with consumer demand.
One reason for the problem is the publisher's unusually high production standards. But this story points up an issue that can potentially handicap any small press author: small publishers often have very limited production and distribution capacity, and may not be able to meet strong demand. If you're thinking of signing a small press contract, and especially if you have ambitious promotion plans, this is something you should consider.
A digital underclass?
In all the prognostication about the digital revolution, there are a couple of issues I wish the pundits would pay more attention to. The first is the threat of obsolescence. Technology and software progress incredibly swiftly; will the ebooks of today be readable in ten years? What does that portend for the long-term survival of written work? The second is the assumption that seems to be implicit in so much discussion of electronic media--that everyone is on an equal digital footing. In fact, this isn't so. Will that change, or will the world's rush to digital create a digital underclass?
From ZDNet, here are interesting posts on both sides of this question. One writer fears that the shift to digital will eventually kill the public library, and as a result "the 'Have Nots' of society may find themselves denied access to an entire range of content they enjoyed previously with the printed book, newspaper or magazine." A second writer is more optimistic. Libraries will survive, and together with "the Internet, copyright holders, and public institutions can...bridge the digital divide and prevent the disparities."
What do you think?
Find where your passion meets the market.
Should you write to the market? Or should you write what you want, market trends be damned? Agent Rachelle Gardner argues that it's not about choosing one or the other, but about finding a balance.
The real reason publishing is in trouble.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that things aren't good in publishing these days. Corporate conglomeration, economic meltdown, reader apathy, the digital revolution--all are drastically changing a venerable industry.
But that's not the worst of it. Oh, no, my friends. The real culprit behind the troubles in publishing is...Writer Beware. At least, according to an anonymous (hi, Michele!) comment left on one of my older posts (scroll down to the bottom).
You have destroyed an otherwise thriving industry since you started your witch hunts. Wake up people, in 2006 when the Worst LIsts were published there was an average of 200 books being published by each publishing department in NY. Each year the list of books published went down, and this year, most publishing departments, if they haven't yet closed their doors, are doing 0 to 10 books per year. Down from 200 to 0 to 10! Writer Beware is the biggest trash maker in publishing history. Lost a job in publishing? Blame it on Writer beware. They are destroying traditional publishing because they secretly work for Pay to Publish companies.GAAAAH! We are exposed! How will we work our evil now?