The Oracle Series Part 6: The Future of Publishing…A Blow Best Given with a Velvet Hammer.

Whew, what a week. Did you hang out through the whole thing? You’re awesomesauce. You know that? Here, have a velvet hammer. No, it’s a drink. It’s tasty, I promise. For those of you who are new to The Edge, we’ve been running the Oracle Series, a follow-up to my guest blog post in Rita’s World.
For each day this week, I’ve been exploring the logic behind the predictions that Carlos and I shared in the Writer’s Companion about where the publishing industry will be in ten years. On Wednesday, we took a break from rocking the boat to welcome Rita Webb to The Edge.
Now, for the final predictions that we made in the Writer’s Companion.
Prediction #9
Most of the Internet free services to writers will be subscription only.
We meant to write that most of the valuable or relevant Internet content will be subscription only but we exercised restraint. The digital bubble has burst once or twice and it will do it again because the business models (or the lack of one) are untenable. Some people will maintain informative sites without expecting any income, as a hobby or for the hell of it, take your pick.
Other commercial ventures will have to rely on heavier advertising practices to survive; after all, to go by the name of “business” an enterprise is supposed to attempt making money. Services to writers, such as promotion, retail, edition, and review will have to be paid for one way or another, to provide income to whoever has built a website and staffed it. The dream of an Internet where everything is free is… well, a dream, a beautiful dream, but one that shatters before the shrill of an alarm clock.
Prediction #10
Traditional writers will be on the road to extinction.
By this we mean the scribes of old (such as Carlos) who would hammer away at keyboards and typewriters sixteen hours each day to complete a manuscript and rejoice when typing THE END.
These writers still linger, but they’ll soon be a memory like the Dodo. The writer of the future will be a hybrid of politician, speaker, pimp, blogger, publicist, hustler, diplomat, and writer—almost as an afterthought.
This has been the easiest prediction to make, because the signs are already upon us. Nowadays, many publishers and literary agents demand that submissions include a sample of the writing and a detailed marketing plan or “platform.” Without a platform, we doubt Conrad reincarnate would manage to publish anything.
Whether you see this as a good or a bad thing, it’s a train that can’t be stopped. Believe me, I’ve tried. If you can’t put yourself out there and be more than “just a writer”, the odds of establishing a writing career are very slim. But you know, it’s not a horrible thing. I don’t enjoy being the center of attention (I know that’s hard for you all to believe) and the idea of putting myself in the middle of the fray of authors I see slogging their way to the top absolutely terrifies me.
But I do it anyway. I swallow the fear and the anxiety and I jump in with enough force to make a tiny wave now and then. And you know what? It’s kinda fun.
I know some of you have different opinions on these last two predictions and I’m eager to hear them. Do you think a writer can be simply a writer, focusing entirely on his craft to the exclusion of marketing and pimping his talented self out? How would he manage to be successful?
We close the Oracle section in the Writer’s Companion with a little bit of advice and I’d like to close this series with the same advice. You may take it or leave it, but it’s well-meaning and I hope new authors at least consider what we’re trying to impart here.
“In closing, we’d like to leave all new writers with this heartfelt counsel: Build a marketing platform concurrently with your fiction writing; create a presence, a following, and expectations. Without it, your chances in the flux of the New Publishing Industry are close to nil.”

8 thoughts on “The Oracle Series Part 6: The Future of Publishing…A Blow Best Given with a Velvet Hammer.

  1. I fully agree with prediction #10. Today's society is personality obsessed, and this doesn't only affect politicians, sportsmen and talk show hosts. It affects ALL entertainers, and whether we like it or not, as writers we are entertainers just as much as movie stars and singers. The image of the writer as a faceless intellectual who sits alone in his attic and types away are already gone. I don't think this is bad, even though it means a lot of additional work. Honestly, if we don't suck it up and outgrow our expectation that "good things should just happen to good people", we'll get left behind without a right to complain.

  2. I also ages with 10. Perfect example :social networking sites. Authors nowadays must keep a Facebook and twitter page if they want attention. Readers want to interact with the writer and make demands of him.

  3. It seems clear to me that if you want to actually sell your books, you have to be a bit of a marketer as well as a writer. Look at the books that are the big sellers, many of them have better marketting plans than literary merit and everyone knows that publishers ecpect you to do your own marketting. As for the paying for services, I think there'll always be free stuff but you'll probably have to pay for the info coming from professionals.

  4. #9: I think subscriptions have a very good chance of coming to fruition. And I wonder too if it will create a caste system between the readers who pay for information, those who don't, and those who profit through a black market of information.#10: The traditional author is definitely on life support. A platform is crucial, but what is platform for the fiction writer? Do we brand ourselves in genre flags? And how do we balance marketing with getting the next book out? Already I'm seeing an explosion of authors talking and nobody listening.

  5. *waves* Hi, I saw your post on Maria's blog and was estatic to see you're in Tweed! I'm in Napanee!!I don't know about the subscription thing. Right now the advice you get on paid sites is just about as good as on the free sites. I don't think that will change, but I could be wrong. As for 10, yeah, I agree with Maria, the thing is, I don't think writers will be under a deadline pressure like before. Sure, there will be some stress, but instead of it taking a year or two for books to reach the market, because of the digital explosion, it will only take months. Wait…maybe that's not a good thing afterall. Oh, and your 'WE ARE CANADIAN' banner-link doesn't work. The site has moved. 😦

  6. Napanee! Why that's practically nextdoor. *waves* Thanks for coming by. And that darn banner…it will be deleted. *sigh* Excellent point on the paid sites currently operating. I'm with you. Personally, the most valuable information I've found has been in online workshops and free writing groups. However, I do think the Internet is moving toward "mostly" paid. There will always be free sites, but that will decrease. I'm optimistic that the information will be worth paying for in at least some cases. Re: Prediction 10: You (and Maria) make good points. I have zero patience for anything and faster publication is something I'd be all over. The biggest advantage I see as a reader is that a three book series won't take double that time to read. I like that. However, I hope quality doesn't suffer because of it.

  7. Maria: I didn't get an update on your post. Sorry. Platforms irritate me. The idea that I have to build a readership before publication doesn't make a lot of sense to me. That I have to market something I don't have makes my brain hurt. But, I think I'm plugging along at "something". No, I don't think smart authors would build a platform around genre. It's too limiting. I think the author will have to build a platform in much the same way a celebrity (actor, musician) build theirs: Image. Personality. It's already begun. Get people interested in you, they will be interested in what you're doing, and that includes your books. It should be about the writing, but it's not anymore. How do we balance that and getting the next book out? When someone figures it out, I'd love for them to share.

  8. Platforms are another thing I don't get either. Right now I write both science fiction and urban fantasy. The majority of my published short stories are scifi, with my novella serial being urband fantasy. After this, I have a gothic romance on the roster, not to mention more scifi stories. I have not 'set' platform, I'm just kinda floatin' around…

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