Pathways to publication redux

Not all that long ago I was an unpublished author. Now that I’m not, I get lots of questions about how to make that miraculous transition and earn the right to slash the prefix.

Here’s my first attempt at answering.

Having been asked again recently, I wondered if my late 2008 post had aged well. I reread it and there’s not much I’d change. But I would caution that publishing prospects are gloomier than they were two years ago.

How so?

Well, I know of several very talented writers, published, multi-published and unpublished, who have had rejections in recent times. I suspect that publishers are becoming ever more risk averse and, as a result, it’s also a tougher task to gain representation from a literary agent. Some of the major bookstore chains are in strife and less likely to buy as many books or as wide a range of titles. I’m talking globally, not just in Australia.

Then there’s the e-book phenomenon. My sense is that no one in the publishing industry really knows how profits will be affected by this trend or what the future of books looks like. Will printed books become collectors’ items, only published in small numbers where there’s proven demand for a title? Will there be an ocean of e-books, many of them self-published, where it becomes harder to find the pearls?

Articles like this one in the Wall Street Journal give little cause for optimism and suggest author incomes will be halved.

On the other hand, e-books could mean it’s easier to find, afford and read an author’s work.

So yes, the pathway to publication has veered somewhat in two years. That doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. Strong, unique stories will find their way to publication. Success stories do happen (as any parent trying to find the latest Wimpy Kid book in time for Christmas would know).

If you’re none the wiser at this point, I’d recommend aspiring authors read Give Up Your Publishing Dream by noveldoctor. Why? Because you should be writing for yourself. First, foremost and forever.

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