Tag Archives: publishing

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Not all that long ago I was an unpublished author.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Well, I know of several very talented writers, published, multi-published and unpublished, who have had rejections in recent times.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.

Revolution Imminent

I’ve got a feeling I may be about to bite off more than I can chew in one blog entry. It’s because I’ve got that itchy sense of expectation, that tingle, that big things are afoot. Journalists learn to develop a nose for news, or “news sense”. Marvel’s Peter Parker has “spider sense” to tell him when something unlawful is going down. When workshopping with students, I often talk about “story sense” or how to find the seeds that germinate into creative writing. My children would say I specialise in “nonsense”… At least one of these senses is buzzing.

I was a newspaper journalist for a decade. I’ve worked with websites for the same period. My first published work of fiction was printed two years ago. (Novel # 2 will hit bookstores in 2010.) I’ve been part of the media for 20 years and a consumer of it for as long as I can remember. Today it feels like the media is entering a period of unprecedented tumult and change.

For Exhibit 1, I point you to last night’s episode of Media Watch which contrasted the thoughts of ABC managing director Mark Scott, News Limited’s Rupert and James Murdoch, and media commentator Meg Symons on paying for online news. By attacking public-funded journalism conducted by the BBC and ABC, the Murdoch duo came across as unusually apprehensive. They seemed to concede that the power balance in the media playground had shifted forever. That feels like a good thing to me.

Exhibit 2 was a landmark moment in journalism when the combined might of the Twitterverse was directed at assisting a journalist to tell a story that lawyers were trying to suppress. It was a victory for people power in combination with old-school journalism. Inspiring stuff.

As a relative newbie to Twitter, I’m impressed by the many ways clever and determined journalists are using it to gather and disseminate news. I’m also watching how individual Twitterers (authors, athletes, celebrities…) are using it to bypass traditional publicity channels and speak their minds or push their wares direct to fans and followers.

Which brings me to Exhibit 3. I’ve long enjoyed the ideas, writing and free-thinking of Cory Doctorow. (His first novel for young adults, Little Brother, is a title I’ve successfully enticed reluctant teen readers into tackling which is possibly the highest praise I can offer an author.) Doctorow is a pioneer and evangelist in the field of free online e-books. His latest project is truly radical and, I believe, could change the publishing world as we know it.

Depending on what Australia’s Productivity Commission recommends in relation to parallel importation of books, Doctorow’s insights could provide a template for publishing that puts authors and consumers on the same page, so to speak.

Exciting times. Stay tuned.

Update: Here’s the unparalleled First Dog on the Moon‘s take on the issue of paying for online news content.

An appeal for better boys’ books

Further to my musings on books for boys, here’s a 13-year-old sharing some home truths with the publishing industry. Much as I applaud his incitement and agree with most of his thoughts, I can’t help but wonder how representative he is. (Sorry Max.)

At some of the schools I visit I have teaching staff tell me “these (14 yo) boys are reading reading at 8- to 10-year-old levels”. Ask the boys what age-level computer games they’re playing and that’s another story.

Anyway, Max’s wisdom is well worth considering. As an author, it’s invaluable information.