1. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    What do we do now?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Edward G, Jan 18, 2011.

    This is a simple question, so bear with me.

    Rachelle Gardner, the literary agent, has announced that she simply no longer accepts new clients that are not previously published. Nathan Bransford quit being an agent and said that the agent of the future will be divided into two camps: those who handle celebrity writers and big names and those who act as a coach/editor/mentor to the masses of wannabe writers.

    What this tells us is that the traditional route to publishing is basically over. This is understandable given that a hardback today sells for less than it did in the 1980's and e-books are undercutting even that. There simply is no way to make a buck on a new writer.

    So what do we do now?
     
  2. The Degenerate
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    The Degenerate Active Member

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    This is why we have super-agent Janet Reid: http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/

    I don't think traditional publishing is going to die. eBooks are relatively cheap to produce and they're getting people into reading more - on their kindles, their cell phones, their iPads. You can argue that it makes it easier for self-publishing now too, but when was the last time you downloaded a self-published eBook and paid for it? Traditional publishing offers some sort of quality control.

    As far as new writers not going to stand a chance, I don't think that's true. The world is always in need for new voices. It may be more challenging now, sure, but they're certainly not out of luck. Besides, I find that agent's entire statement contradictory. What's the purpose of mentoring a new writer if there is no demand for them?
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I don't think traditional publishing is dying. I can't speak for everyone, but when I choose a book or an author to read, I look for credibility. I will very rarely pick up a book that has been self-published. When a writer produces a book through the traditional publishing process, I can be somewhat assured that what I pick up will be of some value because it will have gone through the various stages of editing/revision that reputable publishers require.

    Besides, these are just examples of one or two agents. There are still plenty of agents who will do their jobs without being a mentor/coach to "wannabe writers."
     
  4. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    Because it keeps them coming to and paying for the writer's confrerences she puts on.

    Oh and yeah, sure, Janet Reid is going to get you published. Let me know when you get to the end of that rainbow.

    I don't think you get it: There's no market for new writers. The market has disintegrated. It's not about whether you write well or not, there is no market. I've bought three books recently: Stephen King, Ann Rice, and Justin Cronin's new book, The Passage. Those are all established writers with established followings. A new writer has no following, so how's a publisher going to get anyone to buy his book? Through advertising? Don't you see that's a guaranteed loss for them?

    They could publish you on Kindle, but they'd still have to edit, format, do cover art, and again, advertise. And a kindle book sells for 9.99 a copy--for the big names. There's no way to recoup the loss on a new writers book.

    Even now, they have to resort to tricks to prop up hardback sales for famous authors, like making the Kindle version cost the same as the hardback, but that's self-defeating: no one will buy the Kindle version and the hardback ends up selling for $14.99.

    The agents are jumping ship because they can't make a sale to the editors. That's the bottom line. There are no independent bookstores anymore and the chains are shrinking their book inventories every year, replacing them with more cafe tables and gift calenders.

    I'll assume you're a great writer and you've written a great novel, but I'll never get to read it because if you publish it, no one else will, and yet no one else will publish it for you--because the market is dead.

    You could go with a micropublisher and get your book on Kindle and Nook and the iPad, but they can't advertise it in any meaningful way because they have no budget and you have no readership, because you are a new author. You might as well put it up for free on your own website and advertise it in your avatar or signature here in this group. That would probably bring you more readers than any other publishing route. That might even start a fan base.
     
  5. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Addressing this point specifically, I don't see how this changes anything. As a writer of genre, I long ago accepted that my odds of getting a novel published off the back of nothing was fairly slim. So you go to the short story magazines, and build up a rack of credits there. Is that not the norm in more "literary" strains of publishing?
     
  6. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    You're right, it's not dying for well-known authors. But they're on the surface and everything underneath is rotting. The market is collapsing. So even when you go to Janet Reid's blog, which exists merely to advertise her writers, and you see these books from obscure writers that have come out--they are all losing money for the publisher. I don't have to guess at that or prove it specifically--the market is dead. The costs exceed the revenues.

    My guess is a new writer has to chip in in some way to cover the costs of publishing their book. I can only imagine the grotesqueness of the publishing contracts for new authors today.

    And even when we talk about building a fan base before approaching an agent or traditional book publisher, what are we really saying? That somehow, unpublished or self-published, a writer is going to drum up 50,000 readers who will read anything the writer puts out? If that were the case, who would need Simon and Schuster and an agent?
     
  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    There is a market for new writers. They just have to be smart about it. I think the best way to make a name for yourself is by starting small. Get published in magazines, and once you've published in some really good ones, you'll [hopefully] have made a few fans.

    These publishing credits will also make it easier to snag an agent and publisher. Most, if not all, of the new writers I've come across have taken this approach, and they seem to be doing just fine.
     
  8. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Exactly. As far as I was (and still am) concerned, that's just the way you do it. You've got to be spectacularly lucky for your first publication to be a novel.
     
  9. The Degenerate
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    The Degenerate Active Member

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    I can tell by your condescending tone that you're truly swept up in this new age paranoia of print is dead, book sales are on the decline, the only hope for salvaging the market is for Stephen King and J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer and Nicholas Sparks to churn out endless amounts of books ad nauseum until they croak, at which point we'll have to employ the talents of Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton to sell books. This is the same sort of mentality that fell on the publishing world during that whole 90's memoir craze. Nobody thought people would buy fiction anymore, it was all in the memoirs now. We see how that's panned out. Nothing bad happened to the fiction writers. In fact, fiction writers turned to memoirs and one or two used them as an outlet for their fiction even. Look at James Fray.

    It's just not true. Agents and publishers need new writers all the time. There are only so many big name authors in so many houses that can only churn out so many books. Some are good and publish one or two a year. Most take longer.

    So what do publishers do? They need to rely on new writers. Good writing will always sell, no matter if the author has a dedicated fanbase or not. Hell, bad writing sells sometimes. Truth is, publishers can't rely on big names to keep them afloat forever. If they're going to cave, then they're going to cave no matter what: all the Stephen Kings in the world can't prevent that.

    I think you need to calm down and take a few breaths. I promise everything will be okay. Want a cookie?
     
  10. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    Great, Banzai. What do the credits prove? I will concede you write fantastic literature. So what? If you don't have readers who are following you, how is a publisher going to cover the costs of publishing you and advertising you? You might find one that might take a gamble--but they're going to lose that bet, and they know it. Or you may find a publisher that will micropublish you, but what's the point of that?

    Things used to be different. Things have changed. Kindle and Nook have destroyed book prices and bookstores. And there's no way to overcome that.

    Case in point: I wanted to read something you wrote. I went to your blog, I finally found the short stories you've had published, I copied and pasted the title of the anthology, Silver Moon, Bloody Bullets, into a search on Amazon, and downloaded that book for $5 so I could read your story. Had I not gone to all that trouble because I know you from this group, how would I have ever known your work?
     
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  11. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I know the markets are different, but this is how it's been in the art market for decades. If you wanna be an artist, you start with a small gallery taking low prices and selling to random people. If you get noticed, a bigger gallery offers you a better contract and you make more money and become more important. Eventually, if you are really successful or make the right connections or are just lucky, you'll get a place with one of the few premier galleries, where your work will sell immediately for very high prices and everyone will love you.

    Sure, it means your odds of becoming an overnight success are even more astronomical (which is what it seems you mean by 'the traditional route'), but you can still become a success.
     
  12. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Like Banzai & Aaron -I decided that I needed to work at marketing myself to get traditionally published. I am looking at smaller independent publishers that take direct submissions, even if they only publish one or two books. It means I can actually go in physically to deliver it in some cases. Then market the book self published style myself. I also have one the best epub formatter lined up. This allows me to approach and agent or larger publisher with a proven track record. I also want this because my stories cover different genres and I wanted face to face contact with an editor/publisher. I come across well usually so that helps - these days it isn't just your writing you are marketing it is yourself and your other 'author' skills.

    They tend to offer better contracts with a higher percentage of the cover price as well, and no 15% to the agent. It is a gamble as I could lose my book if they go under, but with last two recessions even massive companies haven't been safe, so I am asking for a clause so even if I lose story the characters etc remain mine, making sure it is specific.

    Fact is if you want to be a writer you need more skills than being able to write like with most careers most people have to graft to sell their books. Or you could let them become pulp. I like my stories too much for them to be pulped.

    I was very lucky I sent my synopsis and chapters to an agent that hadn't taken new authors on in ten years. She liked it enough to phone me and help me come up with a plan to get it on the shelves.

    Also I am building up a small fan base I send snippets and short stories to every so often. That now numbers around 150 which for 10 months of writing isn't bad. Yesterday a website I have started that is very rough all the stories need editing (I am serialising some stories relating to the characters in my books but not the actual books themselves), I shared it with about four people to get opinions it had 80 independant hits according to the stats not sure how reliable that is, my blog gets around 40 a day, again I haven't shared it around much.

    Starting a writers group has given me additional contacts. I do a lot of public speaking anyway. Also intend to approach the Scots Language people and get my book translated which allows me to place it in the tourist bookshops (not been stupid although it is fiction have used local place names and references in the books), that will allow the book to be bought and taken around the world from where I live. On holiday is when people by books so it may give me an in with the local airports as well.

    Library visits, school visits etc are very profitable for selling books when organised well. I also know I actually have a story that fits the elements the publishing industry is looking for next year (why agent phoned me).
     
  13. The Degenerate
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    The Degenerate Active Member

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    Sounds like what the Rhapsodes spewed about when print first came out.

    "Curse the gods! Oral storytelling is dead! No one will listen to us anymore!"
     
  14. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    My point is that if you've already got publishing credits in magazines and anthologies, then your name will be more known, your writing will be able to be judged by the agent/publisher from the quality of publications in which your work has been included, and yes you'll have built up more of a following.

    What I'm talking about is starting off your career in the small presses, rather than immediately breaking into the big, high paying publishers in a dramatic "Harry Potter" sort of way. From your posts, it seems that's the only kind of publishing success you're considering. Most writers, in my experience, work their way up, gradually gaining momentum and following before the big presses become satisfied that they will make money.

    Case in point: horror author Gary McMahon. He started with short stories, before publishing novels and novellas with small press publishers. Now that he's become known within the genre as a fantastic writer, he's getting contacts with bigger publishers (such as Angry Robot Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.

    I don't think that getting published has ever been easy. There are different challenges in the dawning age of e-books, yes. But also, there are a lot of smaller presses starting out in a digital medium, which will provide a stepping stone to the big guys for the new generation of emerging authors.
     
  15. The Degenerate
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    The Degenerate Active Member

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    No, he's considering no kind of success at all. Unless we all manage to get on Letterman after making an awesome Youtube video, or if we are adopted by Stephen King, there is no hope for us. We must quit. We must stop writing forever. Print is dead. It's hopeless for a new writer. The end of literature is upon us.

    Oh dear.
     
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  16. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    could always call myself Stephanie King reckon I'd sell a book or two lol
     
  17. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    Sorry, but I don't think that's paranoia. That pretty much sums up the state of things as I've been reading in recent news of the publishing industry.


    Right! That's why the market is dying. It's not about needing new blood. They do need new blood, but they can't make a buck off of the new blood. It's not about the literature, it's about the market. And I'm not talking about the 90's. I'm talking about November 2006 and on, and especially since 2008.

    You do realize that's a fiction that fiction writers believe, don't you? It has nothing to do with the writing. It has to do with the fan base. You either publish a writer who has one or you take a chance and try to build one with just the right new one. But today with shrinking areas for advertising new books, a shrinking readership in general, and a very bad economic picture, you can't take a chance on a new writer. That's just throwing money away. It has nothing to do with the writing.


    That is true and that is the next shoe to fall. As bookstores decrease, so will traditional publishers. Soon there will be only one or two that can actually pay an old-school advance to a writer. Self-publishing will become much much more common. Success there may lead to a self-publisher's company being bought up by a big fish and thus the writer would start writing for that big company instead of his own. So, what are we to do?


    I think you need to re-evaluate what you hope to get out of being a writer in the 21st century. And when you figure it out, let me know.
     
  18. Fiona
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    In some ways this thread is depressing, but I like to use it to give me hope.

    Yes it is hard to get your work published - even harder to be successful (whether you happen to be a great writer or not).

    However, I write horror stories and novels because I love doing it. It's a passion of mine. I enjoy writing, I love creating dark worlds and I will do this until I die.

    My book is being published by a small publishing team. I had no agent (though I turned one down because of an unreasonable request). They believed in my book and are going to publish it and try to shift as many copies as they can for me. I am happy with that. As someone who loves reading and writing, my ambition has been to see my book published - and to have people enjoy it. It ends there for me.

    In all truth, I knew long ago that no matter how excellent a writer you are, you'd have to have a miracle nowadays to become as well-known and successful as Stephen King, Koontz etc. But does that mean for the talented and dedicated writers out there that they can't have their own slice of success? Whatever form that takes for them?

    I admit that even if I'd never had one word published, I wouldn't stop writing, and I wouldn't give up on my dream.

    Yes it can be tough, but I don't think the picture should be painted in such doom-and-gloom colours. The market is changing - we as writers can adapt to that.
     
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  19. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Self publishing was the way people sold their books most often in the nineteenth century or they did as Banzai and wrote articles most of Louisa May Alcott's and Charles Dickens works were serialised. Even as late as the 1930s that is how Enid Blyton began. Beatrix Potter was self published (her first work on mushrooms didn't do as well lol) The printers I am about to approach here in town I would just love they are based on a printers that has had some hefty but long forgotten names published there. I live in a small area that has 4 or 5 thriving local bookshops and a Waterstones.

    If anything we are just returning to how it has been done throughout most of the history of story - the author or storyteller needs to have a personality or connections to sell their work. An author cannot be lazy, which is what has happened people think all they need to do is write a book.
     
  20. The Degenerate
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    What I hope to get out of being a writer in the 21st century is nothing more than being a writer in the 21st century. I can't help when I was born, nor can I help what's happening with the publishing industry. But I'll continue writing anyway because it's the only thing that interests me. I never expected to write full-time and make a stable living off of it anyway.

    With the 21st century though, comes many creative outlets for publishing. I think eBooks will only help the industry in the long-run, not hamper it. Brick and Mortars are suffering because of poor management, not because there is no market. Look at what's happening with Border's as a good example.
     
  21. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I entirely agree with this - Borders in the UK has already gone under, and looks like my local town will also lose Waterstones - however we have three independant bookstores that seem to be pushing them out of the local market. They have done it by stocking books of interest - one specialises in pagan/hippy books, one in local books and one is a small publisher which promotes their own books.
     
  22. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    I guess it doesn't matter posting in this thread anymore. I'm not getting my point accross. I respect what you're saying, but you're describing an old-school publishing paradigm. Today, you won't get from point A to point Z by going through all the letters. Too much money will have been lost along the way.

    Now, maybe that's true. But you do realize it's easier to create a James Patterson novel than it is to go hunting for talent that may or may not be reliable, and in this economy...gambles are a thing of the past. you do realize how a James Patterson novel is created, don't you? Big publishers will have to go to that paradigm, and what's great about that paradigm is you can get the "author" so to speak to be anyone you want who looks good on the back jacket cover. Kind of like the way music is made today--notice how all the country singers look like models?

    Yeah, go ahead and mock. Go ahead and fantasize. Go ahead and believe that you can work your way up to the top. That's capitulation. That's sticking your head in the sand.

    I started this string to try to find constructive solutions to the problems of new writers. But so far, everyone just seems to be in denial.

    Didn't anything click in your head at all when Nathan Bransford bolted from Curtis Brown and Rachelle Gardner declared she wasn't going to be taking any querries for the next couple of years? Doesn't that even make you go, "Hmmm, I wonder what's up in the industry?"
     
  23. The Degenerate
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    Excellent post. Lock thread.
     
  24. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Stuff like this has always happened - learn the history of publishing and its not that big a deal.

    Yes things are changing, yes you have to work, but if anything industry is merely returning to where it was less than a hundred years ago, with different formats.

    Does your course not cover this ? My history degree did because it was preparing us to publish our historical diatribes lol
     
  25. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    There are hundreds of agents out there, so those two examples just aren't enough evidence to support your argument.
     

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