Comment on Publishing as a Business
While tag surfing this morning, I ran across this post (http://christinefonseca.wordpress.com/2010/04/26/remembering-that-this-is-a-business/#comment-2529) addressing the issue of publishing as a business. There’s a lot of conversation out there on the subject right now, some of which is coming from authors who are still resisting the fact that the marketing and promotion of their book(s) falls withing their scope of responsibility. Apparently, this sentiment is even true of many new, traditionally published authors.
I’d been reading several posts about the issue when I came across the one by Christine Fonseca (http://christinenfonseca.com/2.html), published author of both fiction and non-fiction books, where I decided to write a comment. When I had finished writing, I realized that I’d sort of created my own blog post. So here you go:
In response to: Remembering that this is a business–Do You Agree?:
The simple answer is yes. The complexity comes with figuring out how to make the business a success when the industry seems to be changing and morphing on a daily basis. But finding a way to somehow keep up is essential.
Every now and then, though, escaping to a world like that of Angela Lansbury’s Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote is healthy for the blood pressure. Lansbury’s character was a retired teacher who didn’t publish her first novel until after her husband died when she was in her 60s, Then, of course, she went on to live every author’s idyllic existence, in a quaint coastal town, publishing one novel after another, while using her fiction writing talents to help solve crimes.
And anyone who regularly watched that series knows that Jessica Fletcher wrote all of her novels on a manual typewriter until the show’s last couple of years when she finally got a computer. Also, her publisher arranged and paid for all of her marketing and promotional activities. The only thing we ever saw her do was sign books at classy, well-organized events where hundreds of people were in attendance (talk about another planet …).
Unfortunately, a lot of writers trying to break into the book business live under the delusion that the publishing world/industry that Fletcher experienced is representative of the way things actually are. But as you said, the truth is found in a hard-hitting, unbelievably competitive business where writing is only one piece of the author’s responsibility. And unless you’re a mega-celebrity, most, if not all, of the work required to promote and sell a book is done by the author (using the author’s own money, by the way, even for a traditionally published book).
The good news is that there’s still room for those authors who actually have some talent and are willing to invest a ton of sweat equity, along with that aforementioned money. And a few of those authors will eventually rise to the level of mega-celebrity, at which point the publishers will begin carrying some of that load. Until such a breakthrough happens, though, a good day is when you find a way to make as many readers as possible happy with your work while bringing in a little more money than you spent. (Editorial comment: I’m still working on both of those objectives … 🙂 )
In her blog post “Why Don’t Publishers Market & Promote the Books They Publish?” (http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2010/04/19/WhyDontPublishersMarketPromoteTheBooksTheyPublish.aspx), Jane Friedman (Publisher, Writer’s Digest) says, “The medocre writer who can sell is usually more successful than the talented writer who cannot.”
In all probablility, Jessica Fletcher (talented writer) would never have survived in today’s publishing climate because the selling and promoting work wasn’t “part of her job.” Yet imagine the talented writer who does know how to sell and who takes the time to learn and utilize the amazing marketing tools and forums now available, both online and off! Then add in a good-to-great story, which is also well crafted and professionally edited. That’s the new model for authors to understand and emulate.
And if that isn’t a business, I don’t know what is. I do still love watching Murder, She Wrote reruns, though. There’s nothing like a great fantasy! –Cheri
Making this idea of becoming an author work, whatever effort is involved, is what I’m all about and what we’re tracking through this blog. And the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of the experience/experiment will be shared.
Wherever that Journey will end up is anyone’s guess at this point–but think how much wiser we’ll all be about the realities surrounding our shared dreams, no matter what happens with me in particular!
This blog: 2215 (1947 last posting five days ago. Progress!)
Have a wonderful week!