Thursday, June 30, 2011

Resistance to Change

I'm not spending much time with the RWA crowd, but I have been in the RWA hotel long enough for a few laps around the bar and a bit of a mingle. If there's one thing on everyone's mind right now, it's self-publishing. Pro or con, everyone is thinking about how the rise of direct publishing is going to impact the industry over the long term.

I don't have any answers -- nobody does, really, though we all have ideas and hunches -- but it does seem clear that self-publishing is not an easy fix for most people. In conversation after conversation, people seem unwilling to discuss whether poor sales in either traditional or direct publishing might not have anything to do with the distribution method. It might be all about the book.

A good story, well told, will find its readership. That isn't a magical process. It's not the field of dreams. There is still a need to promote and make readers aware of the story's existence. But good stories tend to grow legs, as they say, and take on a sales life of their own.

I've heard several tales of self-published authors who saw their works rejected by all the romance publishers but refused to change the stories. They scorned traditional houses for wanting them to make revisions, and they tend to talk a lot about how much they embrace changes in the marketplace even as they resist changes to their manuscripts. They self-published but saw poor sales and weak reviews, and that's when they saw any sales or reviews at all. From what I hear, there's a tendency to blame this on promotion efforts rather than on the book itself.

Embrace the changes in distribution if it will help you meet your personal goals. But don't forget that other changes can also help you. Listen to the opinions of educated readers. If an editor or agent tells you that an aspect of your story doesn't work, embrace this help, too. Because maybe it's the industry that needs to change. But maybe, just maybe, it's your book.



Julie Harrington said...

Yep. And I don't think there's anything more to say on that one. LOL. You have to be open to criticism and revision and edits. No story is ever perfect and a neutral set of eyes (and brains) will often see the flaws in your book long before you ever will. Plus, when they read your book, they do so without the assumptions and clarity you have in your brain (since you wrote it), but can only go by what's actually on the page. It's amazing what can be lost in translation or interpretation until someone points it out to you.


Edittorrent said...

Julie, if you could hear the way people are talking about direct publishing -- as though it's a magic bullet that will lead to wealth and fame -- you'd be as baffled and worried as I am. People are flocking to it without stopping to ponder whether the book is publishable in the first place. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Self-publishing can absolutely be a successful venture for many authors, but it's not for everyone.


Julie Harrington said...

I think it ties in directly with the topic before this one about why people don't take advantage of resources. I know a lot of people who write who refuse to make changes or edit or "sell out" to commercialism. It is frustrating and I don't understand it. Publishers and editors are there to help make your book stronger and more marketable. I'm not saying that always means a "better" story (there's always the exception), but you always need someone to proof your work.

I don't get why people think they can just write something and self-publish. I shudder to think what it would be like to have my first 2 or 3 books forever immortalized in ebooks and out there for sale. Gads.

Another thing a lot of people don't consider with self-publishing is the marketing and exposure you *don't* get because you have to do everything yourself.

Wealth and fame and writing... I don't think people realize just how much an author makes (or doesn't make). There's a reason they say, "Don't quit your day job." LOL.


Edittorrent said...

0The good thing about "direct publishing" (I like your term) is that there is time for the good book to find its audience. I remember, back in the supposed golden era of NYC publishers, my books had one month-- one month--- on the shelves (if that), and weren't reissued even after they won awards. I think a publishing company run by writers might be a bit more patient. (Of course, they had other books to sell too. And bookstores only had so many shelves.)
But it is scary, thinking of being a publisher (which is what writers have to do to direct-publish... become a publisher).


Edittorrent said...

What's always a worry for me is that writers might not be any good at all those other things that publishers used to do (they're not necessarily doing it now, of course)-- editing and proofing and promoting and distributing.

Not to mention those business things! Recordkeeping, billpaying, shipping, eek.

Julie Harrington said...

I don't think writers are even *thinking* about the business side. A lot don't. It's always surprise to me. It's like you write the book and send it off, wave to it with a white hankie from the pier, and somehow it miraculously finds its way to the to of the Best Sellers List all by itself.

Some authors are going to totally flourish with direct publishing... others, well... Hm.


Diane Farr said...

Well said. And true.