Monday, May 16, 2011

Adapting To The Changing World (Of Publication)

I didn't get a cell phone until 2009.

I don't have a Kindle or a Nook or an iPad.

I don't even have a computer. (Okay, this last one's not true, but it helps me make my point.)

For the most part, I've approached technology with the mindset that if it isn't broken, don't fix it. As a writer starting out ten years ago, I wanted to write a good book, send it to a literary agent, have the agent find me a publisher, and then have the publisher get the book to my favorite book store. This model worked for other people, and I figured it would work for me.

As I learned more about the current publishing climate, though, I understood that I needed to be more willing to promote myself. So, I started a blog. That was fun! I met people I liked exchanging ideas with. I liked the support system.

But, then I was learning that there was more to blogging than just blogging.

You could, for example, respond to other people's comments. You could have blog tours. You could have blog awards. Slowly, I forced myself to learn about each of these things. Then, Facebook came along.

And Twitter.

There were people promoting their books all over the place. I set up a Facebook account. I found "friends." I set up a Twitter account. I talked about things like peanut butter and book shelves. But, you know what? Book trailers came along. eBooks came along. Goodreads came along.

It was very overwhelming for me to educate myself about these many different avenues through which writers could sell themselves. I was frustrated because I couldn't figure out which route was the best one to take. For me, this led to paralysis. For three years I couldn't decide if I wanted to self-publish or publish through a publishing house. I couldn't decide if I wanted an agent or if I should try to find an editor on my own or if I should publish on my own. I couldn't even decide on what I wanted to write after being told no one buys short story collections or novellas or epics or books written in third person omniscient. While I continued to write through this frustrating time, I stopped making any effort to make my work available to the people who mattered to me most: readers. I was doing everything and nothing. All possibilities tempted me, but I couldn't commit to any one because I was always afraid that another path was better.

Finally, though, I've come to understand something. The thing I'd been searching for, the "right" choice, didn't exist. I had fooled myself. Instead, what I was facing was a series of viable paths, some of them diverging for a while, some of them converging again. And, what was key for me to realize was that there was no end point to any of these paths. In other words, I had been trying to reach a destination that didn't exist.

It's not, "Choose the right way to publish and everything will work out." Rather, it's more like, "What worked for someone today may or may not work for someone else tomorrow." And, the equally important, "What didn't work for someone today may or may not work for someone else tomorrow." And, the equally equally important, "What may or may not work for someone today may or may not work for that same person tomorrow."

The path to success is a path, not a destination. Making yourself happy, sharing your art, or whatever your goals are, requires constant adjustment along this changing path. We will all be making decisions in our writing careers. I challenge you not to see those decisions as right or wrong, but as just another span in an ever-flowing path that is your writing career. It will ebb and flow but it will never freeze unless you let it.


  1. Like you I dont' own any technological devices. As a matter of fact, I didn't get my first computer until 2008. I'm also not on FB or Twitter.

    As for publishing, I'm kind of glad I'm not published right now. There's so much stuff going on, it's hard to keep track what's the best course for me. I don't have to make any decisions until I do and until then, I'll stay blissfully ignorant and just keep writing my stories. It seems publishing is just like the weather in New England, wait five minutes and it will change.

  2. The writing bug only bit me 5 years ago, so I can relate to your post with my musical endeavors more so.

    When I was actively perusing a publishing contract, (I never wanted to be the artist - go figure) the music business was very different. A songwriter/composer approached the manager or publisher of the artist he/she was writing for, and if it was a good fit, you had your deal. When I was published, the tide was just turning to sequenced stuff which left a lot of unestablished writers hanging. Believe it or not, I didn't care. I found joy in simply creating the music, and to this day, I still do. I completed two more songs just this past weekend.

    For me, the joy must come first. I DO want my novels published, but not this decade. Not until I have several works where everyone agrees the work is ready, then I may attempt getting published. The right method could be anything ten years from now. If it was today, I'd probably start the query process the traditional way. If I failed, I'd produce the best work I was capable of, then self-publish the way I envision my story should be, much like I have done with my 200+ demo's.

  3. You are right. Freeing choices of the "right" and "wrong" adjectives makes them easier to make.

    Also I shamelessly resist technology despite the fact that it is my generation that is suposed to be savy about it.

  4. Anne, As long as you're feeling happy about writing, I'd guess you were making the right decision for yourself. My guess is that publishing will always be changing like the weather, so I hope you don't wait too long! :)

    Charlie, I also tried to keep happiness first these days. It has settled a lot of my anxiety (although I'm not completely immune). For me, the nicest part of this is that I write what I want to write and don't worry about the publishing part until after the writing is done. That feels better.

  5. Taryn, I know what you mean about the generational thing. I don't qualify for the internet generation, but it was definitely following close behind me!

  6. I still don't own a cell phone. I'm not on FB or twitter, but I do blog and I have a laptop with a kindle app.
    My plan is to use the technology that works for me and leave the rest of it to people that want it. We all have different interests and abilities so the wide range of available tools is good. I agree that publishing and technology (and life) are in a constant state of flux.

  7. "My plan is to use the technology that works for me" S.P., I've come to the same conclusion, and I think it's a choice that we will be content with in the long run.

  8. Charlie: After reading your book, I think about it all the time. I thought your work was pretty up-to-par or close to it. :)

    Davin: Love this post! I think it's important to find the right balance that works for us. For me, it is not necessarily about publishing. It's about sharing my work, and I choose what works for EACH DIFFERENT BOOK as it comes along. For now, that has meant self-publishing at one point and now going with a small publisher. In the future I might feel that I want a bigger publisher for a certain work. If that comes along I'll head down that path. I LOVE what you say at the end of this post. It really struck a chord with me today.

  9. Michelle, I'm glad this struck a chord. You know I've been thinking about all of these things forever, and I think I was just so resistant to it because I was seeing in int he wrong light. I feel better about it now.

  10. Oh, Domey. The timing on this is so perfect for me.

    I've just chucked FB and Twitter and now, my blog is on the chopping block and I'm ready to hit 'delete'. I've invested a year in it- in all those things you spoke of, blogfests and tours and promoting other people as best I could. But lately, people have taken a downright hostile stance on my deciding I don't want to do it all and so it seems, are pushing me to do nothing. With all I've got going on in my life right now, maybe that's the path I have to take when it comes to this online stuff.

    Not to mention in the year I've been doing all this stuff in a (supposed) effort to do what they say you 'should' do so my work will be more attractive to agents and publishers, the less I've been actually writing. Yes I've had a lot of health crud get in the way too but overall, even when I was basically completely blind in 08 and 09 I wrote more than I have this past year.

    That has to stop.

    So I'm thinking of going Dickinson in the extreme. Then maybe someday when my book is finished (the one that I know has a shot) people will see it and a handful of people passing by a bookstore will smile and say 'crazy chick, used to blog a lot about bakery'. lucky for me, though, most people will never have heard of me and so they will judge me on what I should be judged by as a writer- my book.

    Not my Tweets. Not my FB 'likes'.

    The words.

    hugs to you, as ever.

  11. Michelle, that was a nice thing to read, it made my day. Thanks. :)
    PS. I blogged about you today. (sort of.)

    Domey, I remember an earlier post where you mentioned putting what's important first. I poor memory cannot recall the details, but I believe happiness first sounds familiar.

  12. Remember, people often forget to lock the front door.

  13. Bru, And don't forget these decisions you make can be temporary if you want them to be. That's always comforting to me. Some people say that what we say on the internet is permanent. I have a feeling they're not that permanent. Making yourself visible would be pretty easy if they were!

    Charlie, happiness is an important thing to me. Emotion of any sort is pretty cool, isn't it? :) stumped me. Care to elaborate?

  14. As much as I like technology, I also know its limitations. When I built websites I had to remind clients time and again that websites aren't self-promoting.

    The chances are that even with a regular publishing deal you won't get much help with publicity beyond them sedning out review copies.

    I've dipped my toe in the self-publishing pond and haven't regretted it, but as you say, all these things are to be approached and used according to your ability and your time.


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