There has never been a better time to be a writer.
Sure if you are pressed for a final analysis, the original business model was and still is completely absurd. However, new technology empowers writers, helps us prosper more for our hard work, gives us more freedom and flexibility, and perhaps the biggest gain, allows us to connect with and communicate with each other.When writers view publishers (agents, publicists, and everyone else involved) as partners and not meal tickets, then we can maintain 100% responsibility for our careers. But as soon as we start to think that a publisher is going to take care of everything (or take care of us), we are in trouble.
I asked a small Independent bookseller last week how business was going. He said September was his best month in fourteen years. A clerk at Borders told me that sales were up for the quarter this year from last year.
So, yes, it's a good idea to be informed about how the book industry works before you jump into the pool with the thousands of other authors. However, for some of us, swimming in this rather crowded pool is exactly where we can execute a perfect kick-turn and push off the wall back into the throngs.
Publishing a book is not for the feint of heart. Trust me, the weeks prior to your first book's release, every insecurity you have ever known will come roiling up. Ditto the first few times you speak, teach, or dare to do anything that moves you beyond your comfort zone.
But don't demonize the publishing industry. The folks who work in it are doing the best they can with the rather crummy legacy that they were stuck with. And typically, the folks who work in publishing are smart, articulate, book-lovers just like writers.
Whatever you think you know about the book publishing industry, it's never as black and white as some people paint it because those are people who work for those corporations. Just like people write books. Just like people read books.
So when you hear about the demise of the publishing industry and the death of reading or other doom and gloom stories, don't believe them. Don't believe them for a minute. There has never been a better time to be a writer.