This is not a play-by-play of my BEA experience. I think there are plenty of those out there already. Rather these are my impressions of where writers stand as we look towards the big question mark called the future and wonder: what's to become of us?
Writers Will Still Get Published
Publishing isn’t over by any means but we are in the midst of a revolution and evolution in the publishing industry. A revolution because I think it’s inevitable that readers (the customers in the industry) are going to become more vocal, demanding, and insistent upon getting their needs met. Even though what seems to be happening is that readers don’t necessarily know what they need and want until it’s basically a done deal. For example, nobody anticipated that they be reading on their iPhone and yet today many are. So it seems to me that a certain amount of trial and error is going to be required, no matter how backwards that might seem from a traditional business perspective.
What writers need to remember is that publishing isn’t over just because readers are finding more ways to read. Publishers who can figure out how to provide readers with more options and specifically the options readers want will succeed and they will need writers, specifically writers who are keeping up with the times. Though I imagine we will have less publishers to choose from (there are over 200 thousand now). I don’t think they are all going to make it.
Writers Need To Work With Impeccable Agents
Contracts will become very different in the future if publishers are going to be able to leverage their content to take advantage of multiple formats. So plan on getting a reputable agent, who is aligned with the best agent associations (AAR), is an excellent contract negotiator, and understands and keeps up with developments in new media (like mine, for example). I don’t think I could emphasize the importance of this more. So plan to invest plenty of footwork into not just getting any agent but getting the best possible agent you can get. The writer-agent relationship is a business partnership and you do not want to enter into a contract with a publisher without a knowledgeable partner.
Writers Need To Hone Four Key Skills
Trust me when I say that this business is far too complicated for any writer to get very far merely because he or she writes well. Writers need to treat a writing career like any other business and recognize that there are four essential skills that we all need to have. These skills are so essential that you really should develop them rather than trying to hire them out. The four skills are cultivating your writing craft, selling your work & yourself, professional development & continuing education, and platform development.
These are four distinct skills that writers can build up over time with small, gradual investment of time and energy. Keep in mind that there are many people who would like to take advantage of a person who writes well, so work on having all four key skills so you won’t fall prey to scammers trying to lure you in by preying on your weaknesses. All four skills can be learned. All of them are cultivatable. Every writer needs to cultivate all four skills to be successful in the short and long runs.
Writers Need to Keep Up with the Times
If you are stubbornly holding the position that you do not need to keep up with the times because you are a writer and therefore writing well is your only job…I think you are headed for extinction or exploitation. The only writers right now who can afford to only focus on the quality of their writing are the already published bestselling authors, who already have contracts. So, again, while the quality of your writing is still important, remember what I just said about cultivating a broader skill sets that will help you be and stay more viable in this marketplace.
As a writer, your desire to become a published author makes you vulnerable to folks who would love to take your money and not be accountable for their share in your success. So, it’s crucial that you stay abreast of the changes in the industry as well as what self-publishers, social networkers, entrepreneurs, and universities are doing to stay viable in the rapidly evolving marketplace. And every time you partner with someone, it’s so important that you only partner with the most reputable, ethical professionals you can.
We’ve already arrived at a future where everyone is a writer, everyone is a publisher, everyone is a bookseller, everyone is a librarian or at least has an archive. But by far the best news of all is that so many are readers and readers are reading in so many ways.
I’d bet we’re collectively reading more than ever. And I have a theory that the person / business / publisher / agent / bookseller / librarian, who can find ways to make good things happen amongst the players—while respecting and partnering with all of us—will succeed most.