A couple of weeks ago, my friend Andy and I attended a (free!) Social Media Week New York event called “Hoping To Publish? An Agent, Author, Marketing Director and Publisher on what to expect and the questions to ask, in the Trade or Self-Publishing Worlds.”
As you may recall from a previous post on this blog (one that featured a big creepy portrait of Kyle MacLachlan), Andy wrote a book many years ago, I edited it last year, and now we’re both wondering where the story goes from here.
We were hopeful that “Hoping To Publish?” would shed some light on our options, and indeed it did. Here are my top takeaways:
- The world of book publishing is every bit as complicated and nuanced as the worlds of professional sports management, Japanese lacquer painting, or geopolitics, and the pros on this panel—who included a 40-year veteran of major publishing houses; an award-winning five-time novelist; and a longtime, seen-it-all literary agent—clearly spent much of their lives learning the ropes. (I should add that these are the ever-changing kind of ropes, which makes learning them that much harder.) This is not a space for the faint of heart or lazy of habit!
- Generally, while the film and music industries have embraced “indie” production, bookish tastemakers do still tend to cast a pall on authors who self-publish memoirs and works of literary fiction—though writers of genre fiction seem able to avoid this stigma and can often do pretty well for themselves, both financially and socially. The panel agreed this construct will probably not last, that the literary elite will eventually fall in line with the rest of the media at some point, but for now, most of the speakers cautioned that self-publishing outside of categories like science fiction and erotica can amount to career suicide.
- It’s really hard to get published. One speaker joked that, in the ’90s, when she was trying to get her first book published, everyone and his brother had a book deal—her coworkers all had book deals, the guy she sat down next to on the bus had a book deal. But in our post-crash (and nearly post-bookstore) world, it’s a tougher go for all.
Yes, in all, it was kind of a bummer. But the panel did also take care to mention some silver linings:
- Authors today can play a much greater role in the success of their books by working themselves to pump up their following via social media;
- If your goal is to just to produce a physical object of your work for funsies or posterity (rather than to make a career of being an author), self-publishing is a cure-all godsend no matter your genre;
- If you love to write, you should try not to get discouraged and keep writing no matter the publishing landscape. Because, at the end of the day, aren’t we all just writing because we love to?
In our case, since Andy’s novel falls in the genre fiction part of the spectrum, we’re thinking that self-publishing could be a good way to go with her book. At the least, we’ll have an awesome book-baby we can hold in our arms and pass around to our friends, and if the stars align, she might make 50 or 100 bucks and get trolled on the internet by some nerds!
Dear readers: Anyone want to chip in their two cents on this behemoth topic?