Traditional publishing has been in the toilet this millennium. Big news flash, right?
As publishing houses scaled back, imprints closed, editors were fired, the door opened wide for self-publishing.
Now, however, traditional publishers are growing lists again. Nothing stays the same for long in this business . . .
One way or another, however, traditional publishers have been at this a very long time, and have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t.
So what can we learn from big publishers’ successes and failures? A lot. Let’s dive in and talk about these issues, in order to gain their knowledge.
To begin, what’s the main point where new writers are failing these days? No, it’s not the marketing. It’s not the cover art.
Traditional publishing has been in the toilet this millennium. Big news flash, right @Maloneeditorial
What are new writers missing all over the place? Putting the product, the book, first.
This really does seem like a no-brainer. I mean, we’re writers, right? It’s what we do—we write, we hone our craft, we study, we get critiqued, we write some more. At least, that’s the way it used to be!
One of the issues new writers (and many seasoned ones as well, although they handle it differently) have with the Traditional folks is that this takes f o r e v e r.
Yep, it does. At every single stage of the process, writers get to hurry-up-and-wait. Hurry up and produce exactly what that agent, editor, etc., requests, and then sit on their hands for months and wait on responses. It can drive a sane woman batty.
I’m in the process of getting one of my great Western writers agented, and of course, even though I know the agent very well, and have highly recommended the writer, it’ll take said agent two months to get to it. Hey! That’s actually quick!
But once she does get to it, my writer will get a full read.
Back to our point, though. What this enormous time lag did was to give writers all this glorious waiting time to actually focus on the book. On writing. To learn the craft.
While they banged their heads against publishing’s seemingly impenetrable wall, they wrote. Joined critique groups. Got bashed there. Went back and dove in again to make the story better. Worked with an editor. Wrote some more.
All of this took years. But now, with the advent of instant publishing, you don’t have to go through all of that. Presto! Your book can be published without having to do all that incessant waiting. You’re an author!
But not a very good one. The waves and waves of schlock being “published” these days boggles the mind. Oh my, is so much of this stuff just terrible. Cringe-worthy awful.
And here’s the dirty little secret Traditional publishers know: You can put megabucks behind a new release’s marketing. Hire PR agents. Get the best cover in the world. And maybe sell a lot of books because of all that. But if the book’s bad, readers won’t buy the second one.
In other words, you’ve totally lost the audience you worked so hard with marketing money to create.
You’re the same way, right? You buy a highly touted book and by page five, it’s so awful you toss it into the trash, never to read that author again. And I mean, ever. No matter if said author ends up on the morning television shows touting her next one.
What sticks with you is the awfulness of what your hard-earned money was wasted on.
But then, the converse is also true, no? You read something wonderful, and seek out that author’s backlist, while waiting eagerly for the next one. I did that very thing with Pat Conroy not long ago. For whatever reason, I picked up The Prince of Tides for the fourth time (one of my all-time favs, obviously). Then I got on a Conroy jag, reading the ones I hadn’t read, while waiting eagerly for The Death of Santini. Conroy could have written the yellow pages and I’d love it.
Oh, how I already miss him.
Of course, Pat Conroy came of writing age during the time when the only choice was to hone one’s craft . . .
Learn from him! Dive in, learn your craft, hone it and hone it and hone it. Have a great editor sign off on it before the presses run. Ah, now you have a budding career as a book author!
- Lessons From The Traditional-Publishing Model Part Two: The Genre’s the Thing!
- Lessons From The Traditional-Publishing Model Part 3: Timing
- Lessons From The Traditional-Publishing Model Part Four: Distribution