Sunday, December 29, 2013

The new informed writer



When I first started to think seriously about devoting my life to the pursuit of publication finding instruction was like walking through a desert. There was almost no information about how to go about getting published (this was prior to the internet). I remember buying my first issue of Writer’s Digest and literally digesting every page. I read the how-to articles over and over and marveled at the process of birthing a book into the world. When I realized I needed an agent I went to the local library (remember those) and took out a copy of the LMP (The Literary Marketplace) a behemoth of a book that listed every agent and publisher in the U.S..

I spent days painstakingly going over every listing, jotting down notes on which agent and publisher best matched my genre and style. After compiling a very long list, I devoted the next several weeks to typing personalized query letters to each one and sending those along with SASE’s. The cost was roughly sixty-four cents a piece. No small change when you’re talking hundreds of letters. I rented a post office box just for my query responses so that it wouldn’t get mixed up with my regular mail and carefully kept up with the latest agent hires and openings on editor’s lists.

When the one in a hundred positive SASE would come back asking me to send a sample or even the entire manuscript I would fly through the roof. I’d hastily print out a copy, address it, and drive down to the post office to mail it off. For days after, I’d lie awake at night with fantasies of getting that elusive telephone call that I had been signed and was about to get rich and famous.

One day that call did come and the next thing I knew I was signed to an exclusive contract with a major literary agency to represent all my current and future books. I was in heaven to say the least. My agent edited my rough copies and helped strengthen my plots and characters all at zero cost to me. Through the years we had several contract close calls and nearly signed with Random House. Then everything changed. The ebook revolution began and the once exclusive world of the published novelist became public domain.

Suddenly, there are thousands of newly published books and authors. Websites can track sales instantly. Search engines can show you where your traffic is coming from providing a better avenue to market your work. Services can provide SEO optimization, and select niche markets, and book trailers. Writers have to be on Facebook, Twitter, Utube, Linked in, and every other social media just to make a dent in the overpopulated marketplace. The days when writers put their books out there and went off to do a few signings hoping to sell enough copies to impress their publisher were over.

The informed writer can now use stats, and location, and all sorts of new and neat venues to promote their books to the world. Yes, it does take an extraordinary amount of time to get noticed but it is possible for anyone author to suddenly hit it big without jumping through corporate hoops or waiting years for their book to hit the shelf with a life expectancy of just a few short weeks (which never existed before in the publishing arena). Today’s informed writer has just as much chance of selling as many copies as any other signed writer.

I’m not certain if the LMP still exists or even if libraries will still exist in the near future. The internet now provides the informed writer with everything they need to create their own personal success. With a little research and a well-written novel nearly any writer can sell enough copies to call themselves a success.