It Feels Like the Ground Is Shaking — But Maybe That’s Because We’re Dancing So Much
Two weekends ago, I was fortunate enough to get to host the annual Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City. It’s a somewhat progressive conference as these things go, with a great deal of time spent learning about the business of publishing and the great changes impacting writers, agents and publishers alike.
What’s fascinating about all of this is that there wasn’t a sense of fear or anxiety, but rather one of excitement, opportunity and engagement. In general, the level of positive energy was off the charts. I was happy to see this given that this same weekend, Scott Turow, President of The Authors Guild, Inc., published a lengthy piece in The New York Times entitled The Slow Death of the America Author. Many of you likely have read it already. If you haven’t, give it a look and see if you agree with Turow’s statements. (And take a moment to Google some of the rebuttals to this piece as well. It’s all rather fascinating.)
This post isn’t to pass judgment on Turow’s opinion (plenty have done that already). Instead, I’d simply like to offer as counterpoint the gist of what we heard during the conference. Instead of angst and hand wringing, we found an abundance of high spirits and, yes, confidence. The writers at the conference all seemed to recognize that there are more options and opportunities for writers today than ever before. More writers are publishing their work and more readers appear to be reading (or, at least, the same number of readers is buying more books, which, while not as good, is still a healthy improvement over the past few years).
Indie authors are making greater strides and gaining wider acceptance. Traditionally published authors are turning to self-publishing as a viable option. The stigma associated with any form of publishing that isn’t “vetted” by the publishing establishment is largely going away. The question isn’t if you can get published, but when and how. One conference panelist even suggested that writers were entering into a new golden age, where the constraints of traditional publishing had been left behind and a brave new world awaited those bold enough to venture into it.
All lovely thoughts, but let’s not kid ourselves. Self-publishing is still a challenge. It can be a full-time job, in fact. It has its rewards and it has its disappointments. But the same can be said about traditional publishing, particularly as publishers stumble to discover exactly what they need to do to stay relevant in a world where anyone can produce a book and most online retailers will carry it.
We’d love to hear your opinion about what’s happening. Are we entering a new golden age? Or are writers being marched off to the gallows, as Turow suggests?
Or is all of this debate much ado — as the bard says — about nothing?