Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Many Ways of Going Forward

There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still. — Franklin D. Roosevelt
Bet you can guess the theme of this post—there are two kinds of people in the world: those who move forward, and those stand still.

A few years ago, I realized that to avoid being left in the dust of the horserace that is writing, I had better start moving forward. It was a good call. In the five years since I started writing this blog, here are just of few of the changes that have taken place:

  • Amazon has taken over the world (at least the retail world, and certainly the book-selling world).
  • Borders shut its doors.
  • Self-publishing has gone from "vanity publishing" to a method embraced by even heavy-hitting authors.
  • E-publishing has grown exponentially, with one in four Americans now owning a tablet, and one in five owning a dedicated e-reader.
  • Americans live online—at least 244.1 million (or 76.5%) of us do.
  • Blogging has changed from online personal diaries to big business, with even the largest, most respected media outlets and companies boasting at least one, often many blogs. "Blogger" now really just means "writer".
  • Social networking has co-opted both networking and socializing.
  • We've gone app-crazy—in December 2008, there were about 10K iPhone apps; by January 2013, there were more than 775,000, and that doesn't even count all the other apps for all the other platforms now available. 

You get my point. I was right (I love being right) about how quickly the world of writing was changing—and continues to change. Then why are so many writers still stuck with the myopic vision of publication that reigned for all those decades before the Internet took hold?

I talk to a lot of writers and I honestly believe the number one reason is fear. Fear of change. Fear of technology. But mostly fear that their long-held dream won't come true. You know the dream: being a best-selling, critically acclaimed author published by a big-name house, toasted by the glittering literati, celebrated on national talk shows, and holding court over admiring fans at champagne-laced readings all over the world.

OK, that dream won't come true—at least not for most writers. But it never did come true for most writers. Here's the good news: in the new world order of publishing, there are so many more dreams that are possible for so many more writers. If you are an excellent writer willing to work hard, you can become a published author. You can write online for your business. You can blog about your travels or your hobby or your passion. You can write a book and people will be able to read it in a real live paper version or on their favorite readers.

But you can't do it standing still. And you shouldn't do it unless you have a plan and get to know what's going on out there in the publishing world.

Five years ago, I started this blog with nary a clue as to what I was doing. Then I jumped into Facebook. And Twitter. And Pinterest. And WordPress—first .com and then .org. I learned some code. I learned what worked and what didn't. I started giving classes on social networking. Last fall, I conducted a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the production and printing of my first picture book, the Animal Store Alphabet Book. I started with a great idea, a fabulous illustrator, and a 21-page business plan. Hard-cover copies of that book came to life on January 1 of this year and today children and bookstores and libraries have copies of it.

Now I'm excited to be teaming up with the dynamic April Eberhardt, a self-described "literary agent for change". We're pooling our collective knowledge and experience, coupling it with our enthusiasm for the ever-exciting, ever-changing world of publishing, and bundling it together into a workshop that we call Pathways to Publication: Choosing the Best Way to Reach Your Readers.

If you want to take a step forward, I hope you'll consider joining us on June 7 in Chicago (the day before Printers Row Lit Fest). Click here for more information and to register. Special thanks to Karen Gray-Keeler and Where Are We Going for supporting this project.

As excited as I am about all these possibilities, and before I started any of this, I learned how to write…because no matter which path you choose, it's the writing that counts.

Have you taken a step off the dime? How are you moving forward?

5 comments:

Kenn said...

I'm not a writer but you are "right on the money". It seems like every business or endeavor you are part of needs a blogger or WRITER if you have any chance of being hear in this world.

Elisabeth Kinsey said...

It's funny that you post this. I am fighting with Amazon Kindle right now because my Kindle version of This Boy's life is numbered 1005-??? I want a real page number, so I can cite it, but more importantly, so I can feel like I just read a book. Is that bad to ask of technology? I'm all about your cause!!! I never wanted the glittering literati, btw. I just want the weird shut-ins who still live at home and read Dickens.

Susan Bearman said...

Hi, Elisabeth. Thanks for stopping by. Do you want to cite it referencing the page number in the print book? That's an interesting question. Page numbers don't exist in most ePubs because the text is scalable. Here's the MLA guide for citing ePubs. Hope that helps.

I don't know if an ePub will ever feel completely like a paper book. Most digital works cite word count, rather than number of pages.

Personally, I'll take the weird shut-ins and the glittering literati. And let it be known that I'm far more interested in fortune than fame. ;)

Matt Billock said...

Excellent post. I'm a programmer by day, which means that I am no stranger to worlds that move quickly. I see in writing a lot of what has been happening in the music and movie industries - the proliferation of new methods of content delivery has opened a lot of avenues, and closed a lot of old doors in the process.

It seems to me a writer today has to be a lot more tech-savvy if they would like to succeed, as your admirable efforts to build a web presence have shown so far. I think what will end up surprising a lot of people, though, is that it isn't nearly as complex as they think it is. You just have to stick with it.

Susan Bearman said...

I agree, Matt. There so much out there now that no one person can possibly know it all or participate in everything. That gives us as writers the luxury of choice. We can pick an choose the venues and technologies that feel right for us.