Despite the News, Some Borders Remain Open

 

Technology has filled the moat and flung open the doors to the literary castle.

Once, back in the dark ages, like about five years ago, if you wanted to be an author, you’d write a book, scour the city for an agent, and, if the stars aligned, get one and sign with a big-time publisher. That’s how it worked – there was only one path, one key to the literary castle. If you couldn’t follow the path, you didn’t get the key, and all you got to write were letters home, a journal, or maybe some angry graffiti in the bus terminal stall. Bastard agents!

If you did land one, the agent would need enough pluck and luck to snag a publisher. If not, that would be the end of your story. You’d bitch and mutter unintelligible curses and vow never to write another word. Then, one day at the beach with the orange sun setting low, inspiration would strike and words would pour forth like draft beer during Game 7. After a time, you’d have a new manuscript.

And you’d try, despite that inner voice warning of impending disappointment, to get an agent to sell your book to a publisher. You’d daydream about a sweet movie deal, and which stars would play the leads. Then the agents would write nice rejection letters. Or ignore you altogether. Or take you on and give up if the publishers didn’t launch an instant bidding war.

Well, guess what? The whole game’s changed. Technology has provided a direct path to prospective readers. Screw the middle man and let’s all bow and bless the power of new media. Social media tools have enabled writers to find cover artists, illustrators, book trailers, editors, web designers, and, most importantly, readers. What a game-changer!

The phenomenon is hardly restricted to first-time authors. Savvy politicians routinely bypass reporters and use social media to communicate directly with voters. Tech-savvy songwriters and artists are skipping the agents and taking their wares straight to consumers. And Borders just went under. Hmmm.

Bella took three years to write. This blog is the back story of how I came to self-publish. What’s your story? 

12 Comments so far »

  1. Melissa Williams said,

    Wrote on September 14, 2010 @ 3:58 am

    My pros list for self-pub vs. going through an agent far outweights the cons so far. Let’s talk obvious and outside the box advantages to self publishing in 2010…

    [Reply]

  2. stevepiacente said,

    Wrote on October 2, 2010 @ 11:22 am

    We’re continuing to learn as we go forward, Melissa, but I agree. Self-publishing has been a fantastic experience and remains a true test of our creativity and determination.

    [Reply]

  3. Cindy C Bennett said,

    Wrote on May 4, 2011 @ 9:31 am

    I completely agree with the sentiment, Steve. Now, if we could just defeat some of the negativity that many people continue to hold towards self-published authors.

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    I think we’re moving in that direction, Cindy, and I think the ground that supported the old agenting/publishing establishment is shifting before our eyes…

    [Reply]

  4. Jenny Milchman said,

    Wrote on July 20, 2011 @ 5:38 am

    You’re right–when one door closes, another one opens. I think this is a wonderful thing. There are pros and cons to both paths–but in terms of the post’s title, I feel sad. No one wins when 400 bookstores die. Whether independently published or someone with one of the Big 6, we authors need bookstores.

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    Jenny, just like the vehicles that deliver our news, publishing is not dying, but morphing into something different. There is still a healthy appetite for news, just as there is for good fiction. I think the key is to stay true to the fundamentals of good storytelling, and then use a mix of new and traditional communications techniques to connect with readers.

    [Reply]

  5. Kate Kaynak said,

    Wrote on July 20, 2011 @ 12:07 pm

    I LOVE the new options for getting books out there. My one issue with self-pub is that too many people put their work out without enough editing. Anyone choosing the self-pub route should hire an editor, not just to catch typos, but to help really tighten the writing and polish the story. It’s like cutting and polishing a gem before putting it in the ring setting.

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    Kate, you are so right. This is money that is not only well spent, but which will also pay dividends down the road.

    [Reply]

  6. TJProofs said,

    Wrote on July 23, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

    Thank goodness for technology! Now aspiring authors, who have something to say, have an opportunity. My only request, and quest, is that they publish intelligently, spending time and effort to publish a well-researched and properly edited book.

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    Absolutely right, TJ, accuracy and credibility are among the likely casualties when you rush.

    [Reply]

  7. Diedre said,

    Wrote on August 5, 2011 @ 6:20 pm

    Hey Steve,

    A lot of people speak of self-publishing as a great thing, but you have to admit, there is a lot more junk out there as a result. Uhm, I know that sounds mean but I’m just being honest. We can’t do very much quality control with books when any crazy person can just go publishing one. Not everyone has the required education, writing and business skill that it takes to produce a good book and many are being misled but fakes (fake religious leaders wrongly representing a faith, fake health specialists, fake writers. How do we move to control what content gets out there for impressionable people to buy?

    What are your thoughts?

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    Hi Diedre, afraid I have to disagree with you on this. By your logic, no one could run for office, produce a video, or publish a book without meeting some sort of test. I have to believe the market – or citizens – will provide the quality control. What works will rise to the top and the rest will get mired at the bottom. It gets very slippery when you try to “control what content gets out there.” Where would it stop? Who would decide? Who would arbitrate disagreements? I understand your frustration, but I actually feel that one of the blessings of self-publishing is that average readers get to decide what’s worth reading, not agents and publishers.

    [Reply]

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