Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Future of the Writing Industry

Read that title again. I said "Writing Industry" not "Publishing Industry." There have been a lot of articles and blog posts lately about the future of the publishing industry. I think the future of the publishing industry can be summed up in one word: Amazon. All the handwringing about its future stems from the fact that "publishing" boils down to taking someone else's work and putting it into a package that the consumer can enjoy. That was an "industry" when you needed a commercial building to house a printing press. Now it's a software program.

So this is about the future of writing, and specifically the future of my writing. To fully understand, here's a bit about my writing past, present, and future, following by a teaser non-announcement. Enjoy.

The Past
In 2000, I wrote my first novel. I didn't tell a lot of people though because unless you got your novel published you weren't really a writer. At least that's what I thought. I was fortunate to know a guy who'd had a couple of novels published by Simon & Schuster. His advice was clear: (1) get an agent, and (2) mine doesn't handle your genre.

So I queried agents--lots of them. And I got some full requests--several of them. But ultimately no bites. My story was a mystery with a supernatural twist. Commonplace today, but in 2000 the only thing I could compare it to were some cozies with a talking cat. And remember, this was back when querying--and submitting--was by mail. It was time-consuming and expensive. Moreover, agents expected 3-month exclusives. After a year, I had no agent but had busied myself writing the sequel. A year later, still no agent, but we'd had our first child. Whatever extra time and money I had couldn't be spent on trying to find a publisher. I saved the files on my old iMac, and stopped writing.

The Present
In 2009, two important things happened. One, I wrote a silly story for my son about a goofy paleontologist and a couple of kids travelling back to dinosaur times. Two, I listened to a radio show called Coast to Coast AM, where the guest said, "It's easy to get published anymore. Just write something, then post it on a website called" So I did, and I snagged a publisher: Nimble Books. I was published.

What I didn't fully realize was that my writing hadn't changed, but the publishing industry had. Nimble Books didn't and couldn't have existed in 2000. But with Amazon and print-on-demand, the big publishers didn't control everything anymore. Not surprisingly, agents no longer required 3-month exclusives. And genres that hadn't existed 10 years earlier will all over Micropublishers were flourishing, and giving opportunities to writers like me.

But not totally understanding that, I figured it was just that my talent lay in children's books, not adult fare. Until a writer a met through Twitter, the incomparable Shelly Picarella, invited me to write a short story for an anthology she was putting together about the seven deadly sins. Not exactly kid stuff. But I agreed, and wrote a decidedly non-children's story about Wrath. What mattered most was what came when the other authors read it: they liked it. As in, "Hey, this is really good." Maybe I was an okay writer after all.

Then I got involved in a similar short story collection with some different writers. Again I wrote an adult piece. Again the other writers said it was good. I decided to believe them.

The Future
Throughout 2010 and 2011, I wrote not only those two short stories, but two novels, plus some more children's stories. I wasn't entirely sure what to do with them all. Querying agents takes forever, and the odds are long, and I wasn't even sure anymore why I wanted an agent.

Then I read these blog posts by Jonas SaulMichael A. Stackpole, and Bob Mayer.

I think I've finally decided on my future as an author. Come back in a week and I'll share my decision with you. In the meantime, what to do you think is the future of the writing industry?