Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Strategic Thinking for 2011

In previous posts on this blog, I've written about my journey into the writing life. The idea for Doctor Luke's Assistant came to me. I wrote the novel, began looking into how to get it published, and learned publishers don't want to publish someones book—they want to publish career writers. That was in 2003, and that was okay, for as I wrote the first novel, ideas for many other novels began to occupy gray cells.

Then I learned that the desire to be a career writer was not enough. You needed a platform (i.e. a ready made audience) or almost no publisher would touch you. So I switched to freelancing for platform building. That was in 2009, and was okay, since I enjoyed that type of writing and have seen a little success with it. I also worked on Bible studies, and enjoyed writing them.

During this time, my primary writing goal was to have a book, preferably a novel, published by a royalty paying publisher, the type of publisher who pays an advance against royalties. This, to me, was a sign that my writing was good. An alternate route was always open: self-publishing. I have resisted that for a number of reasons. First, it can be expensive, both to pay the set-up fees and to purchase a quantity of books that may or may not sell. Second, self-publishing carries a stigma, a statement that this writer is not good enough to make it with a real writer so he publishes himself with a vanity press. Third, the conventional wisdom is that no royalty publisher will ever touch someone who first self-publishes. Fourth, the quality of self-published books is often very poor. So why would I want to self-publish?

However, several things are changing in the self-publishers. Availability of print on demand (POD) type printing machines have brought down the cost of set-up (although often with the requirement that books cost more). The quality of many self-published books (cover art, paper quality, binding) has greatly improved. There are still lots of lousy self-published books added to the market due to bad writing, but good ones can rise above the chaff.

The big change, however, is the emergence of the e-book as an alternative means of distributing books to readers. This takes care of much of the cost. The writer gets a bigger share of the price paid; there's no inventory; cover art can be just as good as with printed books. There are lots of e-book mediums, from the Sony Reader to Amazon Kindle to B&N Nook, and even more. And, perhaps most importantly, many writers seem to be having success with it. Joe Konrath reports on his blog about these successes.

So maybe I need to rethink my previous decision. I'm going to take at least two months, maybe longer, to consider what to do. I've had these sorts of inspirations before, and don't want to make a quick decision. Don't mind me if I discuss this out loud on the blog.

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