Aug 28, 2011

Orbiting Around the Changes in the Publishing World

I know it's odd, me posting on a Sunday, but I have just joined a blog chain helmed by Michelle McLean and Kate Quinn. The chain gives each member a chance to answer a writing and/or career related question while reading our fellow members' thoughts. Over the last year, I have seen these posts around the blogosphere, and when my friend Christine Fonseca invited me to join, I said yes for the chance to learn and share on a deadline.

This month, the chain started with Sandra (see chain blogroll on sidebar for links) who asked the question

Have the recent changes in the publishing industry affected your writing plans/career? If so, how?

The quick answer is of course my plans have been affected! But the reality is that I am still a novice writer who is discovering what it means to have a strong writing voice and a lack of structure. I posted a few weeks ago on my five-year plan and that I am two years into it. The plan is to be published within five years (NOT by any means necessary) and to have a stronger sense of what having a writing career really means for me. 

In the last two years, my perspective on publishing has changed dramatically. My first and only query letter is something I laugh at now. Matt saw it, it's comically bad. When I first learned about self-publishing, I pigeonholed those who take on that endeavor as impatient, immature brats. Did I mention I am still a novice writer?

You see, I thought you wrote a story, queried, and got a book deal. Hahaha. (Ow, laughing hurts my stomach right now.) Even now, the publishing process is a bit of a mystery for me because I have been focused on writing the best stories I can and I avoid posts that have to do with agents and their advice.

One single event has had the largest impact on my view of the publishing industry and, in turn, my own career.

Last March, when Anita Miller first told me her intentions to self-publish a book that had previously been agented by an all-star agent, my jaw dropped to the floor (it was covered in carpet lint and dog hair...totally gross). Anita and I had grown close as far as virtual partnerships go, and I was concerned for her and troubled by the seeming suddenness of her decision. 

The truth is that Anita did her homework and made a decision to venture off the normal publishing track. Whether or not that decision has paid off is "yet to be determined," in her own words, but I can tell you it has been exciting to read, hail, and promote Anita's two middle grade e-books that she sells for ninety-nine freaking cents.

Anita's journey has been a most acidic catalyst in my own writing career as I watch new opportunities bubble up daily. I have a lot of thinking and decision-making to do as the last three years of my goal come to pass. The focus is not on meeting a fake deadline. The focus is to come to a place where I can clearly reflect on what I have learned and make an informed decision or two on where to go from there.

The changes in the publishing industry are not going to stop, no matter what each of us decides to do with our own writing. Embracing and heralding e-books and self-publishing works does not mean you or I have to choose that path.

What I tell myself every day is to be open-minded and to take the changes the universe hurls at me with stride and a sense of adventure. 

Shaun posted ahead of me and the next link in this chain is Christine, who'll post her answer tomorrow. If you'd like to follow this chain from the beginning (it's so worth it!) head to Sandra's blog for the beginning.


  1. What a fascinating chain. I love the idea! I agree, I have become more open to alternative forms of publishing in the last few years. Or, maybe more respecting of alternative forms of publishing. And I am thankful that these alternative forms push publishing into thinking outside of the box. (Maybe)... Plus, the advent of widespread ebooking gives us all more freedom to create in different medias. I imagine books with voice overs, and cartoon movies in the middle of them. Books that literally POP off the page. What an amazing time to be following the book industry!!

  2. "What I tell myself every day is to be open-minded and to take the changes the universe hurls at me with stride and a sense of adventure."

    This. I want to see what I can learn from this adventure I'm on. I love this blog chain. Thanks!

  3. Interesting thoughts.
    When I first started writing pb's about 5-6 years ago, I thought, I'll write it, a publisher will buy it. Book done. I REALLY thought it would be easier. Luckily I didn't have a 5 yr plan to publish or I'd be disappointed right now. I have goals. I met being published in children's magazine goal. Next is getting my mg published. Not sure if it will be with or without an agent yet...

  4. Okay, here's the thing for those who want to publish traditionally: If you write a freakin awesome book, you will get an agent. I had this happen to a writer friend recently. I read a PIECE of his rough draft like a year ago and immediately, I thought, "Wow, this gonna be huge." A few weeks ago, he pitched it at a conference and had the world's biggest agents ask to represent him. Why? Because he wrote a freakin awesome book.

    Now, what will happen to publishing during the time it takes his book to get sold and published? I have no idea, but it will be exciting to watch. And I wish him well, as I do all people who try hard to achieve a dream.

    As writers, we need to keep an eye on changes in publishing, remain adventurous, and work toward writing our own freakin awesome book...whether or not we use an agent and/or publisher to get it into readers' hands.

  5. Changes go on every day, every week. It's fun to watch. I still don't know what my plans for the future are. Still writing. Still improving. :)

  6. "The focus is to come to a place where I can clearly reflect on what I have learned and make an informed decision or two on where to go from there."

    Perfectly said :) And welcome to the chain!! Wonderful first post :)

  7. Welcome to the blog chain!

    I think in the beginning, we all think getting published will be an easier process than it actually is. No matter which path you take to publish, you need time to hone your craft, not to mention drive and persistence. Good luck with your endeavors.

  8. I love this post Jon and I'm so glad you are part of the chain. I'm excited to see what happens with both of our careers in the future!

  9. This is a great chain topic! I'm glad you're on the chain! It's a great place to be, with writers who support each other.

    I think publishing is constantly changing. We, as authors, just have to keep up with what readers want.

    Good luck with your five year plan!

    And dude, your blog looks great! I'm sure you changed it, oh, last year, but I'm lame and haven't been online much since like January. Ha!

  10. Well said! Welcome to the blog chain. THe publishing world has to come to a lull in time after all the changes. Hopefully, it will be an exciting time for everyone involved in the publishing industry- not just writer's making fantastic stories, but editors eager to take on debut authors. Good luck with your five-year plan.

  11. Welcome to the chain, Jon! Great post! :)

  12. This is interesting! I had not heard of this chain before.

    I've also become more open to alternative forms of publication. On the one hand, this is a terrifying time to be starting out as a new writer. On the other hand, it's an exciting time. I'm just hoping the exciting can overturn the scary.

    Tina @ Life is Good
    and I are joining forces in a followup A to Z challenge. We're going to visit and comment at each of the original A to Z participants, and we hope you'll join us!

    Shannon @ The Warrior Muse

  13. This is such an interesting question. I still don't know what my career goals are, let alone whether or not they've changed.

    Well, I guess that's not exactly true--my goal is to publish my fiction. And certainly the options are limitless at this point--we are no longer bound by the old "rules".

    It's an exciting time to be a writer. But, of course, it's still important to actually write.


  14. I think you're definitely on the right track. The very best thing you can do for yourself is become the best writer you can. It sounds like you're definitely on the path towards that.

    Everyone after that you'll figure out along the way. And the writing community is such a fun, supportive community.

  15. This is a well-thought out post, Jon. It's obvious you give these things a great deal of thought and you're probably on the right track. Like you, I initially thought self-publishers were the ones who "couldn't wait". I've had that opinion beaten out of me by a few really well-written books, and I've learned not to assume. Great job!