An Industry on the Brink—Five Mistakes that are Killing Traditional Publishing

Author Kristen Lamb, social media authors, author platform, social media writers

Old School Meets New School

As many of you know, last week I was blessed enough to get to present at Thrillerfest, which is a conference held by the International Thriller Writers in the heart of New York City. What a blast and a WONDERFUL conference! If you ever get an opportunity to go, take it. Yet, now that I’m home, I feel compelled to share my observations and make the most of my $5000 investment. Why can’t you guys benefit, too, right?

Now that I have been to NY, talked to people and observed things first-hand, I feel I am in a better position to make an accurate analysis, so here are the five mistakes that I feel are killing traditional publishing.

Mistake #1—Fear

When I first arrived, there was almost a palpable feeling of dread, doom and gloom. I felt like agents, editors and even writers were refusing to acknowledge the pink elephant in the room. Why? Because they were afraid of it.

The paradigm is changing and the world is going digital. No matter how many times we click the ruby slippers and chant There’s nothing like paper. People will always want paper it isn’t going to change a darn thing. The only thing this self-soothing will do is waste time while the windows of opportunity close.

When I attended the Craft Fest luncheon, the keynote was Jaime Raab, Senior Vice President & Publisher, Grand Central Publishing (Hachette). She began her speech with something akin to, “I know all of you are wanting to hear me talk about the changes in publishing but…” and then she went off to talk about all her favorite books over the course of her publishing career and why she thought they were game-changers.

And I was like WTH?

It was a lovely speech, but the troops are battered and broken and searching for a reason to fight for the cause. If you know they need to hear something about the changes in publishing, then by gum give it to them. I felt like the troops needed the Churchill speech. The Germans are coming. Give us something!

But, no.

Instead, we had a nice nostalgic speech that offered little to ease the fear. And I am not meaning any disrespect, but I feel this fear factor is a big part of the problem. The leadership is afraid and that is filtering into decisions. Fear is a lousy place to make strategy. When we find ourselves defending, the battle is already lost.

But you know what? Good thing I am too dumb to be afraid.

The first thing I announced on my panel was that it is an AMAZING time to be a writer. It is a BRILLIANT time to be a publisher, even a TRADITIONAL PUBLISHER! But here is the thing. We have to change. We have to grow and growing sucks and sometimes is painful as hell but it is necessary because if we aren’t growing we are DYING. 

We cannot build a 21st century future with 18th century tools. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself! Fight! Win!

We MUST face where we are weak, because if we don’t, we are vulnerable. Ignoring a thing doesn’t change a thing. The truth will set us free and if the truth is that we are being short-sighted and wasteful, then we need to FACE that so we can FIX it. Fear wastes time and energy.

After the social media panel there was a noticeable shift. People were smiling, they were hopeful. WANA (We Are Not Alone) is a wonderful plan that is fun, easy and has sold hundreds of thousands of books. Maybe WANA it isn’t THE plan, but it is at least A plan. WANA works for all kinds of writers and all types of publishers and it frees up time to do ALL the meaningful work. Best of all, WANAs don’t know fear. We only know hope, and that automatically places us in a position of strength.

Mistake #2—Paper is Married to Petroleum DOOM

Raab continued to assert that “readers would always want paper” yet I will show exactly why this assertion is dead wrong. Let’s indulge in a little Economics 101.

The reason that readers will not always want paper books is that paper books are what is known as an elastic good. Elastic goods cannot fluctuate too far in price before people just decide to do without or change products.

For instance, coffee is elastic. We are all sad when Jamaica is hit by hurricane and loses much of its Blue Mountain Coffee bean crops, but we are simply unwilling to pay $15 for a cup of coffee. We all have a ceiling before we just do without Blue Mountain Coffee.

Elasticity is even more of a problem when there is a ready supply of easy substitutes. For instance, if Blue Mountain Coffee was the only source of caffeine on the planet, maybe we would keep demanding even as the price increased (inelastic), but it isn’t. It is too easy to buy a pound of Folgers instead.

Or we can even buy black tea or Monster drinks. We can take ginseng, guarana, and all kinds of other Chinese herbs to wire us for the day. While caffeine is inelastic (meaning if there was only one source we would continue to pay), Blue Mountain Coffee is NOT.

Artificial hips and superconductors? Inelastic. Paper books? Very ELASTIC.

We will only pay so much for paper books before we just go download the e-book, and this is a HUGE problem for traditional publishing. Why? Because paper books are married to petroleum. As the price in oil increases, so do costs.

Books need to be manufactured, then shipped. I worked in the paper industry and believe me, paper books are seriously heavy, which means they burn a lot of fuel to ship. They also burn a lot of fuel to return then pulp due to waste. Anyone who has ever had to move gets what I am taking about here.

This grossly inefficient consignment model worked so long as readers had no other options. Yet, now with e-readers, e-books, indies and POD publishing? The game has changed.

Books were always elastic, but they are even more elastic now that there are other options. What the publishers are failing to understand is that as petroleum continues to rise in price, their profit margin gets thinner and thinner.

If NY doesn’t change? They will go bankrupt simply because the margin will fully disappear, then their costs will surpass what readers are willing to pay for a paper book. If big rig trucks ran off sunshine or happy thoughts, this might not be as critical of a problem as it is.

NY MUST make the change to digital, as many titles as possible before petroleum bankrupts the industry for good. Yes, some books will need to be paper, but POD technology can step in to fill that gap, minimize the waste, and drop costs so traditional publishers can increase margin.

The competition has not lashed their product to barrels of petroleum. The indies are not hobbled by waste, shipping costs and limited shelf space, and this is why they can pay their authors so much BETTER. Writers might not be great at math, but we aren’t that bad. It is only a matter of time before the Big Six will hemorrhage talent, probably the mid-list first as the demand for mass market paperbacks contracts. 

Traditional publishers! Get those costs down so you can pay your people better. You can’t keep using a handful of mega authors to float the business. In the new paradigm, there is no reason to lose so much money. There are all kinds of creative and profitable solutions to make all authors profitable.

If this is a race, NY, you are riding a horse but trying to beat a Ferrarri. Help me help you!

Mistake #3—Reliance on Outdated Gimmicky Marketing Tactics

For those of you who know the WANA way, we abhor gimmick. Gimmicks worked in the old paradigm before the Internet and social media, but now? We have a much more sophisticated audience that demands authenticity. We don’t like being fooled either.

Tweeting as a character or interviewing yourself pretending to be your characters is, in my opinion, not the best use of time. Sure it might be fun for our devoted fans, but for new people who don’t yet know our books, it can seriously tick them off when they figure out they have been duped.

True story.

I was on Twitter and happened to see one author talk to a NYTBSA who I’d never heard of. So I followed and loved his tweets. Then I spotted him interacting with someone from the CIA. I thought that was really cool so I started following this other person and asking questions thinking I was talking to someone from the CIA. When I realized I had been talking to a character from one of this author’s books, I was mortified, then livid and then I unfollowed.

Play head games at your own risk.

Let’s use some logic. How many people are going to care about an interview from an imaginary character from an author they don’t know and out of a book they’ve never read? There is far better content that actually stands a chance of going viral.

Interviews don’t generally go viral unless they are with a super famous person who then does something very embarrassing (Tom Cruise and the couch thing on Oprah) or dies (Steve Jobs). Interviews with imaginary people? Probably not going to go viral.

A lot of people feel the gimmick is a tool so people will pay attention to our marketing, but thing is, gimmicks don’t work and marketing and advertising don’t work, either. All of it is just busy work that gives us the illusion we are doing something meaningful.

My impression from Thrillerfest?

I felt that the traditional publishers had far too much reliance on these tactics, which is likely why my sixty-one year old mother has a better Klout score. If no one is paying attention to what we post or spreading what we post, then we are doing something wrong.

Any pretending to be characters needs to be initiated by fans. Yes, there are loads of teenagers who love to role-play as Twilight characters. That is cute and fun. When we (authors) do it? Weird, and kinda creepy.

Mistake #4—Over-Fixation on Tools

There was an over-fixation, in my opinion, on tools. Yes, there are analytical tools that can tell us what time of day is best to tweet and what time of week is best to blog, and what time of month is best to run a promotion, but all I could think as people were talking about these tools was:

Are they tweeting or ovulating?

I know that IT geeks are fascinated with the idea of creating a program that can accurately predict human behavior, probably so they can get a date. But, thing is, they can’t predict human behavior. If we could accurately predict human behavior, then we have bigger problems than selling books and should start looking for the chip someone has implanted in our brains.

Yes, there is some predictability. I.e. Spamming people pisses them off. Talking to people and being kind and genuine generally is a good bet.

Beyond the fundamentals? There is no way to predict this stuff. People who love tools, in my experience, are people who want from others what they, themselves, are unwilling to give.

See, for Twitter and Facebook to work, to actually sell books SOMEONE must be present. When people use these tools to post for them, it is because they want the perks without the works. They want ME to actually be on Twitter/Facebook so I can click and then give them money, but they can’t be bothered to actually take time to be on Twitter talking to me.

Yeah, I’m all over that.

Tools RUIN social sites. RUIN THEM! When too many people start using these fancy tools to do stuff for them, the information becomes invisible. Also if no one is there to read and respond to the tweet because they are tired of talking to bots? Then Twitter is a giant waste of time that will not sell books because it is choking on automation. If people loved talking to machines, they’d call their credit card company, not log on to Twitter.

We don’t have to post a lot to be effective, and being real is the best plan. We can’t expect from others what we are unwilling to give. And yes, I know some of you have to work day jobs and can’t tweet during the day but pssst….Twitter and Facebook are GLOBAL. People in other time zones will see your posts.

Again, better uses of time. These tools are interesting, but if you work the WANA way, they you have a whole team of people helping you, so it matters less and less what time of day you post. And besides, I have enough to do without setting my watch for a quick roll in the sack while I’m fertile tweeting.

Mistake #5—Expecting Commerce Before Community

At Thrillerfest there were a couple new book sites introduced where readers could go and interact with their favorite authors. Um, didn’t we already have Goodreads? Now there are two more?

Don’t get me wrong, these are lovely sites and I think they have a lot to offer, but we are back all pitching to the same people, the same over saturated 8-10% of the population who defines themselves as “readers.”

There are hundreds of millions of people who will only read one or two books a year, but I have said this time and time again. Who cares if it is YOUR book? Every mega-success from Harry Potter to 50 Shades of Grey has come from mobilizing the fat part of the bell curve, the people who would not normally define themselves as “readers.” Traditional marketing and “reader sites” will not make our book the next Twilight or Hunger Games.

I am saying this as respectfully as possible, but traditional marketing has some lazy and uncreative people thinking this stuff up. We all want the magical site where we can find….readers. You know what? Back when I sold cardboard (corner board), I would have loved a site called That would have made my job WAY easier. Instead, I had to hit the pavement, look around and look for people who could be converted into buyers. 

For instance, we had to pay attention to the HUGE boxes being used to ship water heaters so we could step in and say, “Hey, I bet those giant boxes are really expensive. If you use four pieces of corner board, some wrap and strapping, not only could you fit more water heaters on a truck, but you could seriously cut your shipping costs and drastically improve your profit margin.”

We had to work for the sale, but NY? Let’s just put more “reader sites” together and then people will come and give us money.

Am I saying these sites aren’t great? No, they are lovely and shiny and pretty but they are not a substitute for creating a customer. We can’t have commerce before community. It’s like building a McDonald’s in the middle of a field and hoping people will show up to eat burgers. It makes more sense to wait until there is a thriving community and then build the McDonald’s. Then the McDonald’s is there to serve the community, not the community there to serve the shareholders of McDonald’s.

This is why it is critical for us (writers) to build community first. If we have a community of support, then these sites with goodies and interviews and all that jazz will work better. I spent two years building the idea of WANA before we built WANATribe. By the time I launched WANATribe, it just made the experience of being a WANA even better. It allowed you guys to interact in new and fun ways.

But what if I had started off with WANATribe? It would have been me taking not giving.


So after all of this, is traditional publishing doomed? I say it can have a bright future, but the people in charge have to start listening to people who are doing publishing (and social media) better. I know there is probably some pride involved, but get over it. Yes, you rocked publishing for over a century, but now? Not so much. You have a lot to learn.

The thing is, e-book sales are not a Zero Sum Game. Joe Konrath made a brilliant point about this in a recent blog:

Ebook sales aren’t a zero sum game. A sale of one ebook doesn’t preclude the sale of another, because this is a burgeoning global market with hundreds of new customers introduced daily, and people naturally horde more than they need. 

Let’s say there are currently 100 million ebook readers, and 1 million ebook titles on Amazon. In ten years, there will be billions of ebook readers (following the path of mp3s). But there won’t be a corresponding 100 million ebook titles available–there aren’t that many people writing ebooks, and never will be.

What this means is that traditional publishing can remain if they are willing to change and listen to people who are doing things right in the digital paradigm. Books are not so cost-prohibitive that people cannot buy more than one. I know a lot of us in the indie world have offered to help NY, but we can’t do this for them. The Big Six have a lot to offer and many of us hate to see that go away. We do hold a respect for what they do and they have a lot of talent.

With the explosion of smart phones, tablets and e-readers, this could be a Golden Age for publishing, but the Big Six cannot embrace their future while clinging to the past.

What are your thoughts? Opinions? Ideas? What have you observed? Do you think the Big Six can survive or should they be parted out to the indies? Do you think the mid-list is next to defect? I don’t mind any opinion, so long as it is respectful.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

***Changing the contest.

It is a lot of work to pick the winners each week. Not that you guys aren’t totally worth it, but with the launch of WANA International and WANATribe I need to streamline. So I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners will now have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of July I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.


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  1. Fantastic article. Thanks for the insights–and the humour! I’ll be tweeting this and posting to my FB writers group.

  2. Creating community sounds very sexy. I’m not persuaded it works for every author.

    Yes, traditional publishers are running scared, as my agent told me a few weeks ago. The paperback of my latest book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” is out in two weeks and, the way this industry is going, I’d be surprised if publishers even continue the hardcover-to-paper transition they have done for so long, because e-books are now outselling both.

    I’m now finishing up a proposal for what I hope will become my third NF book. At this rate, if it sells, it’s looking pretty unclear in which format it might be published and sell most effectively.

    The e-book challenge remains — readers still want to meet, speak with, listen to and interact with authors. Will we be signing their Kindle covers?

    1. They can keep paper. POD is a wonderful option and the technology is getting better and better. Paper doesn’t need to go away, it just needs to be handled more prudently. I think they could partner with booksellers on this one. Make a large number of titles e-book and then give readers a POD option. The more we use this technology the better it will get. But NY can’t keep shipping truckloads of books back and forth across the country when the market is not bearing it.

      1. I’ve had authors sign my ereader. Just sayin’…

    2. Yes, you can “sign” their Kindle ebook file using

  3. Great post, Kristen. I’m hoping that with the current change in publishing, groups like ITW will start accepting indies as members. It’s too bad you currently have to be published from an accepted house to be a member. And I couldn’t agree more with the interaction part of social media. Scheduled tweets are fine, but we also have to be there to respond. Same goes with blogs. I think it’s vital authors-especially ones like me who are still establishing their brand-respond to all comments.

  4. I’ve wondered that too. If I publish digitally, then what’s the physical takeaway when I do a reading, or are writers not doing readings anymore? I hope that’s not on the outs; I love going to readings. And I love buying a print copy of the book and getting it signed and taking it home and putting it on a shelf dedicated to books I consider special and will keep all my life. Of course, we could buy some POD books to take with us, but seems like that would be expensive (and I’m on a very tight budget). Maybe we get some gorgeous postcards made up with a sexy excerpt on the back and sign that, and those could become collectible? It’s hard to know what to do when I can’t see the road ahead.Still, I think Konrath is right about the demand for ebooks outpacing the supply at some point, and that gives me hope that it is still possible to make a career as a writer.

    1. You can have signed bookplates available, and on your website, even make them downloadable. Some people have excerpts or a short story in a little booklet, or on el-cheapo flash/thumb drives, or on DVD’s as a giveaways. Someone once baked cookies from a recipe she had in her book

    2. You can do readings, but where? Bookstores are pretty much out as locations. The store owner has no compelling interest in you selling books online and not from the store. I did my launch event in my own living room and gave away buttons and other logo stuff from Zazzle, but that does get expensive. For signing, I have “rack cards” with review quotes on one side and the cover and tag line on the other. A friend of mine is having her launch event in a local brew pub! But you either have to hunt down an appropriate location or prevail on your friends to host a “house concert”, which may not be as easy as it sounds..

  5. Thanks, Kristen. I’m absolutely convinced of the value of participating in the WANA community. But is it OK for a first-time novelist like myself to wait until he’s FINISHED writing his book? I’ve published many short stories over the years and have won grants and awards for my writing, so I don’t doubt that I have talent. But what’s the point of entering the blogging/tweeting fray if you don’t yet have a book to flog?

    1. So you aren’t interested in being my friend unless I can buy something from you? Be careful with that kind of energy. People sense motive. Join a community because you want to be part of a community and the sales will follow. We don’t like people who only talk to us so they can part us from our cash. As far as when to start? The second you make the decision to become serious as an author. Platforms take time to build.

      1. Kristen, as a pr/marketing expert, I totally agree. I join social groups on subjects that I’m interested in talking about and sharing ideas, and those happen to be the same subjects I’m interested in writing about. I also wholehearted agree with your comment “Every mega-success from Harry Potter to 50 Shades of Grey has come from mobilizing the fat part of the bell curve,
        the people who would not normally define themselves as “readers.” Can’t wait to get your book “We Are Not Alone” on social media for writers. I let everyone know about it in my FB group – see comment – For all writers, this is a book worth reading to make it easy to build your platform. Kristen – thank you for this!

    • Jamie Burton on July 18, 2012 at 7:50 am
    • Reply

    as a ‘reader’ I don’t care if a book is epubbed, indie or traditional. What I do care about is the quality of the book. I’m afraid to jump into digital because there are no watch dogs at the gate. I bought an ebook book recently (borrowed my daughters reader), after reading all the glowing reviews. It was terrible. No editing, no story, no characters worth knowing.

    As a writer, not published yet, I’m worried thatt digital under values the time and talent it takes to write a great book. While digital might lessen the cost of producing the book it doesn’t lessen the hours of toil it took to write it. I see too many books at .99 cents. Is that really all a writers worth?
    Would a person walk into an art galary and say, “I’m only going to pay $.99 for that painting because the artist is local. It didn’t cost as much to transport it.” Yet, I’ve seen similar statements about books.

    Your pots are always thought provoking and worth the time to read. Thank you.

    1. Yes, Jaime, but this is EXACTLY why I want the Big Six to get in the game. We DO value their tastes and editing. We DO feel a book from Random House will have a certain quality. But this is why they need to dig into the digital game. There is no reason they can’t offer first-time authors an e-book deal and then, once a certain sales benchmark is met, then offer the author a print run. As it stands now they print a book from an unknown author and hope and pray. That is inefficient and it is costing them. If they keep making these ill-fated moves, they will be out of business and then we will be left to sift through the glut. If they embrace a new model, they can keep defining tastes for the next 100 years.

      1. Kristin, when you first mentioned the idea of NY doing an ebook only imprint I stood up and cheered! It makes such sense. And now I have a friend with a 3(e)book deal with Pocket Star (Simon &Schuster) – she’ll be ebook only to start with the possibility of a print run later.

  6. Great post, Kristen, but I am and always will be a paper person. I hate the digital readers. I see their purpose, but I like the feel of a real book in my hand. I like the smell. I love the way they age. An author can’t sign a digital book. A reader can’t store treasures like pressed flowers between the pages of a digital book. You can’t pass on, share, sell at a flea market a digital book on an e-reader. As an author, seeing my book on an e-reader is no different than writing it on my computer. There is no ‘wow’ factor, no tangible evidence of publication. It’s not ‘real’.

    I feel our eagerness to move all of our talents into a digital age will eventually lose the art of printing. Like other dying crafts, book printing will eventually become lost, and that would be a shame. We look at antique furniture and marvel over it’s heaviness and beautiful craftsmanship. Why? Because it’s made well. It stands the test of time. Someone’s time and effort and pride went into making that piece. The art of making quality furniture is gone, traded for plywood and assembly-line products that can be screwed together in the matter of minutes. There are very few blacksmiths around. Why? Because we’ve chosen to go cheaper, yet metal works from the 14th century are still strong, well made. Tangible. Real. We’ve traded quality for quickness. Everything has to be done faster. We’ve forsaken quality for quantity. I think we all need to slow down a bit, smell the coffee. Cherish the things we have. Tangible books will last forever. Have you ever stumbled upon a book that was 200 years old? Have you ever felt the magic, the history flow through you as you turn the pages? I personally want someone 200 years from now to feel that same sensation when they hold my book(s) or anyone else’s books. Kindles and Nooks will be replaced by something else and you’ll have to pay to upload your books to the new fandangled piece of equipment because it’s not compatible with what you have. A book never has to be ‘updated’ or uploaded. It’s there. E-readers are electrical. Digital. They wear out. They’ll die. They can crash. They won’t last forever. A book? The oldest one in existence is thousands of years old, written between 2150-2000 BCE. I’d like to see a Kindle last that long and still work.

    In addition, has anyone studied the long term effects of digital readers on the eyes and brain? It can’t be good for your eyes. I’m sure 15 – 20 years down the line there will be some sort of ramifications from it.

    Do I see the need for e-readers? Yes. It doesn’t mean I like them or that we should all jump aboard the e-reader train. Some things are best left alone. If we aren’t careful, all of our crafting abilities will become dying arts. What a shame. So much for forward thinking. Just my opinion.

    1. Yes, but if you want to make a living as a writer, e-books are your best friend. Books sold at flea markets and second hand stores don’t earn any royalties. Also, your books go out of print far faster so forget making any money on your backlist. Not all books in print last. There are countless manuscripts that have been lost and backlist stories we could not get until digital. Authors like Bob Mayer who’d written excellent stories that were out of print. Yet, with digital, these titles have new life and have found new fans.

      The reason it is finally a great time to be a writer is we can finally make a living doing what we love. I don’t mean any disrespect, but ten years ago it was virtually impossible for a fiction author to write full time. We couldn’t make a living and were doomed to work two jobs. Sorry, but I love the idea of being paid well for my works more than I love the craft of printing.

      Paper books will always be around, and the new POD technology is capable of generating books that look exactly the same as the ones shipped from NY. This means that true fans, the ones like you who want paper to collect and sign can still get it. And, frankly, this argument bothers me because writers and publishers griped and moaned that people were not reading books and the industry was dying in favor of movies. Now that people are reading more than ever in human history, there is complaining?

      I have read more fiction since buying my Nook than I have in years. Why? Because I can have the option of large font, which is easier on my eyes. There were entire genres (high fantasy) that I had stopped reading because in print the font was too small for me to read. If I had a printed book of Game of Thrones in the font I need to read, it would weigh thirty pounds.

      Sorry, I feel the stories are timeless, books are just a medium. Sort of like caves and scrolls, books are giving way to Nooks and Kindles. I am not in the antique business, I am in the story business and I think it is fabulous that writers can finally make a living. I can’t trade that for nostalgia.

      1. You bring up some very valid points, points I won’t even begin to debate because they are true. However, many publishers don’t offer paper as an option to its authors or readers. What about people who can’t afford e-readers or smart phones? And with many publishers not opting for print, many people will never be able to read what’s out there. My family and friends are very upset they will not be able to get an autographed copy of an upcoming anthology with one of my short stories inside. They don’t have e-readers. There will be no print version. They don’t want to spend the $99 to $300 for one and they certainly don’t want spend the extra money for the smart phones and data packages.

        For me, as a writer, I stare at a screen all day to write my manuscripts. To sit back and stare at another one for pleasure is not my idea of fun.

        I agree…e-readers open up the possibility of more books being read. So does self-publishing, but that doesn’t mean self-published books are better because an author can pay to be published. It simply means the road to publication is open. No matter how you look at it, self-publishing is vanity press. Nothing’s been vetted. It’s all about the ‘me’ syndrome mixed with the “I want it now” syndrome, mixed with the “I have money to do it” syndrome. Don’t get me wrong. Lot’s of self-pubbed authors have gone on to great things. Many make a decent living. Many have tried to get me to go that route. It’s not for me.

        Same thing with e-readers. It’s that, ‘I want it now, so much I don’t have to get off my rear end and go anywhere to get it syndrome. ‘I can simply download it.’ Convenience isn’t always better. Also, another trend I’ve seen among published authors who have e-books only is the extraordinary amount of piracy going on. Digital books are so much easier to pirate than tangible books. I know, real books are pirated, too. It’s just so much easier in e-book format. Millions of dollars are confiscated every year from authors because of piracy, mainly from illegal digital downloads. There’s a great article about digital piracy here.

        This debate can go on endlessly in circles for a long time. There are pros and cons to both sides. I’d just like to see the option available by publishers for those who wish to purchase ‘real’ books instead of doing away with it all together. I want the good, timeless stories and the nostalgia. I want it all and i want it now.

        Thank you for this amazing debate and forum. I’m done preaching from my soapbox. Thank you for letting me voice my opinion on this hot topic.

  7. Good post. I went to a trade conference back in the winter where 95% of panelists skirted around that digital elephant in the room, while the few who mentioned ebooks and indie publishing harshly criticized it. It was glaring enough that folks at my lunch table all mentioned it. An issue cannot be solved or managed by ignoring it.

  8. My head is exploding and my body is being torn apart now, so gee thanks. The entrepreneur, author side of me is in 100% agreement with what you say. My next two projects are going Kindle Direct for many of the reasons you cite. I am, however, also a conspiracy theorist and ‘doomsday prepper’. When the Zombie Apocalypse comes and the Govt. takes control of cyber space (or is that right after the November election? I get them all confused), we’re going to want some paper books to read while we’re eating our freeze dried survival rations.

    So…I’m hoping publishers AND authors get with the program to create a both/and world, because once my Kindle and Nook get commandeered, I still want something besides “The National Enquirer” available in print.

    Oh, woe is me.

    1. I have both my books in print. Again, POD just prints as copies are needed. For instance, I order 50-100 books at a time for my own personal sales. What NY is doing is printing 15,000, while only expecting to sell 10,000 MAX. So they know going in that 5000 books will likely get pulped. Not only are they losing the money from the sale—if it is $3 per book on a trade paper then $15,000 (just an educated guess here)—but they are also losing money in shipping to and from and then the cost of pulping, etc. It is a hemorrhage! This loss comes out of what they could be paying WRITERS.

  9. One word best describes this assessment: Intelligent.

    1. Awww, thanks Les *hugs*.

  10. I just want to jump back in and remind people as well that while our generation might not be sold on ereaders and technology, the next one is. They’ve been brought up in a digital world. The vast majority of them are going to prefer the technology.

    1. I agree, Stacy.

  11. I wish I could have been at Thrillerfest and gone from the editor’s workshop to yours and seen the transformation. Attending your workshop at NTRWA sure changed my thought process. Thank you for all you do, Kristen.

  12. I’m surprised that publishers are still reluctant to embrace ebooks or indie-authors, and to capitalize on the opportunities in both.

    1. I think one of the big problems has been ALL or NOTHING thinking. The second I say NY should embrace more digital, people think it means NO paper and that isn’t the case. It just means NY can start printing in a smarter way where there is demand. It means cutting the waste and also being able to take hold of opportunity. For instance, NYC cannot really publish any books on technology. Why? Because the print model is TOO SLOW. The information would be obsolete and impossible to update. Yet we live in a world of technology. So there is an entire market segment NY has no access to and it is costing them profit.

  13. Great post. I am excited to be involved in the world of e-publishing and really not sure why the big six aren’t excited too. You would think any industry would be thrilled to have such an open new market while their current market is shrinking. And the freedom to explore new authors with low risk? Priceless!

  14. Well, I wasn’t able to make it to Thrillerfest this year, but apparently I didn’t miss much – other than being able to meet Kristen! I wonder – my intention is to submit my manuscript the traditional route, but I get the sense you’re saying I’m better off learning how to self-publish?

    1. No idea. Self-publishing isn’t easy. Give me time to work on them ;). There are a lot of us who, even though we are indie, do respect NY and want to help. It is just getting the right people to listen.

  15. One thing I’ve noticed with a lot of writers and blogs is that they blog about writing. This will generate traffic from other writers, but what about potential readers? I’m just starting out, so I don’t have many followers on my blog, but I’ve decided to target my market rather than other writers. I realize that is only a small part of what today’s blog is about, but I think it’s important enough to be mentioned.

    1. That is one of my pet peeves, and I wrote about it in my blog Sacred Cow-Tipping. Writers should NOT write about writing to build a proper platform for fiction. There are better topics and I teach a method I call High Concept Blogging in my blogging class. The problem is that a lot of social media experts are telling writers to blog about craft, the writing process or have a bunch of interviews and those are all dreadful time-wasters. Fiction is a right brain product. Why are we selling a right brain product with a left-brain blog? Articles, information and interviews are all left brain and don’t connect to readers the same way as fiction. There is a disconnect. My goal has been to help writers blog in ways that will connect to readers, but that is what the class is all about :D.

      I blog about writing and the industry, but my goal is to reenforce the fact that I am an expert. Writers are my demographic. Fiction? Totally different beast.

      1. So glad to hear your response! I am a fiction writer/indie-author, and my blog covers my interests: my personal faith journey, cooking, writing, and my dogs. In other words, the same themes you would find in my novels! It’s great to hear that I don’t have to give the whole thing over to writing….

  16. You’ve really put a lot of thought into this, that much is clear, and while I want to argue a couple of your points, I really can’t. Everything you’ve said makes absolute sense and I find myself thinking that the Big 6 should be hiring you to do their thinking for them!

    I love traditional publishing, myself. I love the feel, smell, and presence of printed books, and I dream of the day I’ll see my own book in that format. But at the same time I do understand that paper sales are dwindling (or, as you said, becoming more expensive than people are willing to put up with) and e-book sales are skyrocketing. To be successful in this business (or any business!) you have to be willing to change and adapt. You have to be willing to go in the same direction as the customer, and the customer is looking for convenience and a good price.

      • shawn on July 18, 2012 at 2:16 pm
      • Reply

      Believe me, I want the big 6 to hire her, but how to get her I’m front of one of them is proving to be a trick.

  17. Excellent post! Two things you said really resonated with me as I’m watching this all unfold.

    “When we find ourselves defending, the battle is already lost.”

    There is a lot of ‘circling of the wagons’ mentality. But this is the time when big publishers could get creative and really SHINE. Instead, we’re getting pitiful, defensive actions.

    “We had to work for the sale, but NY? Let’s just put more “reader sites” together and then people will come and give us money.”

    Yes, THIS. They are no longer the only game in town. And burying their heads in the sand and ignoring the competition is going to kill them.

  18. Great article. I’ve been excited about going self-published for a while. It’s interesting to read here (and elsewhere) about all the changes happening in the book publishing world.

  19. The other reason NY is in trouble is because the author is at the END of the income stream. Authors are finding out they can be at the beginning of that stream by going indie. I’ve been reading about publishers estimating digital sales and of course, withholding (for unreasonably long times) royalties against returns has been a long, bad practice.

    I get that they are trying to protect their business, but authors must also look to their bottom line. I think it was Konrath who said that authors too often have an abused spouse type relationship with publishers (big publishers). Like Oliver Twist, they keep asking for more gruel and getting less. And in the last twenty years they have gotten less and less.

    When I first ventured into publishing, I was shocked by how unhappy many authors were. They had the DREAM! They should be totally thrilled. But they’d run into the buzz saw of publishing truth. I thought they were trying to discourage the competition at first. LOL! No, they were really trying to help prepare me for what was ahead.

    I remember RWA did a survery of authors who had quit publishing and, if I am recalling right, treatment, and of course money, were main reasons authors quit writing. (This was back in 90’s before digital publishing popped up on horizon.)

    Authors and publishers should be partners in this business, not adversaries, but (at least back in the 90’s), there was this strong sense that authors were like widgets and easily replaced by someone else if an author made trouble (trouble was mostly defined as asking for more gruel).

    A new author could expect and would get a boiler plate contract and they had no power to negotiate other than walking away. We had to craft spotless, error-free, compelling query letters. Even one typo would end it all! And get back sloppy letters filled with typos in response. I even got an acceptance to read 3 chapters from an agent that was written on a sticky note and stuck to my query letter! We had to be perfectly business-like and willing to be rolled over and the other side could do whatever they liked, including making authors wait YEARS for a response to a submission. When Konrath said that about abusive relationship, it really hit home.

    I’ve been treated great by my small press publishers, but my one venture into traditional publishing was painful. My editor never said a kind word about anything I did, even when some of my books won awards. Then they changed their unfriendly contract to worse! When I questioned some of the terms on the author loop and had the audacity to do the math on what the change would mean to my bottom line, this other editor told me to drink some wine and relax. The boys had it handled.

    So yeah, I’m with you, Kristen. I want the ability to manage MY business effectively, to treat my readers fairly and to write the books I want to write. Oh and I’m not widget!

    Thanks for another great post.

  20. Thank you, Kristen, for this clear-eyed analysis. I’m REALLY hoping the mood at RWA12 isn’t doom and gloom – I’m hoping for that jumping excitement. I’ve combed through the listings and didn’t find you – are you presenting this year in Anaheim?

    Hugs hon!

  21. Many excellent points, but daunting to any author who is still clinging to the idea that all they have to do is summon the discipline to complete that novel and suddenly readers swarm like fleas from a carpet when the long-awaited dog finally passes by. Eventually ‘The End’ is typed triumphantly, after which – of course – a great deal of nothing happens.

  22. My personal conundrum is writing for an audience I’m not a part of. My books are aimed at teens, for the most part, yet I’m a forty-something. I’ve made some attempts to interact on a few sites, but I just feel like I’m being a creeper.

    I’ve written three books in just over two years and they seem to be gaining some traction, but social media seems like such a time-suck — I have no doubt I’m doing it wrong.

    Your list of mistakes above is spot on in my opinion. Recognition is one thing, changing that culture is a whole other beast entirely. Sometimes it’s just best to start with a clean slate.

    1. Are you connecting with other writers in this genre? There is an amazing support system available if you reach out and become a part of it. YA writers are some of the most supportive and collaborative people I know. They are very free with their knowledge and connections, and there is a vibe of ‘community success’ that is great to be a part of. I write YA and Middle Grade, and like you, I’m long past this age group. Finding other writers to learn and share experiences with might really help you feel better connected to your
      audience. 🙂 If you want a great place to start, I recommend this blog

      Happy writing,


      1. Thanks for the link and support Angela, I will have a look at that. To answer your question, yes, I belong to several great author groups on Facebook and elsewhere, and have met some fabulous folks there. Many of them struggle in similar ways. How do we find readers?

    • Arlee Bird on July 18, 2012 at 9:33 am
    • Reply

    Some great observations. I’m glad you brought up the character interviews. I’ve always found them to be rather annoying and cutesy gimmicks.

    Tossing It Out

  23. Hi Kristen, I thought it was a great post. I’m going to RWA and will be interested to hear the scuttle butt when I get there. I do agree this is an exciting time for authors, but those who do not change with times will go the way of the doodoo bird. ML Guida

  24. This is truly gut wrenching for me. I personally despise ebooks, and yes I am aware of the good they do and am happy for it, but if they disappeared randomly out of disinterest, I wouldn’t be sad.

    But what is truly sad for me is the Big Six inability to see past their problems and are pushing themselves into failure. I also am sad to know that they must switch up with digital, at least they have POD for people like me. I just hope that this can be realized in time. Soon we can maybe see a search by publisher, because there are some publishers you trust more than others for content. For example, I love Tor books. I wish I could see more by that publisher on digital. (Or I might be completely foolish and not realize there is a Publisher search.)

    Maybe I am being harsh, but I have to admit that most indie published books I have read are awful. Publishers tend to have a line of good editors on hand, so there is that difference as well.

    What do you think Kristen? Am I just (on the rare occasion that I do) not seeing the good indie published authors on ebooks.

    1. I recommend you try Wool by Hugh Howey. 🙂 (Indie published, recently sold film rights to 20th century fox, and a great example of an amazing, independent author).

  25. Kristen, I just want to fly down to Texas and give you a great big hug! Someone needed to say all of this, and you had the courage and genuine desire to help to do so. I realize this post will likely get the traditional industry’s collective backs up, but I hope, hope, hope they do what us writers must do every day as we receive rejections: take the emotion out of it. Look at the message. Evaluate, and challenge ourselves to look at what’s being offered from another’s point of view and understand why.

    It is never too late to change, and there is no reason why we can’t all move forward and transform the industry into something incredible and flexible, something that serves everyone, readers, writers and publishers alike. Growth and reshaping/learning is something we should always strive for, each one of us, no matter what our role is.

    Thank you for writing this!


  26. What a savvy post, Kristen! As an author with books both traditionally and indie published, I am hopeful that the big publishers will get their act together sooner rather than later.

    I have to say that personally, I still favor reading print books over digital, although I make nearly all of my indie author money from ebooks. I love my local library and bookstores, too, and they are always packed in my book-loving town of Bellingham, WA. I want all aspects of the book business to survive and thrive, and as an author, I deserve to make a living, too, not simply pay the salaries of the publishing staff.

    Credible reviewers need to help the indies sort the wheat from the chaff; there is a lot of really bad writing published by indie authors and promoted by reviews from friends and family who may not have even read the story. It’s hard to find good indie books without some filtering, and there is no established independent avenue for indie authors to get rated.

    The big publishers also need to get behind ALL their authors, not just promote the handful of best sellers they already have. Traditional publishers have the ability to make any system work, but most seem to be determined to captain huge cargo ships that are very hard to turn around. Iceberg dead ahead, I want to yell! PLEASE change course–NOW!

  27. Oy, heavy topic. It really reminds me of all my experiences in the SF/fantasy fiction scene; oh, we have our own issues with Big Three publishers who refuse to go near the new millennium. Me, I love paper, as anybody who knows me knows. But I’ve also learned some (read *some*) about epub and POD in the past few years that has told me ok, well it isn’t ALL gone. And it likely won’t go away entirely.

    I too really wish there was a common ground. You hit the nail on the head about NY publishing houses; I’ve been terrified for years reading through the ten thousand specifics each one had for submissions, and wondering how in hell I could possibly make it there without a)an agent or b)being Known. (Which you know, begged the question “how does a person get started anywhere if they have to be known already to get there?”) I’ve thought about this with regards to my own genre(s) and with regard to publishing in general.

    Yeah, like I’ve said, I’m a luddite at heart but I also accept the reality of what is required for writing these days. Thanks for a thought-provoking post; sure it’s uncomfortable to read in parts, but it’s important to get that info out there.

  28. Reblogged this on Lori King Books and commented:
    I LOVED this article from Kristen Lamb, and I couldn’t resist sharing it on my own blog. It is so honest is nearly painful!

  29. Interesting. You’ve been saying a lot of these same things for a while and I continue to agree with you. We’re beginning to see the big authors like Eisler move away from trad publishers – and that hurts. You mentioned that mid-list authors will be the next to leave. When I was in New York in January, they were saying publishers weren’t interested in mid-list authors – they were putting all their eggs in the next lottery-winning-best-seller basket. Getting hard to tell myself to keep pushing for a way in where you’re not wanted… :/

  30. Fantastic article, that really gets to the meat of the problem. I appreciate that you can say it in a brutally honest, but intelligent way. There is no reason that we can’t all as author’s be successful, but change is inevitable, and we have to embrace it in order to thrive. I’m new to publishing, but I look at the expansion into e-books as a great opportunity to reach masses of people who would probably never have even walked into a book store to see my paper book on the shelf. It’s opening doors for small time author’s that they couldn’t have imagined in the past. Thank you for the down to earth common sense. I will be reblogging your article to share with my readers as well. We can all use a little common sense.

  31. Thanks, Kristen for such a thoughtful and insightful post. Everything you said rings so true. In my opinion, if the Big Six did more e-book publishing they could take on more newbie authors because the outlay would not be so great. Yes, they would have to pay editors, cover designers and formatters but that would cost nowhere near as much in ‘physical’ expenses and could pay their authors more. I tried the traditional route several years ago but after lots of rejections I decided to try the self-pubbed route.

    My books didn’t take off for over a year but when they did, they did. If I had been tradi-pubbed the publisher would have given up on me after a few months of poor sales but when a book is on the e-shelf it is there forever and to leave it there doesn’t cost a penny more than the original cost of producing it. So what if it then takes a little while to take off running.

    It takes time for most authors to find a following and build a readership, time that being tradi-pubbed doesn’t allow you (unless they veer more towards e-pubbing). If I had given up after 6 months and taken my books off the cyber-shelf I would have missed out on selling 12,000 copies in just a year, even making it onto the children’s bestseller lists on Kindle and Nook. I know that’s nothing compared to some self-pubbed authors but I’m starting to get to the point where my books are making me a decent living.

    I also have a point to make about remarks that self-pubbed books are awful. Yes, some of them are but with e-books you can upload a sample for free. You can usually tell in the first few pages if a book is going to be terribly written or not and delete it. It won’t have cost you a penny, you can’t do that with paper books. Granted, tradi-pubbed paper books will have been properly edited but not all the stories are great or to your particular taste.

    I hope for those who still pursue the dream of being tradtionally published that the Big Six do expand more into e-pubbing, giving a greater opportunity for newbies to get a toe in the door.

    Having gone the self-pubbed route, I am happy that I chose my journey. I love having complete control over my work. I hire a cover designer and an editor to produce a product I can be proud of, but it has been, and still is, a lot of work and I learn something new about the publishing industry everyday by reading blogs like yours (thank you). But it’s not for everyone and I sincerely hope that the Big Six will join the 21st century because they do have so much to offer.

  32. I vacillate between being an old school book snob (wanting a hardcover book in my hand) and realistic new school wannbe published writer (knowing I can get on the digital bandwagon and be out there).

    I think you handle being prudent versus being realistic very well.

    Good post.

  33. I agree wholeheartedly with your post. There are so many things that the publishing world is getting wrong at the moment that it wouldn’t surprise me if they fell apart. They need to adapt or die. I love paper books and wish that they would be aorund forever, but I can see the writing on the wall that they are headed out the door besides the select few that will still make the stores. Heck, even the book distributors see it because they are focusing more on their e-readers and building their own market for those items.

    You hit the nail on the head with your posts on the state of publishing. As an unpublished author, I love the amount of options available out there. I even like the traditional method, but I see it changing. The chances of getting my stories out to the world with all the options out there make me very excited to be an author. Thanks so much for your posts.

    • annerallen on July 18, 2012 at 11:33 am
    • Reply

    An epic post, Kristen. I can see some commenters aren’t quite getting what you’re saying. It’s just that Old Publishing has to let go of the fear and pay attention to what’s happening so they can join in with New Publishing.

    And it’s so important to emphasize that digital doesn’t mean the end of paper at all. POD books are digital. What we need to get rid of are the warehouses full of books to be shipped around the world and then pulped. And we all need to get to know each other, in a civilized, non-fear-based way. Thanks for being the harbinger of a new and more hopeful future for our industry!

  34. Reblogged this on Susan Stovall, Author.

  35. Hello, Ms. Lamb,

    I started typing my comment and it turned into a blog post. I would love to get a reply from you, as I value and respect your opinion. You can read it here if you’d like:

    I enjoy reading about the WANA ways, and I realize I have so much more to learn about this business.

    Thanks for all you do,

    1. I replied on your blog, but I am posting it here as well.

      Yes, Stacie, I agree there is a lot of junk but there are also a lot of REALLY GOOD writers defecting. There are some aggressive indie houses that have got serious game and they are luring away the mid-list authors because New York isn’t taking very good care of them. Stonehouse Ink. is one indie that is chock-full of award-winning authors, authors who were best-sellers in traditional publishing before they got fed up and left. If you look at their website, the covers are just as good as anything coming out of NY and the writing is just as good, too.

      One of Stonehouse’s new authors is an award-winning writer who used to be an agent AND an editor for Doubleday, J.L. Fishman. Stonehouse has superlative quality in every sense and they are going to take up the slack if NY doesn’t get its act together and update.

      I think we are in a time of transition and NY’s resistance to changing is causing it to hemorrhage talent. They can only rely on the Sandra Browns and the James Pattersons so long. The mega authors of tomorrow come from the mid-list and they are about to defect in droves. There are NYTBSAs like Bob Mayer, Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, etc. who all write very good books and who are now self-published.

      Within the next year to two years, readers are going to figure out which indie authors are good and also which indie houses are putting out great material. This is sort of like the era. We had the BOOM, the BUST and then we did business with the tough dogs that remained.

      Same here. Publishing is being redefined, but NY needs to get on it if they still want to be part of the picture. I do feel many readers want quality and the Big Six do have a brand that we can trust, but they have so much cost, they can’t pay writers very well. And when writers–good writers with a brand and a reputation—find out that they can make FIVE times what they used to make, AND get paid quarterly and on time instead of having to get an agent to beat up a publisher to PAY them what they MADE? Won’t take long for writers to do the math.

      I know a lot of people want the trads to stay, but if you want to make any money at this writing thing, they aren’t necessarily the best choice. And, as gas prices rise, they are incurring more and more and more costs and the writer is the last to get paid. There is a lot of expensive overhead that goes into the price of each book. They need to change this and they need to start treating writers better and paying them better.

      1. Even Stonehouse requires an agent…

        1. Yes but the new authors are given an e-book deal and if they sell a certain amount of copies three months in a row they get upgraded to a print deal. Even indie authors need an agent. There are all kinds of foreign rights, etc. that we need an agent to at least look at.

      2. Thanks again for the input. You gave me a lot to think about.

  36. This article went over my head the first time I read it. But since I switched to my iPhone, I read through it. You’re right: paper books are elastic. There will always be some market for them, but they will be toppled one day. And publishers must adapt to survive.

    Once I’m at a proper computer, I’ll put this into my round-up. Along with the Zero Sum article.

  37. Awesome article, Kristen! I love how well you make your points, and the analogies are very clear and strikingly logical—which might help imprint this attitude in a few more minds.

    I think it’s a pity writers are afraid of straying from the path when it comes to choosing the best way to publish that’s suited to their individual needs. Much of it has to do with the over-glorification of the establishment, and this reflects on their attitude toward marketing too. Do as the big ones do, where the inflexibility of the big ones is what created the need for authors to fight so desperately for attention in the first place. The relationship between authors and traditional publishing (especially the Big Six) is much like the Stockholm Syndrom, IMO.

    As to the resistance of large, old companies to speedy change and adaptation? That happens in all industries. The bigger the company, the bigger the resistance. But all dinosaurs eventually go extinct.

    • Thorwald Hansen on July 18, 2012 at 1:14 pm
    • Reply

    Kristen –

    Thanks. I especially like your view of the Zero Sum Game. I believe enjoying creates more enjoyers. Nobody thinks, “OK, I had fun doing that so now I can go back to my old ways of not having fun.”


    • Janet Boyer on July 18, 2012 at 1:24 pm
    • Reply

    A fantastic post, Kristen. For all the reasons everyone shared. THANK YOU for the encouragement to keep on self-publishing on the side!

  38. Holy crap, what a fantastic article! Deep, insightful, and relevant. Best kind of writing.

  39. Reblogged this on Raven's Nest and commented:
    This fantastic little gem examines some of the real problems facing traditional publishing. The marketing ones, in particular, I feel are the most damaging.

  40. Great post. It reinforces much of what I’ve been learning about publishing in the last few months. I’m an amateur fiction writer (epic literary fantasy genre) and when I finished my first novel I decided to teach myself about publishing so I would understand the business before submitting/talking to an agent or publisher. The more I learned the less reason I saw in going with a large, medium, or even small publisher. The only advantages I saw is that publishers paid for professional edits and designers (neither of which you have a say in) and the larger ones can get you into bookstores; but they do nothing whatsoever to make your book a success. All the hard marketing is left up to the author to do on their own with only minimal guidance and no financial support. With online retailers like Amazon and the rise of quality POD and e-books it seemed to me that I could do everything a publisher would do for me, even getting into bookstores if my online sales are strong enough to support that gamble. Granted hiring the editors and designers is expensive, but I rather keep artistic control and gamble on the novel/story/series that I love. I think a lot of authors are beginning to discover they can create quality books and find the readers who love them without impersonal publishers more interested in the bottom line than the authors who make their profits possible.

  41. I have to admit the one thing at ThrillerFest that I didn’t quite like was the negative message that permeated a lot of the discussions. Basically it was “you’ll never succeed…if you even happen to find an agent, then you won’t find an editor. If you find an editor, then the publisher will turn you down. If you find a publisher, then they won’t market you. You are on your own. Oh, and if you think you’ll EVER make a living doing this, you’ve picked the wrong field.” I kept thinking, you know, at an event like this, I want to hear positive, supportive messages. I’m really glad I had WANA friends to counteract those negative messages. I couldn’t help but wonder what, exactly, the goal was in discouraging so many people.

    1. The thing is, with that old model, the failure rate will be much higher so they speak the truth. They reject almost every new author because of shelf space and print. They are less likely to give a chance to a new writer. Also, many new writers don’t start gaining traction until book three, but if books one and two don’t sell very well, forget a book three. With digital, they would be out (comparably) very little and they could leave new authors alone long enough to gain that traction that turns into sales. Right now, new authors are really up against some hellish odds of success. And, since NY has SO many costs—paper, shipping, salaries, light bills, Manhattan rents—they don’t have a lot left to pay authors very well.

      This is one of the reasons the indie movement is SO exciting. The artist has so much more power. If we work hard and write good books and build a social platform and stay with it, then success will eventually follow. Since we are not bound by the paper paradigm, we can take more risks. We can publish more often. I think either way writers go, it is A LOT of work. But, in one paradigm you have maybe one shot to prove your worth. With indie? You give up when you give up. Ain’t over until we throw in the towel.

      And I know a lot of writers believe that being traditional frees up more time to write, but NY is requiring a social media platform. And they want fan pages with so much growth and they want a blog and a book a year and a novella, and for the writers to do promotion. So how is it any different? Yes maybe good editors and cover art, but there are indies out there who have recruited top NY talent. So again, where is the difference?

    • rgayer55 on July 18, 2012 at 3:15 pm
    • Reply

    Dear Kristen,
    Enjoyed your post (as always!). I’ve worked in the printing industry for over 30 years. I remember my printing teacher declare back in the 70s that no matter where you traveled you could always find work as a printer. Today he’s having to eat those words. Unless you’re in packaging you’re SOL.
    It is an exciting time to be a writer. Opportunities abound, but you have to get off your duff and work your tail off before anyone even knows you exist. This is a new paradigm for all the dreamers who thought they could just write something wonderful and the world would come running to them begging to buy a copy.
    Attitude is equally important. Why do we write and what do we hope to acheive? I may never become a world renown humor writer, but I’m sure as hell enjoying the ride. I have met hundreds of wonderful people, made some laugh and others spew coffee out their nose. I’ll keep riding this horse as far as she will take me.

  42. Kristen, a full-throated amen to every word here! Big publishing has devoted itself to living and working as a protectorate more than a community for years. Now, with the walls crumbling, the empresses find themselves standing in fear and wonder. They are smart people, these editors and agents. I hope they get the shoes on their smarts and start kicking the hell out of that fear you so ably describe! Cheers to you!

    • Joseph L. Montgomery,111 on July 18, 2012 at 4:08 pm
    • Reply

    Moral courage is no longer the earmark of the written news, at least in this area. So many egregious events have occurred by well known persons and the written media chooses to ignore all of them. The public would be shocked if they could see reports from the solicitor’s office and other squashed stories that are suppressed apparently as favoritisms to “not good people.” The vocal and visual media becomes the best hope for America and the public welfare.


  43. Kristen, when do you sleep?!!! Your amazing blogs MUST require a huge time investment, yet you publish a new one 3 times a week. I’m VERY impressed, not only with the depth and frequency of your posts, but the quality of each one’s content. This one is by no means an exception. As you have done before, you accurately pinpoint the issues AND some solutions. You are to be admired for your courage (talking directly to “the Big 6”) while offering your WANAs hope and encouragement.

    As for today’s post, I couldn’t agree more. As one who has been retired for over 5 years, it’s obvious I’m no spring chicken. Up to now, I have stuck my head in the sand and denied that e-books were coming. I no longer believe that. Instead, with my 3-1/2 year old great grandson playing with his mother’s iphone in search of games, I am convinced the current (and next) generation will propel e-books to new heights. The ‘tidal wave’ of movement to e-readers and e-books will drown out the Big 6 if they don’t see the writing on the e-wall.

    Keep on telling it “like it is,” Kristen. You do good work!

    • Hunter on July 18, 2012 at 5:20 pm
    • Reply

    Still envious you got to go to Thrillerfest. Thanks for the epic post, I just needed it as a reminder to myself. As I’m in an editing pass, contemplating forking out money I just don’t have for a professional editor for my debut novel, the more I read into the industry, the more confused I’ve allowed myself to get. Indie shops, marketing – yes or no?, go it alone, hire which professional services?, actually contemplate the trad query route, or trust in myself…tough decisions taking me away from actually writing.

    People like you remind me that we are living in an industry full of options for the indie. I needed that reminder that it’s thrilling, not depressing, to work my way through it. Now, if only I could work out how on earth to use Facebook more correctly than I can fathom (feeling old).

    Thanks for sharing this post. I needed it.

  44. Incredible. I totally understand your WTH after the opening remarks. I’m glad your social media panel was successful and people found reasons to smile. Big publishing needs to get with the program!

  45. I’m simultaneously overwhelmed and hopeful after reading this. Thank you for reminding me that it’s okay to let go and free-fall a little into the new world. And for validating the fact that people are too sophisticated for bullshit these days. Great article.

  46. Great article. I’m one of those strange off-shoots of the publishing revolution. I’ll soon put the seventh book of my series up, eBook only. I don’t do marketing much. I make enough royalty money to be bull-headed about the whole process. And I have something to prove. I want word-of-mouth and good writing to mean something. I want an automatic, gentle, search-and-buy process to become second nature for readers. I want people to recommend my books to each other without consulting me. So far my series about a female psychologist has not died on the vine, and my seventh, CAULDRON, will be out in September — just in time for Hallowe’en. You are absolutely right — it is a wonderful time to be a writer.

  47. I felt that energy shift during and after the social media panel, particularly when you shared that first statement—one of my favorite ThrillerFest moments. It IS the best time to be an author. I wish more people embraced it… And every time a speaker spoke up for the digital age, author branding and related topics (often with a disclaimer first, “I may be going out on a limb here…” or whatnot), I brightened.

    My book is with the big six and smaller publishing houses for consideration right now, so I’m extra-grateful for your insight and posts. I’m sucking them up like a sponge—one that will probably need refreshers and clarifications. LOL Bookmarked this post. Thanks so much, Kristen.

  48. And don’t forget that traditional books are made of paper, and paper is made from trees (have always loved to state the obvious :)) In a time when we are all becoming more environmentally friendly I think the days of having hundreds of paperback tree-books sitting on a shelf in our spare room incase one daywe might want to read them again are long gone.

  49. Well said. #4 especially. I have been saying this for awhile. Nice to see someone else who feels the same way.


  50. Where was this ten years ago??? Oh, you hadn’t written it yet. Well, finally I found you. I not only stuck you on my blog over at my new website home (, I am now stalking…er…I mean following you on Twitter to glean every word you say.

    I checked out some of your other blogs here, and I can clearly see that this is a one-stop resource for writer wannabes. After I snoop in your fridge for a snack, and feel at home here, I plan to join up with the WANA excitement. Oh, and those lovely pants….

    But for tonight, I have a hot date with the sandman so I won’t fall asleep at work tomorrow.

    Thank you for the great post. It was very uplifting and encouraging both for continuing to write and for Indie Publishing.


    1. Great to meet you Lucinda! Thanks for the awesome compliment/comment and happy you are here :D.

  51. I have to say that its pretty awesome that you don’t ignore all of this. I find it foolish that the publishers at your conference did.
    But I’m a bit confused. Are you saying that if traditional publishers would embrace change that paper books would have more of a chance at survival? Or are you saying they should make everything digital?
    I honestly hope e-books don’t take over. I love physical books. But I agree that traditional publishers need to stop clinging to what they’ve always done. They’re sinking their own ship.
    I also love what you had to say about social media. It’s about human connection. 😀

    1. I think they can still have paper books, just not the way they have always done them. Printing a bunch of books and expecting to sell only half or two thirds might have been okay in a world where gas was 99 cents or 1.50 cents a gallon. But now that we are seeing it hit $4 and $5 a gallon and climbing? What are they going to do when we get as high as Europe? How could they sell books when gas is $7 or $8 a gallon. Then the American dollar has been worth less and less. Maybe this method worked back when the dollar was strong and gas was cheap but now it is a different world and a different economy. Also there is no reason to cut down do many trees for books that get pulped. POD (Print On Demand) is fabulous. They could print in smaller batches as needed. I think paper will always be around, it just won’t be the vast percentage.

      E-books are taking the place of the mass market paper back. The m.m.p. was created to be what? PORTABLE! But the font is crazy small! Now we can download those books on our phones or e-readers (portable). This is one of the reasons I feel they will probably start hemorrhaging their mid-list authors first, because mass market affects them the most.

      1. Ahh… I remember getting pissy over $1.29 per gallon.

        Right, back to the current. As much as I hate to say it, you’re completely right. Thanks – makes a lot more sense now. 😀

  52. Thanks for an excellent, no-holds-barred analysis of the current publishing situation. All I can say is this: I sold more e-books of my MG adventure novel in six months than I sold in 3 years with a paper publisher. I am going to launch my second MG novel in a e-version first. My ultimate litmus test of the e-universe. I love real books. I do not own a e-reader. I buy real books. However, living in South Africa means that ordering a book from Amazon (anywhere) means I pay duty on the book as an import that often costs more than the book. So… elasticity aside, I sometimes buy an e-pub version of a book on writing and read it on my computer. That’s my way of ‘balancing the books!’ I will Tweet, Facebook and Linked-In this superb post. Many thanks.

  53. Hi Kristen – I think you’re spot on with this one (as always!). I think the big houses are moving, but too slowly. For instance, my publishers (one of the ‘Big Six’) have published my new one simultaneously in print and e-book, but only Kobo format so far. Needs more formats, and it won’t be on Amazon at all. I have no doubt this will get fixed in due course, but I think the companies that survive will be the ones who are nimble. Also who best understand social media.

    Let me put it this way. Anybody remember Kodak? No. Thought not…

  54. I think like you, that they can only survive if they move with the times and help their authors better. As someone with Asperger’s I shouldn’t like change, but as a writer too, I know that i have to go with the flow and that is what I am doing. I have started indie publishing ebooks, and have signed up with an epublisher, who has also seen the chance to work with the times and feels that the old traditional way of publishing is out of date, esp having to wait months for a reply then months to see your book being published. I am also working with other authors in a planned project, and this excites me. This is something else that is coming to light being good – working with others.

  55. You are so smart. You know I already am on board with all of this.

    So I will point out a line I loved:

    “People naturally horde more than they need.”

    And thank goodness because my protagonist is a professional organizer. And she has seen the piles of old books in people’s houses! The ones they love, but will never read again. If people will embrace the idea that, yes, they can buy the book they LOVE but out 50 Shades on an e-reader, the world would have a lot less clutter. 😉 Great post. Beyond!

  56. Hi, Kristen, could I echo Marvin Mayer, who said he is amazed at the consistency and quality of your blog. So am I. And your columns are so well thought through. As a recovering economist, you’re dead right about the elasticity thing. Someone should tel the big publishers a basis lesson in every first year eco text book: the more alternatives there are for you product, the more elastic the demand for your product in particular becomes. Books as a whole may be inelastic but paper books are not, Just as food (collectively ) is inelastic but one food – say oatmeal – is elastic. I doubt I’ll be buying more (new) paper based books. I think my moment of conversion came when i bought my first book for Kindle app on my PC: Traci Foust’s book Nowhere Near Normal, about growing up with OCD. It was hilarious and reading in the screen was no problem. Bought another one tonight. just before I saw your column. I’m a convert. My paper-based purchases from now on will probably be second hand paperbacks from flea markets and thrift shops. Best wishes.

      • shawn on July 19, 2012 at 10:56 am
      • Reply

      I had a minor in economics, so I feel your pain. I also think this quality of blog/article should resonate well with the business minded of the big 6. If they can’t understand elasticity and the alternatives, they are doomed to fail as a business. They need to hire her as a consultant. So Big 6, if your reading this YOU NEED KRISTEN AS YOUR CONSULTANT!

  57. Great article, Kristen. I found your blog by searching #publishing on Twitter. I really enjoy your writing. You have great information combined with humor and wit. I couldn’t agree more with your five points. After cleaning out my garage for the fifth time and having to decide what to do with all the old books, I can tell you one thing. I’m glad we are going digital! I can put a garage full of books on my iPad now and I don’t have any storage issues.

  58. OMG, I am so glad I had finished my tea BEFORE reading this post. You are spot on, and hilarious to boot. I wish there was more in the way of honest dialogue about what we can make the future become, vs pining for the days of yore while studiously ignoring the elephant in the middle of the room.

  59. This is information every aspiring author should know. I, myself have experienced the power of e-book sales, as probably 90% of my own sales have been e-books.

    • Tamara LeBlanc on July 19, 2012 at 4:43 pm
    • Reply

    I’m very, VERY upset that I didn’t log on yesterday. What a fantastic post I missed, soooo worthy of sharing with all the writers I know.
    I loved the humor (always do) but this post also made me think.
    I’m a devoted WANA, but I’m still scared. I know I shouldn’t be, all I should see is hope, but finishing the novel I wrote, completing edits and readying it to send out over the next day or two makes me wonder…should I send it to the agents that requested it?
    I’m a member of RWA and Georgia Romance writers, and have quite a few friends (my crit group included) that think I should self-pub and keep all of my profits.
    But…grrr, I’ve still got that little voice in my head that says YOU MUST BE IN PRINT, otherwise you’re not a real author.
    Just writing that sounds ridiculous to me, but I can’t help it. I fee like I need an agent and NY editor to validate my talent.
    Oye Vey…what a quandry.
    I LOVED this post Kristen. Really and truly loved it.
    Thank you SO much for sharing your wisdom with the world.
    Have a wonderful evening,

    PS, If you can, I’d love to see a Pinterest button near the others so that I can pin your blogs.

  60. Reblogged this on Armand Rosamilia and commented:
    Great points about traditional publishing from Kristen Lamb

  61. Thanks for posting! As an indie author and managing partner of an indie publisher, we are very flexible with the changes in publishing and readership. We are already in the “trenches”, always having our ears open to the wants/needs of readers and eyes glued to changes in the digital age. It still appears traditional publishers are slow to change, which gives the little guys (like me) an advantage.

  62. Reblogged this on Brian J. Jarrett and commented:
    Great points made here.

  63. Kirsten,

    Your comments are broadly spot on for several fiction fields, where ebooks now account for around a third of sales in the US; there are very different situations elsewhere in the world. But available statistics put ebook sales for the whole of US publishing at around 12%; I have a long standing forecast that this will settle at around 50:50.
    Your general message though is aboslutely right. The opportunities are there, and I think both you and many commenters see it as a bit like exploring. But I do always ask that we all remember our own experience is not that of all areas of publishing, where other truths can pertain.
    If you think of publishing as existing for thousands of years you find that almost every form still exists somewhere – even some volumes written by trained scribes! So while there is certainly going to be a massive increase in ebooks, expect the print book – not just PoD – to be with us into the distant future.
    And I’m very pleased to have been guided to your excellent blog.

  64. Right on, Kristen. If they continue to snooze, they lose. They need to stop being in denial and deal with the changes.

  65. Yes, ebooks are the wave of the future for FICTION, but of course, fiction isn’t where the money is for PUBLISHERS.

    Some stats that might add illumination:

    The US book publishers made $27 billion in 2011. And that’s after all discounts given to retailers and all returns were deducted.

    The ebook market just topped $2 billion. That’s nothing like the majority of all sales. It’s one out of every 14 dollars, even if you assume that all of that $2 billion was sold in the US.

    That’s not even the majority of trade publishing, or of fiction (which is a subset of trade).

    Trade publishing is important, but it’s not all that Important. All of trade publishing combined (fiction and non-fiction) tends to be less than half of the total revenue. Because the margins are better in other parts of the industry, income is mostly from the other segments.

    Margins are far, far better in almost every other type of publishing than in trade. Discounts are better, marketing is easier, advances and royalties are lower, and the list goes on.

    Given all of the above, it may be true that publishers of mass market fiction are a little stressed over the changes. But you cannot go from that to a conclusion about all of publishing from that.

    I “get” that your blog is about a particular type of fiction, so let’s look at things from that perspective.

    Ebooks are critical to the growth and future of mass market fiction. They will clearly replace most of the mass market paperbacks. POD printing, though, is just too expensive per copy to become the printing alternative of choice for front-list books on paper.

    As for being afraid of the change, not so much. Publishers have tried to jumpstart this process for most of the 20 -some years I’ve been in the business. We HATE having to deal with giving 65% or 70% of the list price in order to get our books onto bookstore shelves. We HATE returns.

    Why would we NOT be thrilled to get rid of that?

    Piracy. And no matter who is publishing, and who is collecting the revenue, etc. too much piracy will be bad for the book business. All the professionals are scared of that, or should be. Those who are in dire need of expanding their reader base in order to become pros may be less so, but even they will have to make a living from their books sooner or later.

    Authors getting control over their future? That’s not a problem. Why? because it’s a very large helping of very complex work to do the accounting, file preparation, manage your distribution channels, update and improve your files’ metadata, and on and on and on — if you want to reach more than a couple of thousand readers. And we cannot afford to care much about the novels that are only going to sell a couple of thousand copies. Never could.

    Authors have always found, eventually, that it’s better to spend their time on writing and on connecting to their fans than on running the business. And publishers have always had a reservoir of skill that authors generally don’t want to spend time acquiring. Things like picking the best cover designer (and design), writing sales copy, and formatting the book block so that the reading experience is as good as it can be.

    Is change coming? Yes, and it’s coming fastest to mass market fiction. But it’s not the devastating process that you might think.

    1. Maybe. Maybe not. Time will tell. Is fiction not a money-maker because of the nature of the product? Or is it due to how fiction has been handled? Can we keep the same business practices as petroleum skyrockets and inflation erodes the value of the dollar? As gas prices rise and bookstores close and more and more people purchase e-readers, I believe those numbers will change. And unlike music and film, those changes will happen exponentially. The e-reading device is now plowing its way into the fat part of the bell curve and changing how people read, what they read and who reads. Same thing happened in music.

      If publishers want to cut down on piracy, then they cannot gouge people in pricing. Last year, James Rollins’ “The Devil Colony” was released and they publisher priced the e-book the SAME as the hard cover. On what planet does that make sense? Tick people off and they feel justified stealing. And piracy will always be a problem, but I like to believe that most people are good and will pay a fair price for a good product. Pirates will steal no matter what. Sheer volume in sales more than makes up for the piracy. As new markets open up due to the digital revolution, sales are better because they aren’t hobbled by the cost of paper, shipping, and duties.

      Thank you for the comment, and I guess we just all get to work and see what happens :D.

      1. Fuel isn’t the big chunk when it comes to pricing books.

        Would you like me to set out where the money goes for trade books? That’s about the same for fiction or non-fiction.

        Trade books are a low margin product because of the discount rates that have to be given to all the aggregators between publisher and reader, and because authors get more than for any other type of book — they also get more than the publisher does, at least for hardback and trade paper originals.

        And of course there are all the enormous number of things that have to be done to the final manuscript in order to make it ready to publish. It’s not as if we just drop it into a template and print it (of course the subsidy publishers do, but then that’s one of the reasons that books done that way sell so few copies — an average of 50 to 100 per title).

        As for pricing, I think you’re assuming that the manuscript can be converted straight into an ebook, in an automated process, and come out in a commercially viable way. If you are interested, we can discuss why publishers don’t feel that the current price expectations for ebooks are remotely realistic, and why publishers want to price the ebook in the way that they do.

        I think you might be surprised at the underlying reasoning. It’s not what you seem to be assuming.

        1. I know they have good reasons for why their products are priced the way they are. I have never been one to demonize traditional publishing. I know they have overhead, payroll, light bills, and rent. All that aside, there are new publishers who are coming in and finding ways to innovate, streamline, and do books better and faster. As more indies become household names and more authors decide to turn away from traditional publishing the playing field will continue to shift.

          Also retail space is contracting. Target just signed a deal with Apple to carry the iPad. How long will they keep four aisles of dedicated floorspace for a paper product that earns far less profit and that costs manpower to return? We can sell a $20 paper book or a $800 iPad. One day they might decide those aisles are better served with shelves of Kindles, Nooks and iPads. They might not, but then again they might. Fortune favors the prepared.

          Additionally, now all Microsoft products will automatically come with an e-reader. Humans are fundamentally shifting the way we get information and no matter how many times they deliver a thick doorstop (phonebook) on my porch, I still google what I need.

          My only plea for NY is to start looking to the future and embracing some of these innovations, to anticipate the changes and plan accordingly. The paradigm is shifting, and yet even the marketing advice, in my POV, was a good ten years out of date. I have always tried to look for ways for the win-win, and I feel that NY is relying far too much on the mega authors to float the rest of their books. They don’t have to do that in the new paradigm.

          1. I keep hearing that the new ebook world is going to do this, that or the other. And a lot of people invest in these dreams. I don’t want to be contentious, and I don’t want to trash anyone’s dreams. BUT I see a lot of the heartbreak that has happened when people have acted on those assumptions.

            Some succeed. Most struggle.

            I see this because my consulting work and my pro bono work are both in the small press/self-publishing community. I work with literally hundreds of examples of the more successful, and hear from thousands upon thousands more.

            I repeat, I’m not trying to trash anyone’s opinions or dreams. But please, be warned. Things aren’t as simple as they may seem.

            If you’re going to get into this business, don’t dismiss things as outmoded before you understand the forces that made them the best possible choice, and without considering whether those factors are still in effect.

            Please. I don’t want to see more misery. Look before you leap.

          2. Marion, I completely agree that self-publishing and indie publishing are not a panacea. Writers need to understand their craft and their business. That is our part of the equation. But frankly traditional publishing is not a good fit for every author. I tried going the traditional route and if I would have stuck with it, there would be no guide for authors to understand social media. Both of my books have sold quite well. People keep asking why I haven’t come out with a new book. Well, I wanted the traditional stamp. I sent my agent a 100 page proposal for my new book. Some of my best writing. A year later? Nothing. You want misery? How about knowing a book needs to be out there and no one will listen. Misery can take different forms. Failure is a possibility but nothing great comes without risk.

  66. Great article! I believe also the biggest is ‘Fear’ but aren’t tons of small presses, indie’s scared, I mean publishing is a big expense. However, I do see a movement by the larger publishers to try to find other ways to build their business. Only time will tell.

  67. Thoughtful. Insightful. With enough of your trademark laugh-out-loud observations and reactions to keep us smiling. Thank you yet again!

    • Carole Avila on July 20, 2012 at 4:34 pm
    • Reply

    Excellent article! I have been working hard on creating an online platform for my manuscript, Eve’s Amulet, Book 1, because I read enough articles and blogs from people in the writing industry to learn that even as an unpublished author, promoting and marketing starts before a book is published, and digital books are a big part of that process. However, a name has to be visible so people are willing to check out your work and I’m betting that an established platform will do wonders when my book is finally picked up. Thank you for sharing this wonderful “behind the scenes” information!
    Sincerely, Carole Avila
    Posse Member

  68. You’ve blown me away with this one Kristen. I think it could have been 5 equally awesome posts there is so much intelligence and goodness here.
    “When I first arrived, there was almost a palpable feeling of dread, doom and gloom. I felt like agents, editors and even writers were refusing to acknowledge the pink elephant in the room. Why? Because they were afraid of it.”
    I felt the same way at the London Book Fair this year. I almost felt like I was at the wrong industry avent – and maybe I was. I almost see indie and traditional divided by a common interest. I hope it’s not always this way. You have some great ideas to help the big 6 acclimatize to the current climate and I can only hope someone in NY hires you to fix this mess – and soon!

    1. *event 😉

  69. Great post, and right on the money. What I can’t understand is why the big six can’t see that an e-book cost them nothing to produce (after the file is made ready), there is never any remaindering, and virtually no returns. Thus, a $3.99 e-book makes them more money than a $24.99 hard back – unless they can predict exsactly how many books they will sell. Give the author a decent deal on an e-book, and when the publisher knows the author can sell 20,000 books, then make a print run. Returns and remaindering kill the profit on many books. Those two BIG problems go away with e-books.

    1. If a bunch of very smart people, with a lot of experience, are doing something that looks stupid, then you’re probably missing some information — or they are.

      In this case, the likely increase in sales due to a price drop is obvious to all concerned. That should suggest that there’s more to the picture. (As, indeed, there is.)

      Maybe, instead of railing at the stupid greed of all these folks, it might be useful to ask what else is going on?

  70. Like the dinosaurs traditional publishing will die out because of their unwillingness to evolve. Nothing stays the same especially in our technological world. Even cell phones are out of date almost as soon as you buy one! I have used a small traditional publisher for my childrens book – Rumble’s First Scare and was ‘partnered’ in the process instead of wrung through the system. ( My second book – The Rython Kingdom will be an e-book through Smashwords and I am tailoring my ‘promotion’ quite differently. I do believe writers need to share, encourage and support each other and I try my best to do that through my blog. (
    Kristen your articles give freely your knowledge and expertise and I, for one, am very grateful for that.
    Thank you.

  71. Kristen, I love your passion. I can see from the comment thread that you are equal parts evangelist, entrepreneur, writer – and psychologist. Few people can carry that off successfully, and you do it very well. As we all wrestle with a changing pub market, it is helpful to have voices that are professional and appeal to reason, balanced with a sense of urgency. The screamers create too much noise, and the slow-drip-to-the-forehead advocates wind up way behind the curve. I know I’m not alone in thinking your blog has become a must-read for insight and the occasional reality check. Keep up the good work.

    1. What a lovely compliment :D. Thank you!

  72. FABULOUS post! Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us, Kristen. I am personally struggling a little to transition to digital because I have a practical and nostalgic love of paper books, but I know it’s coming. Just as I eventually cancelled my phone land line and went to cell phone, the day is coming when stories will be told on screens more than pages. And since it’s the story we really care about, that’s okay in the end.

    Also, I nearly fell off my chair laughing at this line: “Are they tweeting or ovulating?” You crack me up. 🙂

  73. I took a week away from the grind while on vacation and this is the fourth post I’ve read since coming home… and now my brain is swollen and doing jumping jacks in my head.

    Great post, and lots of valid content. This is getting a re-read then some shares.

  74. What a fantastic series of posts! Thank you for writing such a lucid and perceptive commentary on contemporary publishing (and thanks to all your respondents, too). As a print refugee (editor) who’s recently set sail on the digital ocean, I can’t help feeling invigorated and nervously excited by the changes. I wasn’t around for Allen Lane’s paperback revolution of the 1930s, but the idea of great, accessible and affordable reading for everyone makes good sense: the sooner the big six get their heads around it, the better!

  75. Kristen;
    I may not be ready for the publishing end of my book yet, but even I know that the landscape of publishing has to change or it will die. And sometimes it takes putting a large foot on the backside of tradition and giving it a good shove out the door to do that. Alot of us have faced some pretty radical changes in the last couple of years, but it was needful. Insanity can only last so long, then someone has to pull the plug. And isn’t the definition for insanity; “Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results”?

  76. Very good point about the heaviness of print books. I knew about returns (unfortunately) but never factored in the cost of physically shipping those heavy boxes BACK to the publisher.

  77. Kristen, this is a great and very thoughtful post full of the truth. I’ve been talking about eBooks to agents, publishers and authors for over 10 years. I could see this coming. Here’s the sentence that made me think. “Do you think ten years from now we’ll still be chopping down trees to print books?” Add in the cost of shipping, stripping, recycling, etc. and you are correct – it’s too expensive and will only get more so. My last 2 books have been POD, and they are lovely. I can order them to be delivered to conferences I’m attending or consign them. My first book was published by traditional NY publisher, and I earned around 26 cents per book. My books published as ebooks earn around $2 per book. I’m a writer, but I can do the math! And I hire a professional editor, a cover designer and someone to help design the printed version of the book. I hired a publicist to get me a blog tour and submit to reviewers. It is a LOT of work.
    And I’ve never been happier with my SUCCESSFUL career as an author.

    • Guest on September 19, 2012 at 8:48 pm
    • Reply

    All I can think of with regards to this era of the “multihyphenate” author (marketer, tech support, butcher-baker-candlestick maker) is the angry sentiment of Dr. Bones from the old Star Trek: “Dammit, Jim, I’m a writer, not a social butterfly!” I disagree that writers should have to be jack of all trades and master of their GoDaddy domains. While sadly, in this day and age SOME web presence is clearly better than none, I think if the notion is to treat your writing career as a business, then there’s no reason why the writer shouldn’t hire a “staff” with more expertise in X skill or task. Outsourcing is OK for companies, so if “Jane Doe, Author” is now supposed to be “Jane Doe, Author LLC” then why not delegate tasks of lesser importance — tech services, web design, social media, and the like — to concentrate on the primary one, which still is to write the best damn novel one can (apologies to James Frey)? After all, according to a recent SCOTUS decision, “corporations are people” — so my contention is that the reverse ought to apply, and people can now be corporations too.

    Writers are also largely introverted, with many (myself included) bordering on social recluse if not nonverbal savant. People hinder our writing life, and we best be left alone to clear our head of external dialogue to focus on that of our characters. Therefore, we’d rather our Internet involvement be on par with Ted Kaczynski’s (albeit nowhere near as violent), since our “social” skills rival those of Burgess Meredith’s character in a famous Twilight Zone episode. Susan Cain, author of “Quiet,” says that social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are actually a boon to introverts who don’t want to “market” themselves in crowded rooms or face-to-face.

    But there are still — gasp, shudder, *aaugh* — people (!) on the end of those tweets, not birds on a wire or ravens cawing in Poe’s masterfully delusional echo chamber. Stephen King isn’t life of the party. Must authors, too, model their careers after Kim Kardashian in order to move even 50 copies? That horrendous, promiscuous fame wh*re who literally embodies the term a.s.s. and perfectly defines the word “twit”? If anything, she belongs in a rubber room of her own!

    If social media is a must, then someone like me would rather handle it in a cut-and-dry professional manner with no “personal” involvement at all, which is where companies and freelance hires that “socialize” for you come to the rescue: Fiverr, oDesk, Get-a-Freelancer, etc. Writers are sometimes terrible conversationalists; tweets, by nature, are rapid-fire and unpredictable, more like the Birds of Hitchcock fame ravaging the lovely face of poor Suzanne Pleshette. A lonesome dove like me is too chicken to chance there might be vultures in that digital cuckoo’s nest. (Somewhere, a Family Guy sketch looms in the distance, something about words of an ornithological nature.)

    I don’t want to talk to people in real-time, online or off. I don’t want to learn HTM or CSS or LOL — I thought three-letter acronyms were the realm of the soulless “intelligence” agencies, not the Internet crammed with idiots. I probably will never meet any of these random people on Twitbrain, Wastebook, or Comp-U-Serve in real life anyway, so what’s the difference if it’s “me” behind the handle or a company in my stead? Why should a writer have to be a one-(wo)man band, when there are people with years of expertise readily available to “handle” these tasks as works for hire?

  78. Re: fake characters tweeting.

    This has been done masterfully at least once, for the narrative-based web game Fallen London. However, the characters mostly talk with each other, and they are obviously cartoon characters (example: a menacing version of santa).

    1. Okay, but only people who know the game “get it.” Writers have to do social media to recruit NEW fans who won’t know these characters from a hole in the wall. If writers want to do this, enjoy, but don’t come complaining to me that social media takes too much writing time. Who cares about the characters out of an unpublished first-time novelist’s book? Better ways to spend time is all I am saying :D.

      1. Great point!

        And the creators of the game eventually agreed with you, since (as I have just learned) they stopped tweeting as the characters sometime last year.

  79. Reblogged this on North Country Writers' Night Out.

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