Let Them Eat Cake—The Slow Death of The Old Paradigm Author

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Portrait of Marie Antoinette via Wikimedia Commons

Three days ago, The New York Times published a rather doomsday on-line article written by Scott Turow (current head of the Authors Guild), titled The Slow Death of the American Author . I must admit this is a great title, guaranteed to scare the pants off the best of us. In fact, I received so many frightened e-mails from writers who wanted me to address this article, that I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer my analysis of Turow’s assertions.

Turow is Absolutely Correct

There is a slow death of the American Author…of the Old Paradigm.

What Turow doesn’t appear to grasp is that technology, particularly communication technology exacts sweeping cultural change that cannot be reversed (short of war or global apocalypse). Most modern humans aren’t going to trade in their flatscreens and XBoxes for a “good old-fashioned story told by the fire.”

“Technological change is neither additive nor subtractive. It is ecological. One significant change generates total change.” (Postman, Technopoly, 18)

To Everything There is a Season…

The bard slowly disappeared with the invention of the printing press. Those who were good storytellers had to learn to write them and publish their stories if they hoped to make a living.

Storytellers who wanted to continue standing on corners reciting epic tales (as had been done for centuries) eventually came to the hard realization they’d been replaced by a paper book that could be read by a cozy fire. No more invitations to wealthy homes to tell tales (for pay).

Rich people were too busy reading novels.

If storytellers wanted to eat and pay the bills, they needed to pick up a pen and put it to paper. They had to change the way they’d always done business if they wanted to succeed survive.

The Death of an Era

The American Author, as Turow understands it, writes books, relies on an agent and publisher, and trusts to earn as many royalties as possible from as many sources as possible. FREE! is anathema and social media is too plebeian…and yes, these types of authors are slowly dying.

What Turow is failing to understand is that the fundamental job expectations of the writer has transformed in the Digital Age. This is one of the largest reasons I encourage authors to engage on social media, to blog and create a platform that regularly interacts with fans (and recruits new ones), and to learn the business of their business.

When we create a community on social media, not only will fans buy books full price but they will also be some of our fiercest watchdogs for piracy. I’ve had many author friends who discovered their pirated work from a fan and, subsequently, were able to take action to have the pirated work removed.

Let Them Eat Cake

But I know authors of the old cloth who rail against technology. I’ve met too many of them. When I mention engaging on social media and talking to regular people, they curl their lips and sneer, “I don’t want to talk to anyone. I just want to write” (actual conversation).

Doesn’t that make you want to hand this person money?

We’re in a tough economy. Money and time are scarce. Yet, there exists this old literary aristocracy who cannot be bothered talking to us lowly proletariat (code for “readers”), because it might “steal time from their art.”

Here’s the thing. If we expect people to support us, give us money and time they don’t have, the very least we can do is talk to them and have a good attitude about it. 

Pirate Insurance

In the Digital Age, the best way to generate sales, decrease piracy, and translate FREE! into a sale is to be active on social media and engage. All this costs is some extra time and genuine friendliness. Yet, I find the authors who howl the most about the evils of FREE! and who are the most concerned about being ripped off are the same ones who grouse about  “having to actually talk to people.”

And if I hadn’t encountered this priggish attitude so many times, I wouldn’t bother mentioning it. Yet, this starchy thinking is not unusual among the Old Paradigm Author. They denounce social media, criticize e-books, and wail about the evils of Amazon.

Yet, strangely these authors never seem to question why the Publishing Monarchy hasn’t parted with more of the spoils. In this new age (where e-books cost so little to produce) why are so many of the traditional authors still the ones who are paid the last and the least?

Viva le Roi Vive le Revolution!

We are in a Revolution. In the Old Paradigm, the reality of life as a writer was nasty, brutish and often unfair. A small few enjoyed the fruits of being real writers. There was the small percentage of those whom the Publishing Monarchy granted titles and access to court (literary contracts), while the regular serfs in the field accepted their lot (“aspiring” writers who gave up and returned to the day job).

A handful of the writing majority worked tirelessly in hopes they, too, might earn invitation to join the upper crust of being “published.” Once the writer gained access, he could scrabble up the ranks list for a chance at earning his writing royalty title #1 New York Times Best Selling Author.

And these types of promotions into Publishing Aristocracy happened with enough regularity to keep the dream alive among the masses and prevent all-out revolution. Additionally, without a real invitation from court (a publishing contract), there was no other way to “make it” as a writer. Self-publishing was mocked as a false coat of arms and regarded with general disdain.

It’s a Contract, Not a Panacea

In the Old Paradigm, a publishing contract had the power to get a writer’s foot in the door, but was hardly a magic bullet for success. Only a very small handful of writers earned enough to quit the day job, and most of the wealth was held by a tiny top tier percentage. There was a weak and struggling author middle class, and the rest of us were literary serfs dreaming that one day we’d live like the author on the hill.

I don’t say this with any judgement. Before the Digital Age, there was only one way to make it. The New World had yet to be discovered…

The Winds of Change

Then with the advent of social media, e-books, and other digital tools, suddenly the entrenched power structure could no longer keep tight control of the industry. We writers no longer had to rely on favor granted by the Publishing Aristocracy, because they no longer held sole keys to the kingdom (publishing and distribution).

The Digital Age has created a robust bourgeoise of writers who are a hybrid of artist and innovative, hard-working entrepreneur. This new bourgeoise embrace FREE! and harness it to power future sales. This new breed of author is as creative in business as she is in her novels, and she works the crowds like she’s our near and dear friend (not pouting like a debutante required to do community service).

As Mike Masnik from Tech Crunch states in his blog Author’s Guild’s Scott Turow: The Supreme Court, E-Books, Libraries and Amazon are All Destroying Authors:

If you’re an author earning nothing at all, then you’ve got bigger problems than technology. It probably means you’re mired in obscurity and no one knows who the hell you are.

On top of that, it means you’ve done nothing at all to connect with your fans. Because we’ve seen authors who actively encourage the piracy of their books, but who also work to connect with their fans, and have seen their sales go way up, because those fans want to support the authors.

The new Digital Age Author understands that blogging and tweeting are hard, but they also appreciate that these are the very activities that the amatuer is too lazy to do and what the old aristocracy is too good to do.

The Author of the Digital Age refuses to accept the 93% failure rate of the “good old days” and he boards the rickety boats and sets sail for the New World, knowing that while it is full of danger, blistering work, and uncertainty, there is also vast treasure to be discovered.

The Age of the Author

People are reading more now than ever in human history. They are craving and consuming information at unprecedented rates, and it is an amazing time to be a writer. But the old business model is crumbling. As mentioned in Nathan Bransford’s blog, In the Future, Will Everyone Be a Publisher?, big publishing is atomizing.

The power structure is caving. The parties are no longer as lavish, and the court doesn’t dress nearly as nicely as they did in the publishing heyday. BUT, for the first time,  authors (especially fiction authors) are making a really good living doing what they love—WRITING.

While Turow wails that authors are dying, he seems to be forgetting about Barry Eisler who famously turned down a half million dollar deal with his publisher to go on his own. Turow is also apparently unaware of the many successful self-published authors who’ve translated successful e-book sales into favorable print deals with traditional houses. He looks all too unaware of the astonishing success of publishers who’ve passed up the old business model and innovated to keep pace with a new culture.

An Age of Freedom

These days authors no longer have to accept whatever deal NY offers. If the author doesn’t like the terms, she can partner with the emerging digitally savvy publishers who “act more like partners than gatekeepers” (Masnik).

The Bottom Line

It all boils down to this. The world has changed. There is a new paradigm and it’s birthing a very new type of reader who has very different expectations. This, in turn, has altered our job requirements if we hope to be successful.

Yes, it is more work, but the odds of success are far higher. The Old World had 172,000 books published in a year and 160,000 of those sold less than 1,000 copies (per Book Expo of America stats 2006—pre-e-book explosion and social media saturation).

Welcome to the New World of Publishing

The New World, however, is ripe ground for the author-entrepreneur. Fiction authors are now making enough to write full time. Many are making six and seven figures, a pay grade once relegated to only a handful of the upper crust.

BUT, there is a cost.

In this New World there are few existing structures and many of the rules have yet to be written. We are setting foot on wild shores with no blacksmith or stables. No established farms or existing housing. We are responsible for building it. 

The authors of the old model can learn from the passionate and generous indie entrepreneurs. Publishing houses can innovate. IT IS A GREAT TIME TO BE IN PUBLISHING. Yes, we all have new roles and more work, but the good news is…WE ARE NOT ALONE.

To end with a little laugh, some Mel Brooks…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dk47saogI8o&w=420&h=315]

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of April, 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.

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 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 April I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!


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  1. You nailed it, Kristen. Outstanding.

      • Ron W. on April 11, 2013 at 11:43 pm
      • Reply

      It is a truly sobering commentary on the times in which we live when authors who “simply want to write” are being browbeaten into participating in the greatest time-waster of all–social media. How ironic that, in this sphere, having an engaging personality is primary and actual written word being discussed, secondary.

      1. Ron, the failure rate of writers was 93% in the old paradigm. Of the 7%, few made it long-term and most could not quit the day job. The fact that we now have to do some extra work but now can make a living doing what we love is hardly browbeating, and if you view talking to readers and fans (people who will spend money and time on your books) as a time-waster, then enjoy all the success you deserve.

      • Ron W. on April 12, 2013 at 12:03 pm
      • Reply

      I just believe that your argument is flawed, that since readers spend time and money on an author’s book, that author is somehow obligated to interact with them socially. This is the browbeating I’m speaking of. Advocating a standard that supports the cultural white noise of social media simply detracts from the job of the writer, to write. Everyone I know who discovers what they consider to be a great book feels that’s quite good enough, as it should be. Authors write, fans read. Period.

      1. We agree to disagree, and any author too good to talk to me has that right. But I also have the right to not bother buying his books. True human connection isn’t white noise. I do not advocate spam, automation or marketing. I advocate talking to people and being vested in the community who pays for the books.

        Authors have always done this; but they we’re called book-signings, lectures, book clubs, or socials. Writers NEVER just wrote books or they wouldn’t have been half-exhausted traveling the country to talk to fans at books stores and conferences from coast to coast. But perhaps signing books, speaking at libraries and colleges, and saying hello is just all white noise, and I am mistaken. On social media we have the power to take the same human connection that created fans in 1980 to a much larger and eager audience.

        Our culture has changed, and maybe we don’t like it, but it doesn’t change reality. Bards didn’t like being “browbeaten” into learning to write stories on paper, but they either sucked it up and did what was vital to get stories to readers or they went extinct. There are plenty of authors who write good books–lots of them–yet still interact with fans and readers on Facebook and Twitter. NYTBSA James Rollins is a friend of mine and a fine example.

        1. Great reply, Kristen, to Ron W. Allow me to drive this home. Since my first book was published in 2006, I have spoken at well over 200 venues. Every group you mentioned, and more. My venues also include church congregations/groups, women’s groups, writing conferences, country clubs, and national civic groups. On our own dime we “built that platform.” Wore out two cars in the process. But the platform grew by leaps and bounds after my last book was published and I hit the social network airwaves, creating more contacts and a host of new readers I could have never reached by wearing out yet another car. I’m thrilled with the way the industry is heading. I plan to be in the middle of it. Besides. I like white noise. Lots of it.

      • Ron W. on April 12, 2013 at 5:30 pm
      • Reply

      I think what we’re disagreeing about here is the presumption, on your part, that authors who prefer to write and not maintain a web presence are snobs. Authors often have precious little time as it is, if they have a day job or deadline to meet, without having to cultivate a fan base through a blog or website–which requires daily, if not sometime hourly, check-ins, updates and comment response. Yes, book tours, conferences, etc. take time–lots. But then they’re over, unlike maintaining a blog, for instance. Personally, Kristen, I’d prefer that, rather than spend your time replying to my posts, you’d best be served writing. And I’d be better served reading a good book–which I’m going to do right now.
      By the way, where on earth did you get this statistic?: “the failure rate of writers was 93% in the old paradigm.”

      1. I don’t believe they are snobs. I believe they are wanting things to stay the same and are afraid, which is understandable. I want them to succeed. I know this paradigm is frightening and new and the business model has drastically changed. The Big Six are now the Not Too Bad Four. Amazon is eating the industry.

        And that statistic from the Book Expo of America. 2006 BEA (Book Expo of America) industry analysis. According to the BEA, there are 172,000 books printed each year in the United States. Of this 172,000 only 1,000 books sold more than 50,000 copies in retail channels. Less than 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies, and 93% of all books published sold less than 1,000 copies. Most of those sold less than 99 copies. This includes both traditionally and non-traditionally published authors. Also this was before social media, e-books, and the explosion of indie publishing.

        Your time might be better invested understanding the business side of publishing instead of compiling more replies that bely your ignorance.

        1. Do you have the statistics on E-books? Failure rate of others does not matter to me. It is like sports. Once you are in the game, you should desire to win no matter what the odds. Statistics are simply needed to plot and plan and put into operation an offense for the given situation.

        2. Of all your replies to Ron, this was the best. He made it clear that his longing is to be part of the old court. He has chosen to side with traditional publishing for one reason, vanity.

          There no longer seems to be a financial benefit to the Big Four, for the reasons you listed. They expect a professionally edited manuscript on day one. They haven’t been involved in the actual printing for some time. They don’t really market the vast majority of their authors. They expect the author to build the social platform Ron hates.

          The Big 4 = Vanity Publishing.

      • Ron W. on April 13, 2013 at 7:17 pm
      • Reply

      If you don’t believe authors who think their time is better spent on writing than social media aren’t snobs, why would you characterize them as an authors who feel they are “too good to talk to you?” Your presumptions continue to be broad and inaccurate. These writers are not “afraid” of the “new paradigm,” they just don’t want to swallow the soma pill and embrace a brave new world where fewer great works–or works at all– are being produced because all the requirements now placed on authors that don’t involved the actual writing– to wit, social media, publicity, etc. Read Amanda Hockings comments to the New York Times for a succinct summation of this. Yes, the brave new world is upon us. I get it. I don’t believe, however, that a blanket acceptance and blind promotion of the “new paradigm” is the best use of one’s time and talents. I also believe that dissenting voices to this now dominant paradigm should be heard, and not just be dismissed as ignorant.

  2. Excellent points and a must-read for any writer. The traditional publishing model seems more and more like a dinosaur and those who decry the new face of publishing in the digital age may end up extinct. (sorry, just saw JP3D)

  3. Now, if you could get Scott Turow to read this and comment, he just might have a fighting chance – but somehow I think this is beneath him.

    1. That’s sad. I know technology is scary. Been there. But every change comes with good and bad and if we focus on the bad, we can’t enjoy the good.

  4. I waited too long to take on the role of writer, but in a lot of ways the timing is perfect. This shift is empowering as well as daunting. As I begin to wrap up my first novel, I have to wonder, is it worth the effort to become traditionally published. What are the benefits? A self-published novel done right can do so much more, it seems.

  5. I’m guessing it’s hard to let go of old cultural norms when you belong to them. In a sense Turow is indeed right and you have agreed with him. Authors are not strictly authors anymore. The change offers advantages and disadvantages. Nonetheless…change is vital to growth.

  6. I tend to think the future looks more like Cory Doctorow and less like Johnathan Frazen. No reason to lament that! That’s what I call good news! 🙂 Vive le Revolution! Great points and article.

  7. I saw the article by Turow, but I haven’t read it yet. I have to admit, I’m glad I read yours first.

    I can understand the author that is uncomfortable with the social media world. I’m one of them. It’s not that I don’t want to talk with fans and other writers, it’s that it can be so overwhelming. I have spent most of my life writing, but have only looked seriously at self-publishing for the last year or so. It can be a little daunting, and I found I have a very difficult time knowing where to start. Many people have many different views, and it seems like one wrong turn can mark you forever.

    Glad I’ve found this blog though, Kristen! You always have the best advice. I look forward to the email alert every day letting me know that you’ve updated. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Self-publishing is a little daunting, but after I did it once, it was much less scary. The one thought that drove me to learn, though, was the value of having that skill set. Now, using Scrivener (a MUST for all writers), the preparation of a book for both print and Kindle/ebook, Takes less than two hours. Also, I’m improving and think it really shouldn’t take more than an hour.

      Imagine having the ability to handle the nuts and bolts of publishing. It is no different than knowing how to type, aren’t you glad you can do that?

      Good luck with taking on publishing. I’m sure you’ll do great.

  8. BTW, the “Let them eat cake” line is a myth–it’s from a political pamphlet written by Robespierre and was not said by Marie Antoinette or any other member of the French royal family. (Pet peeve of mine.)

  9. Great comeback to Scott Turow’s column.

    • Lorraine Roe on April 10, 2013 at 12:10 pm
    • Reply

    I really like this. Although, I have to say I have a pretty big social media network and my publisher’s proceeds to me are really not that great. I do believe there are fuzzy numbers at work. However, I am moving toward self-publishing. But I think we’ve moved into the people’s realm, where it is community-based, not shouting down from the author roof-top. So, thanks for this piece.

  10. Personally, I don’t believe I would be as far along in my writing as I am without my blog/platform and the wonderful support I get from that community. Having tried the Old World method for my children’s book, The Duffy Chronicles, back in 2004, I was too discouraged to write for years.

    What has evolved over the past few years is incredibly exciting for writers, I think. We now need to establish our own NYT Best Seller List.

    Back to you Kristen! 😉

  11. Reblogged this on Raven's Nest and commented:
    This EXCELLENT blog post breaks down a lot of the real issues in publishing at this very moment, and points out some common sense truths we need to acknowledge. As a wise old Vorlon once said, “The avalanche has already started. It is too late for the pebbles to vote.”

    Adapt. Publish. Engage.

    • annerallen on April 10, 2013 at 12:17 pm
    • Reply

    Excellent rebuttal. Turow equates the health of the author to the health of the big publishing corporations. But corporate isn’t the only way to go any more. In fact it’s kind of the last place an author is safe right now.

    Those publishing contracts we all used to crave are now riddled with traps and nasty clauses that can own your copyright for the next 170 years. They offer less and less and demand more and more. If Big Publishing doesn’t figure out that the master/slave paradigm doesn’t work any more, they will indeed find themselves defunct.

    But they’re listening, in their own slow, corporate way, as Random House did with the new digital only contracts, so things may improve. And small digital publishers are springing up everywhere to pick up the slack.

  12. Lots of food for thought. I love your blog!! You always seem to know just what we need to hear, lean and know. Thank you for your willingness to do so much for those in our craft!

  13. I bet the rush I felt reading this was akin to the feeling the colonist’s got when Patrick Henry encouraged the unwashed masses to demand liberty…or death. Figuratively speaking of course- our stakes aren’t nearly as high! But it does provoke the free spirit in my American blood!

  14. It’s all about how we look at change. It’s so much better to embrace it than resist it, and yet, not that easy. :-). Thanks so much for the gentle nudge.

  15. this does work. I purchased a book from a new author I happened to message a bit on her blog. I quite enjoyed the book.

  16. What a shame my speakers are playing up. I’m coming back to that video later. Great post, Kristen.

  17. I admit Turow’s article got me a bit concerned until I realized he was speaking from the fading past of the Old World. Thanks for the timely rebuttal. I feel better now.

  18. Reblogged this on Darke Conteur.

  19. As I was reading this, (and perhaps because my kids are watching them in the background) I was thinking of cartoons and other children’s programming. The only thing that has really survived from when I was a kid is Sesame Street. There are hardly anymore hand drawn shows or all puppet shows anymore. I think the only way that Sesame Street has survived has been because it has embraced the digital side of children’s entertainment.

    This makes me wonder if any of the authors who have relied on the Old World (I’m thinking of ones like King, Koontz, or Grisham), have started exploring the New World at all?

  20. Great response to Turow’s article. There are some authors out there who are best sellers in the old tradition, AND are great at social media and connecting with their fans. Some of my favorite historical fiction writers (who did well under the old paradigm) are also wonderful people who are very active on their FB pages. I love them for it, and I’m terribly loyal to them!

  21. Great post and perfect timing after Scott Turow’s article! 🙂

  22. Great read, logical and passionate. Posting on my facebook.

  23. Loved this post Kristen! So inspirational. Feels good to be a pioneer in this New World, even if it means braving the cold, harsh winter. I just want to shout, “Give me liberty (in the form of self publishing and social media) or give me death!” I can be a little melodramatic. 🙂

    • Tess on April 10, 2013 at 1:15 pm
    • Reply

    This is so great, Kristen. Just what I needed to read today!! Thanks!

    • Keith on April 10, 2013 at 1:22 pm
    • Reply

    I saw the same issues raised here come up in the game development industry as well as the comic industry. In both cases those people who advocated self publishing and talked about the money they were making were ridiculed by the gate keepers who said they were lying. Then it turned to “this is the value that publishers give you”, And finaly it was death and doom comments from people who didn’t want to change. I’m sure there are more examples out there where these cycles are repeated.

    Thanks again Kristen for putting all this into context.

    1. The game industry is a great example. Minecraft has made a couple hundred million. I love the game, partly because it indie, but mostly because it is fun.

  24. What a wonderful article. It’s inspiring, honestly. I just self-published my 20th book last night, and while I’m not making enough to live off of it yet, I’m actually selling quite a bit.

    It truly is exciting, yet hard work. I’m not the most social person, but I do take the time to interact with my fans, and I’m so glad I get to. It’s wonderful talking to people who like my writing. 😀 We have something in common. 😉

    It is a brave new world that takes an insane amount of work to flourish in. Everything changes from month to month too. What worked for me 2 years ago is no longer effective. FREE has been nerfed beyond belief! *sigh*

    Thank you for the article. You’re absolutely right. 🙂


    • Ochani Lele on April 10, 2013 at 1:25 pm
    • Reply

    I’m an author who embraces both the new and the old; however, until recently (the past two years) I haven’t embraced the power of blogging or social networking. Now that I have, my income has exploded and I’m teaching classes on the web based on my books. Finally, I’m living the writing life and no longer punching a time-clock.

    This blog nailed the issue head-on! Thank you for a common sense approach to the new digital age.

    Ochani Lele.

  25. Dead on. 🙂

  26. Well said. Evolution of the industry continues. Adaptation ensures survivability.

  27. Your piece is on the one hand condescending and on the other simplistic. You identify as core of the problem the authors’ smugness and unwillingness to engage with the reader on a marketing level. At the same time you claim (to know) that many authors who did so have been economically successful. In the end, and that’s what we can learn from your piece, it’s the authors’s fault of not embracing the new economic realities of publishing. He has only himself to blame.

    I would have preferred if you had backed up your claims on the success of social marketing for authors with some facts, numbers, statistics. This you don’t do, so I point you to Ewan Morrison’s “Why social media isn’t the magic bullet for self-epublished authors” ()2012) ttp://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jul/30/tweet-about-cats-just-write who does just that and comes up with rather devastating results. They may be wrong or one-sided, or valid only for a niche market. But at least he provides some material. You, on the other, provide ad hominems to change an economic and legal story into a psychological one. This is understandable, given that you try to sell a “Writer’s Guide to Social Media”.

    But as Ewan Morrison says, “online marketing is a full-time job for professionals.” If you mix writing and marketing, chances are you create bad literature and bad marketing.

    1. WANA Ways are different than most social media approaches and, no they aren’t a full-time job. I am a writer first, and WANA was created for creative people. The nature of marketing has shifted with the culture as well. In a Huxleyan world, tweeting non-stop and shoving free books up people’s noses is about as effective as that e-mail promising me my inheritance in Ghana.

      And most social media marketing is thinly guised book spam, and no, it doesn’t work. I’ve blogged that for four years. Additionally, those “numbers about failures” can be skewed because no amount of social promotion can sell bad books…and the new paradigm has no shortage of those. Social media helps bad books fail faster.

      My methods rely on forging relationships and an organic brand. And since there are multitudes of authors who have risen from obscurity to selling hundreds of thousands of books on their own by using social media and embracing technology–Aaron Patterson, John Locke, Theresa Regan, Amanda Hocking, Mark Williams and Saffina Deforges (only to name a handful)–I felt that spending more word count stating the obvious—that many authors have used social media paired with great books to be successful–was obvious.

      Additionally, the statistic of failure (regarding social media) is in ways a non-sequiter in regards to this post. Many of the authors most resistant to Facebook and Twitter already have a brand established by their books. That was how Barry Eisler, CJ Lyons, Bob Mayer, and Joe Konrath were able to defect and make far better income with more creative control. Traditional (branded/vetted) authors are in a MUCH stronger position than Jane Newbie with her first novel who no one knows from a hole in the ground. But the Jane Newbie’s aren’t the ones who’ve done the most grousing about social media. In fact, they’ve been far more eager to embrace it. And yes, there will be failure, but that goes with anything. Even the traditionals had to put in sweat equity; they just did it differently.

      This business is brutal. We have to learn the craft and write good books. There are many elements to success. Technology is here, and we can whine and moan about the unfairness of it all, or we can reinvent and make the best of it. There are plenty of examples of people who have been immensely successful but they had to keep pace with the cultural changes instead of wasting valuable energy bemoaning the “good old days” which, frankly, weren’t really all that great. Thank you for your comment :).

  28. Bravo! A wonderful reply! Brings hope to our shivering hearts…

  29. Thank you for a well-balanced post, Kristen, neither an apology for nor a rave against Amazon.

    But I will say concerning this statement: “If we expect people to support us, give us money and time they don’t have, the very least we can do is talk to them and have a good attitude about it.” Who wants to talk with an unpublished author? This seems fine for when someone already has something published, or some sales via self-publishing. I just don’t see how to get there.

      • Ochani Lele on April 10, 2013 at 2:42 pm
      • Reply

      Although one might be an unpublished author, hopefully, before the author began writing he established himself as an authority in his field (for nonfiction). If you’ve established yourself as an authority you have an author’s platform; and then, with that platform people in your field or interested in your field will want to talk to you.

      With fiction: I’m not a fiction writer, but I have friends who write fiction. According to them, it’s all about talking and creating “hype” for your story. Living room readings, public book readings (at libraries and bookstores), and blogs in which you talk about your fiction work can create both a buzz and an excitement.

      I hope this helps?

      1. Ochani: Our public library won’t let a self-published book through the door, not even for a local author, let alone allow one of them to disgrace the hallowed halls by reading from their self-published books. As for living room readings, if I knew anyone who I thought would be willing host I’d be willing to do it. So far no one stands out among my acquaintances.

          • Ochani Lele on April 10, 2013 at 3:16 pm
          • Reply

          That is a huge problem with self-publishing, and one I brought up with my friend Janet on my Facebook page today: libraries won’t deal with self-published authors, and library sales can be a huge boost.

          I’m about to get creative with my own marketing techniques (and I am traditionally published), so maybe I should share? Of course! Have you heard of WebEx? I’ve been giving living room readings of my own published work — it’s very Victorian but it’s a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to spread your local readership circle.

          But I teach online using WebEx as my platform, and soon, on Friday nights, I’ll be using WebEx to create small virtual living room readings. I pay for the service monthly which lets me host 25 people at one time. But you can accomplish the same thing on a smaller scale with Skype and Google circles (I think that’s what google calls their service). Skype groups calls host 10 max and it costs (I think) $24.00 every three months. Google is free. WebEx is pricier but flawless.

          Decide what virtual platform you want to use and get familiar with it. And then, using your social media networks, advertise that you are doing small “living room readings” virtually. I’m planning on limiting mine to one hour blocks, and maybe doing two per Friday night. Ideally, I’ll be able to reach 50 people per Friday night, and hopefully the intimate setting will encourage people who haven’t read me to read me; or, maybe, they’ll want to buy signed copies from me in addition to the copies they already have. And ideally, maybe I’ll get able to generate another 200 book sales a month.

          Writing a book is the easy part. Finding and reaching your audience is the difficult part, even if you do have a traditional publisher.

  30. Wonderful article, Kristen. Truly inspiring. Thanks.

  31. Well, I’m not so sure that ‘information yearns to be free’ or that self-publishing authors should welcome piracy and trust their fans to protect them. Cory Doctorow might espouse that but maybe he hasn’t had to pay the rent lately 🙂 The laborer is worthy of her hire! The new paradigm of self-serving altruism is fine for theorists but you can’t put it in the bank.

    1. Yes, but most people don’t pirate books. Most consumers just buy off Amazon and B&N. The people who seek to get stuff for free were never a sale. They are the same demographic who checks out library books and buys $1 books at Half Price Books Stores. There are plenty of people who want to support writers. A lot of piracy is generated by 1) ridiculous e-book prices. You can’t charge the same for an e-book that you do for hard cover. It pisses consumers off and then they feel justified when they pirate and 2) we need to open markets to certain countries and make it easier for them to get legitimate copies.

      I believe that as a general rule, people are good and don’t seek out ways to rip artists off. Sure, there are plenty of people who download illegal music, but there are countless millions happy to download from iTunes.

  32. That’s what so great about being an indie right now; we’re not only doing what we love, but we’re creating a new paradigm while we’re at it. How great is that?

    • J. F. Smith on April 10, 2013 at 3:22 pm
    • Reply

    This one really hits home for me. I particularly think that this line is of great importance: “This is one of the largest reasons I encourage authors to engage on social media, to blog and create a platform that regularly interacts with fans (and recruits new ones), and to learn the business of their business.”

    As a young(ish) person – writing aside – I can see how social media is a revolution. I came across the sneering types in grad school, and they were generally very boring people. Being approachable is huge. About 10 years ago, my parents were at a work function when Mandy Patinkin (Saul, in Homeland, for those of you who haven’t been blessed with the opportunity to watch the show) came up to the bar. He was already pretty successful then, but that didn’t stop him from complimenting my dad’s tie and buying him a beer.

    I think your post can be summed up nicely: Be human. It’s great! Thanks!

  33. Bravo! And thank you. 🙂

  34. Reblogged this on I'm Really a Robot and commented:
    I always love Kristen Lamb’s advice.

  35. The key here is the need to be available – regardless of the path an author chooses. Succeeding in the new paradigm will depend on availability and access, whether an author decides to pursue indie, self-pub, or traditional publication. Readers have realized that we (and yes, I am reader as well as author) can get so much more from the experience if we can interact with the author – not in creepy-stalker-mode but in friendly fan mode – and frankly, speaking with my author hat on, I love interacting with people who read my book. It’s actually win-win … despite what the old paradigm complaints about!

    1. Social media is great for all authors. And for traditional authors, it just helps give momentum you already have by being in bookstores, etc. I also think it’s good for writers to talk to REAL people every once in a while. We are already weird enough, LOL.

  36. Great post, Kristen. I was approached by a publisher yesterday at work (I’m a professor) about creating a book for my field & for my classes — they would do cover design, ISBN, editing, etc – and I would get 8% royalties and the book would come in at around $40 per student. Too much $ for a book (and I know how crazy expensive textbooks are – and $40 is a cheap one). I asked the rep why I wouldn’t be better served writing the book and using CreateSpace to do it, getting the cost per unit down to below $20 (even at print on demand) and setting the e-book price what I wanted. She had no answer. And are you ready for this — didn’t know what CreateSpace was.

    I get frequently overwhelmed & freaked out about the business part, but then I breathe. I can’t imagine a more exciting time to be a writer (and I am traditionally published, and am seeing less & less the “what is it you’re giving me” ? part of the equation). It is a paradigm shift, but I think it’s a tremendously advantageous one for authors.

    1. But the beautiful part of this new paradigm is that books are not so cost-prohibitive that readers can’t BUY MORE THAN ONE. What this means is that writers are all working together, helping one another, offering information, support and advice for FREE. Want to go indie? Ask some of the ones doing well. They likely are blogging or speaking about it and many are generous with time and advice.

      A whole 8%. Wow. Yeah. Times are a changin’. Thank GOD, LOL 😀

    2. Wow, that is so interesting.

      1. My mom or the glitter-peanut butter-howling thing?…because I totally haven’t tried it but am not against it :P.

  37. Actually blogging is tons of fun. And it’s what taught me to write daily. Vive le revolution!

  38. Compliments on yet another thoughtful and informed post. I am an actor/writer who has sat in too many commissioning editors offices, and am a veteran of the following conversation in various forms: (adaptable for any media)

    Commissioning editor: We love your stuff.
    Me: Great, so you’ll publish?
    Commissioning editor: No way.
    Me: Why not?
    Commissioning editor: You’re not nearly famous enough. Sorry we thought you knew that.

    I celebrate that each of us now has instruments of mass communication at our disposal.

    On the other hand, as a recently self-published author I am daunted by the burgeoning expanse of the online biblio-forum. New era though. No question.

    1. Keep writing and keep working on the platform. Most self-published authors start seeing success at MINIMUM Book Three. So keep pressing. You can do it!

  39. Loved this. For a split second when you said Turow was right, I thought–No! But of course you get it, you are queen of social media! 🙂 A queen, at least. Undoubtedly part of the royal court. I wonder if this is also generational. Those of use who have been online half our lives or more have less of an issue interacting socially online and don’t find it wasteful.

    1. I dont know. My 62 year-old mom rules Facebook. Befriend her at your peril, LOL. And THANKS for the sweet compliment. I just want writers to have an opportunity to do what they love, and if involves wearing glitter and peanut butter and howling at every full moon? Guess who’s buying glitter? 😀

    2. My mom is the same age. She’s on Facebook but frequently makes fun of how boring people’s updates are. I suggested she find more interesting friends! 🙂

      1. She should make friends with my mom. Seriously I will be on the phone with her and I can TELL she is TOTALLY paying attention to Facebook instead of the conversation, and I am all like, “MOM! I know ur on Facebook. FOCUS.” Too funny.

  40. The bottom line is, if you want to be a writer, writing is not enough. You have to work extremely hard. Every stage brings its own challenge: research, write, re-write/edit, market. Technology for writers is about marketing. Most folks are lazy. They liked the old paradigm. Research, write …. the rest is done by the publisher. What they didn’t realize was that re-write/edit and market was always part of the package. Writers need to decide what they want — are they happy with the joy of writing & a few folks to read their work? Do they care if anyone reads their work? Do they want to quit their day job — and put just as much if not more into writing? Writing is not for whiners.

    1. Yep. SUCK IT UP, BUTTERCUP. That’s what I tell myself when I start whining, LOL.

  41. I think the most difficult thing for authors (and most people) is living within the chaos while the past morphs into the future. Even if the old rules were draconian, we knew what they were. Good post and I’m off to post it on the Montana Romance Writer’s Facebook Group!

  42. LOVE this post! It’s so good to read that we are at such an interesting time in the history of writing and publishing. I guess I never thought about what the bard must have felt like when he sees how easy it is for someone to go and buy a story whenever they wanted. What I like about this though, is that story telling has always been something that people are interested in, that has never changed, just the medium for telling them. 🙂 This was great – thanks again!

    • Debbie Johansson on April 10, 2013 at 5:25 pm
    • Reply

    Love this Kristen – well said! 🙂

  43. I think this is one of my faves of all your posts, Kristen. I’m thankful for your sound advice as we Sally forth! Funny video! I’d forgotten that scene.

  44. okay this right here…”they curl their lips and sneer, “I don’t want to talk to anyone. I just want to write” (actual conversation).”

    Makes me go wait…are you writing to reach people or just eye-masticate? Why are your writing? Self gratification? How many times has a reader emailed me and said–“You’re fantastic!” and then learned how I helped them look at the world a little differently. — A dozen or so. Engaging them felt fantastic even when they said–I was disappointed in this month’s installment. And then we talk, I ask what I could do better, why did you feel that way and they feel like they’ve touched me! Because I hear them. I’m accessible. Some even feel inspired when I talk to them. OMGosh! What the heck do you think you’re doing by writing! When you write, you’re “talking”. <–So wanted to put that in caps. I'm so mad right now! That was an actually conversation!

    Oh and Scott has always had great terror tactics. When you fear the world, everything is a fear tactic.

  45. I love this analogy, and will wear my middle-class-indie-hat with pride! I just hope that when this new paradigm changes, as it will, I’ll still be flexible enough to change with it.

  46. Exciting, very exciting, I might be seeing the future now or at least an option. My worry is getting the cash in the electronic world by way of self-publishing. I have recommended bank to bank transfers for buying stuff sold on the internet. It might be a new Internet Bank idea and one can create an account on-line. There might be other ways. I am still learning. I still do not understand how you get the cash from Barnes and Noble or Amazon with self-publishing an E-book on the Internet. I can self-publish to be read for free now, but how does one get the cash effectively?

    I thought; there was a war and the French military needed the meat and the regular food. All the French people had was cake to survive. Chocolate Chocolate Cake.

  47. K,

    As a visual artist not so gracefully diving into the writing world, but achieving more of an awkwardly timid, toddler dive, it is refreshing to hear that such a shift in writing is upon us and can be utulized by a little social media savvy and a genuine heart towards followers. Thanks for the insight. -a

  48. BRAVO! Bravo, Kristen! Your best blog post ever.

    Thankfully, self-publishing and self promotion has become a viable option. A respected one. But like the sheep and the goats, writers will continue to be separated between those who will pay for quality editing, professional book covers, and publicity, and those who won’t. Writers can’t publish a lot of crap, stories full of errors, because you’re in a hurry to make a million bucks. Otherwise, we will look like those old vanity writers who never honed or polished their writing skills in the first place. And lately it appears as though some writers are turning out mistake-filled prose covered up by great marketing efforts, tons of social media promotion, and a local following making them radio stars, Toastmaster speakers, and highly promotable authors of bad books. Book buyer beware!

    Some in this business have gone so far as to say that publishers and literary agents are a dying breed, they just haven’t laid down yet. They say we are in a new world groping our way forward, but that life is too short to make a deal with a dinosaur industry where retailers can return unsold books to publishers. Many believe that antiquated process has got to stop. Everything has to evolve, or die out and the publishing industry is no exception.

    Plenty of hurdles remain for the writer, and not every writer will clear them. But finally, we have more than one respected publishing option. A way to get paid every month instead of once or twice a year. Don’t plan on getting rich quick, but thank God, we’re no longer in Egypt. We crossed the Red Sea, and made it through 40 years in the desert. There’s more to be done, but the ball is now in our court.

    In the end, it becomes simple. Readers just want to read great books. They don’t care how it happens. I feel the industry will survive but will look very different to how it did before Nooks and Kindles took over the earth. Prepare for a wild ride, writers. This adventure has just begun. Some of us will stop wasting time, burn our bridges, and never look back. No matter how much we love our old-fasioned hardbacks, it’s time to adjust to the current reality. Like Goodreads and Amazon. They don’t care if you’ve written one book or fifty. They simply push, publish, or sell books in all shapes and sizes. What a novel concept!

      • Linda F. on April 12, 2013 at 2:02 pm
      • Reply

      Thank you, Pamela! You addressed the one thing that keeps me from totally embracing this new world of publishing–that it opens the door for a lot of crap. Just because people know how to market and can use a social network to their advantage doesn’t mean they can write a good book.

      As a reader, nothing makes me angrier than being stuck with a book that’s badly written and riddled with errors. I check the previews and the reviews, but often that’s not enough given that sometimes it takes a chapter or two for a story to deteriorate, and on Amazon and other book review sites it’s easy enough to get friends to write glowing reviews.

      If I’m reading a book and it deteriorates into bad writing or typos, it immediately goes into the trash or gets deleted from my Kindle unfinished. If you (not you specifically, Pamela; writers in general) expect me to put money out for your book, then you owe me the investment of time, effort, and yes, money (for professional editing) so you can produce error-free, captivating writing–I don’t give a fig how good a marketer you are.

      Because if you don’t make that investment in your writing and you produce a subpar product I’ll never read another one of your books again, and if anyone asks for a recommendation I won’t give it, and in fact will tell them to avoid your books. However, if you’re a writer who took the time to produce a professional piece of writing, I’ll praise you to the skies, and I’ll buy your books over and over. Unfortunately, there’s too much of the former putting stuff out there right now just because they can, and they give the latter group, the good writers, a bad name.

      As a writer (unpublished at the moment; I’ve only been writing fiction for the last two years or so, which is probably the equivalent of five minutes in the publishing world), I promise I’ll never put out anything that’s crappily written. I wouldn’t do it in my day job as a marketing writer/editor, and I won’t do it in my fiction writing, which is why I’ve invested in classes, conferences, and working with a professional editor. And if I ever put out subpar writing, you’re all allowed to tell me that and ask for your money back. Refunds will be cheerfully given, because I’ll have no one to blame but myself.

      1. Thank you, Linda. Of course, I agree with you 100%. Some may argue there are no “perfect” books. That may be true. I’ve read more than a few badly written traditionally published books, as well as subpar self published books.

        Now more than ever, writers who take control of their own destiny must know their craft, and possess the ability to tell a great story. You can’t have one without the other. I’m afraid too many writers will jump the gun and publish way before they’re ready. Writers who do not invest in their work will lose in the end. Readers won’t tolerate it, and It won’t matter a hill of beans how brilliant you are at social media and marketing. I agree, Linda.

  49. Yep, very good, and as I’m listening to Grapes of Wrath currently, and how Steinbeck documented the end of an era replaced by technology, it is an endless story. People always want stories, it is the format and delivery that changes.

  50. Very interesting post again. I’m with your mum…loving Facebook. Loving blogging too. Loving following blogs like these. And LOVING writing more than ever! Gone is that awful feeling that all the work put into writing a novel might be wasted because if not accepted by an agent or a publisher your novel might never see the light of day. LOVING this new order.
    Christine, 66years young.

    1. FABULOUS!

  51. Great discussion. I would sum up the takeaway as “Publishing is dead — long live publishing!”

    I just wanted to mention a couple of ways I have seen indie authors sell books in a smallish town — get invited to speak at a writers’ club and then be allowed to sell books after the talk, and make a deal with a local independent coffee house/bakery to see up and sell books there.

  52. And could we now have the NYT publish your piece as a rebuttal to Turow? Please. Well stated, Kristen.

    1. Likely…not LOL. Would be cool, though.

      • Shawn M on April 11, 2013 at 12:51 pm
      • Reply

      Now there’s an idea. Let’s try to work it.

  53. Well done Kristen. Writers are fortunate to live at such a time; there’s room for everyone who wants to do the work and get their work out to their audiences. My other writer friends who still have publishers and agents still get out on the road and set up blogs and websites to market their own books. Grateful there are more options than in the past, even the recent past.

  54. Love this post. Kristen, you make so much sense, in a world of writer chaos, and NY publisher’s who sometimes seem to make absolutely no sense. Thanks for the renewed hope.

  55. Thank you for this amazing post. It’s amazing how some writer’s fail to see what few opportunities existed in the old paradigm.

    I fail to see how purchasing a second-hand e-book is any different from purchasing a used book, getting it from Bookmooch, checking it out from the library, or borrowing it from a friend. These things happen constantly, yet authors don’t see royalties. Why would a secondhand e-book be any different?

    And that bit at the end about Russian authors is a really cheap shot. Piracy in Russia is unregulated in general, DVD’s, CD’s, all of it. If Russian writers are oppressed, it’s certainly not because of piracy. Sorry Scott, but we haven’t been afraid of the Soviets for over twenty years.

    1. LOL. Actually, the Russian writing market is booming. He didn’t do very good research.


  56. I think it was Bob Mayer who pointed out that Turow has a Twitter feed, but follows *no one.* Safe to say he’s out of touch.

  57. I read Scott Turow’s article and it really does seem like scare-mongering. Since his article mostly focuses on copyright changes rather than technology changes, he builds to the alarming idea that there are those among us plotting to remove all copyrights and make all work public domain.

    Or at least, that might be alarming if I didn’t believe there is no way any White House incumbent would ever sign into law any piece of legislation that says that from this time forward no author, musician, artist, inventor or patent holder may hold any rights to any of their works.

    And if that day does ever come, trust me, we have bigger problems than “how are we going to live if we can’t earn royalties?”

    1. His legal logic is flawed. This article addresses that:


      And again, the best way to encourage fans to buy and pay retail is to have a platform.

  58. Thanks for sharing Kristen. I love how some people are short sighted about social media and the new way to publish. Numbers speak for themselves. And the Mel Brooks video was a great way to start the day. Much love!

  59. “Until now, courts have forbidden such activity as a violation of copyright. Not only does this ruling open the gates to a surge in cheap imports, but since they will be sold in a secondary market, authors won’t get royalties.” Scott Turow

    Kristen, While your article speaks with courage and wisdom about the end of an old paradigm in publishing, it does *not* adequately address the topic of Scott Turow’s article. Mr. Turow wrote about the threat, as he perceives it, to copyright and royalties. Turow does not “wail,” as you chose to color the tone of his voice. Rather he states his case, in as clear terms as you state yours. Scott Turow, in this article, addresses *legal* issues, as he is most qualified to do. You speak, in the main, about a shift in cultural trends regarding writers and their roles as self-publishers, as you are most qualified to do. But this time you missed Scott Turow’s boat. You didn’t write a rebuttal; you wrote a long rerun summation of earlier articles you’ve written.

    1. Kristen didn’t “miss the boat”. She sank it. She’s right, and we all know it.

    2. First, most of the legal boogeymen he addresses are nothing short of absurd, but we will just address the one you mentioned. Books have been in secondary markets for generations–libraries, book resellers, Half Price Books, garage sales, etc. Secondary markets don’t give royalties, but they CAN hook a new fan. On a recommendation I bought my first Tess Gerritson book at Half Price Book Store for $1. LOVED it. Paid full price from that point forward and recommend her every chance I get.

      Again, most people want to pay authors. And the best way to get people to pay retail is to engage. As many published authors will tell you, we have friends who demand to pay retail for our books. I have people I’ve met (e.g. nurse at the doctor’s office) who I tried to just give a book when she found out I was an author and wanted a copy of my work. She insisted on giving me money. So relationships go a long way to support sales.

      The Constitution protects the First Amendment, but there is no constitutional provision that makes Congress the watchdog of our royalties. His logic is flawed.

      If you would like a complete rebuttal of Turow’s insane legal logic, I recommend this article:


      In short, threats exist but the best safeguard is for authors to engage with their platforms. If a writer just wants to “write the books and not talk to anyone” the least of their concerns is people wanting their books for free. No one will know they exist. Discoverability is a nightmare and will only get worse.

      And perhaps you are correct, that this is a long summation of what I’ve written before. But my expertise is in teaching authors how to change the way they view, use and engage in the Digital Age. I have been telling authors for years that they needed to build a platform and engage with audiences. That alone takes out every argument Turow uses to scare writers. Not to mention that he is completely ignoring that many writers are far more successful than ever and it is the big publishers who are bleeding out, not authors.

      1. “Not to mention that he is completely ignoring that many writers are far more successful than ever and it is the big publishers who are bleeding out, not authors.”

        Many, yes, but most authors of today’s self-published ebooks are not nearly as successful, in terms of sales, as is Scott Turow. And with good reason: Turow is a brilliant writer, while most of what today is being self-published is mind candy. Not all. I’m certain that you can list scores of contemporary, Digital-Age-Wise authors whose work owns lasting literary value and whose efforts to engage with readers leads to self-sustaining bank accounts. But please compare that list to the thousands of names that each year passes through meat machines such as Mr. Coker’s.

        Perhaps someday wheat and chaff will separate, and pollen dust will settle down. Perhaps again, at that future time, today’s champions of the revolution will become the reformed publishing industry’s new queens and kings. Revolutions, being circular, continue to revolve.

        Someday another leader of another perceived revolution will rail against those who rail today.

        Still, at least one other possibility exists: that literature as some of us once knew it will dilute its own definition. If that happens, then most readers will demand easy-to-swallow, sugary sweet facsimiles of stories, in much the same way as most consumers today demand fast-food facsimiles of hamburgers and celebrity-soaked facsimiles of news reports.

        Yes, I am old, and yes I am outnumbered here. I read paper books and digitized versions alike. But the ebooks I purchase are not, for the most part, those impressed upon me through social media sites. I want a challenge, not an imitation.

        So go ahead and say that I wail. Or say that my logic is insane. I comment here only because I think the baby need not be tossed out with the bathwater.


        1. The reason a lot of self-published authors aren’t successful is because of poor writing, poor editing and an inferior product. Too many writers are rushing to publish before they are ready. They are on the same learning curve, only they’ve chosen the public curve of bad reviews and low sales numbers instead of heaps of private rejection letters.

          Gatekeepers exist for a reason and I am one of the biggest champions of NY reinventing with the culture. I believe if they would learn from the indies, they could not only offer better royalties to authors, but better books to the public. Additionally, competition keeps markets healthy and if NY falls, then Amazon could easily become a tyrant.

          This post isn’t a DOWN WITH NY and everyone self-publish. I think writers are different with different talents, demands, abilities, etc. Yet, regardless of the path, the social platform is the best guardian against theft and piracy, PARTICULARLY FOR TRADITIONAL AUTHORS. Most pirates aren’t going after Jane Greenpea’s first novel. They are after authors with names, brands and good books, and the best defense is to interact on-line and create a community of support.

          Yes, eventually the paradigm will settle. I feel we are in the dot.com boom of the 90s. Most disappeared due to lack of substance, but eventually e-commerce found its feet.

          1. Bookstore closures like Borders might have something to do with the new revolution of E-marketing. I blame the high gasoline prices and it is ruining the retail industry of America, which bookstores would be in the category.

            Gone is the lazy Sunday afternoon and to drive an hour away simply to walk around a mall or a strip mall with the giant warehouse stores only to eat at Sirloin Stockade (steaks) all-you-can-eat buffet and go home without buying anything. I am sure someone else bought a novel.

            I get accused of spending an hour walking around the Barnes and Noble at the Kansas City Plaza or Springfield, Missouri and I do not even buy a novel. It was for inspirational to write novels someday. It is my point. Those who do buy books like eating at an all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant for two hours; they have stayed home to read books on the Internet. It will only continue, even if gasoline prices drop a little bit because Argentina is supplying the Catholic World with oil because of the New Pope. The Obama Administration will not have to beg the Middle East to produce more in order to lower gasoline prices in America or GM executives going to Saudi Arabia for a summer vacation might have been canceled.

            Electric vehicles or the future of hydrogen fuel cells using distilled water might help if gasoline consumption increased prices again.

            The rambling is about the adaptation of the consumer simply to survive. It includes buying non necessities or for entertainment.

            The dwindling trend in the retail industry is more of a concern for the Manhattan Publishing Houses than me self-publishing in a big way someday on the Internet, as a competition.

  60. Thank you. The Turrow article made my palms sweat (not fun when resting on a warm keyboard). The pub world has evolved like some Darwinian experiment since I started writing my first novel. I still wonder what stage it will be at by the time I’m ready to put my work out there.

    • Carol Newquist on April 11, 2013 at 7:17 am
    • Reply

    Truthfully, I didn’t even know who Scott Turow was prior to reading this post. The name sounded vaguely familiar, and when I googled it, I now know why. I’ve not read him, obviously, and won’t. His genre of choice is overwrought, imo; too many players vying for too few readers, not to mention it’s highly formulaic with little room left for creativity.

    Here’s a snippet of his bio per his unattended blog:

    “He has been a partner in the Chicago office of an international firm, SNR Denton (formerly Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal), since 1986, concentrating on white collar criminal defense”

    White collar criminal defense ranks right up there with defending Plutocrats against murder charges, meaning it’s an ignominious endeavor, and no doubt provides some of the imaginative fodder for his novels. Oftentimes, fiction is closer to non-fiction than we care to admit. Perhaps a new category is necessary.

    Anyway, that description right there is enough to dissuade me from ever reading anything of his. There are too many great books and not nearly enough time to enable a Little Eichman such as Turow. I find his line of work loathsome. He is living proof that Justice is an abstract, feel-good notion to keep the plebs in line. It’s always been a matter of having enough money to pay for your get out of jail free card. Sure, there are exceptions, but not nearly enough to preclude or eviscerate my generalized assertion.

    Why would Turow be so concerned about copyright and royalties? Surely it’s not out of concern for the struggling aspiring writers. This is not to say that royalties and copyright infringements are not important matters for consideration, because they are. What Turow’s implying, or explicitly asserting, is the Publishing Houses provide all this for you plus marketing, and when/if you strike it out on your own via self-publishing, you lose that benefit and take the risk of dastardly Pirates of the Caribbean plundering your manuscript and consequential royalties. What Turow is saying is “stick with the Pirates we know,” meaning the Publishing Houses who have plundered aspiring writers’ manuscripts and consequent royalties for ages.

    One thing’s for certain, in this system we’ve set up called civilization, one way or another, you have to pay. My son asked me that question when he was six in the Whole Foods parking lot. “Dad, why do we have to pay to live?” he said. I didn’t answer his question except to say, “grasshopper, never stop asking that question because the pursuit of the answer by enough people may ultimately render the question moot.”

    Oh, and we no longer shop at Whole Foods. I throw the founder, John Mackey, in with the Scott Turows of the world. I will no longer enable them, to the extent that’s possible.

    1. Brilliant.

    2. Every citizen deserves legal defense. Calling Scott Turow a “Little Eichman” is a pure ad hominem attack, below the belt, and completely unnecessary. Better to address the issues than to attack the author.

      1. I never called Turow anything, and your assertion I am calling anyone a Nazi is an ad hominem attack and completely unprofessional. I merely asserted my right to disagree and have my own opinion, and I did it professionally and optimistically. Nothing in any of my posts or replies attacks Turow. I merely do not concur with his logic. Disagreement is permitted in free societies, and if writers want to spend time in court chasing thieves and pirates, then they can feel free to do that.

        1. Kristen, I thought I was replying to Pamela King Cable when I called to issue name calling. If I hit the wrong button, then you have my apology.

          1. Okay, sorry. Was weird when I saw it and was looking at my dashboard instead of the thread. My apologies. We’re good :D.

          2. Kristen, I think I may just now have repeated the same error. I surrender.

          3. LOL. I actually got a good laugh out of my goof. I was all like, “WTH? Where did Tony get NAZI?” I am so blonde. At least you can rest assured that I “know” you well enough that I wondered where the heck your comment came from. Then I realized you weren’t even talking to me *head desk*. Need a nap. In my defense, toddlers kill brain cells. It’s science :D.

          4. What are you talking about, Anthony? I didn’t call anybody a name. All I said was, Kristen sank his boat, and we all know it. My long comment was written on my own blog days before this post of Kristen’s. I’m not calling anybody a name. Not my style, Mr. Toscano. Not at all.

          5. Dear Pamela, I am sincerely sorry for using your name, when what I tried to do was respond to someone else’s comment. (I won’t repeat that person’s name because I do not wish to start or extend an argument on Kristen’s site.) Mea culpa. I misread the thread, clicked the wrong REPLY button, and ended up looking the fool. I am not just sorry. I am, as well, embarrassed by way of my own quick-slip-clicking. I did *not* mean to address you.

          6. Ok, got it. No problem, Anthony. It happens to all of us. Thanks for responding.

    3. Every citizen deserves legal defense. Calling Scott Turow a “Little Eichman” is a pure ad hominem attack, below the belt, and completely unnecessary. Better to address the issues than to attack the author.

    4. “Dad, why do we have to pay to live?” he said.

      My answer is because we expect someone else to provide it – unless the government is like your parents. They might pay for it.

  61. Great post. More people need to understand that the writing and publishing landscape/world is evolving not dying. Thanks for posting.

    • Carol Newquist on April 11, 2013 at 11:20 am
    • Reply

    “Every citizen deserves legal defense.”

    No, every citizen deserves equal representation and protection under the law. There is a difference, and that difference was the emphasis of my point.

    “Calling Scott Turow a “Little Eichman” is a pure ad hominem attack, below the belt, and completely unnecessary.”

    That’s your opinion. My opinion is I call it as I see it. You don’t agree? Fine, don’t agree, but don’t pretend that aristocratic forms of “civilized” snubbery are somehow superior to my evocative rhetoric. By the way, calling him a Little Eichman is not necessarily calling him a Nazi. It has a greater meaning than that. I know, I was once an aspiring one until I saw the light.

    “Better to address the issues than to attack the author.”

    I did both, thank you, and I stand by what I said. Don’t try to censor me. I’m a potential reader of any author, and it’s my right to form my own opinions based on my perception of the author. It doesn’t matter what Kristen said about Scott, I never would read him based on what I said. Kristen’s analysis only validates my perception, it didn’t form it.

    That being said, perhaps if Turow took more time to cultivate his image and engage in perception management, maybe I wouldn’t feel the same way. That is precisely Kristen’s point. You’ve helped prove it. Do you understand now, or will you continue to defend the quickly evaporating status quo?

    1. If you choose to use an ad hominem as your writing tool, you chose to be offensive.

      And you immediately lost my interest in your point.

        • Carol Newquist on April 13, 2013 at 9:28 am
        • Reply

        Any form of criticism can be perceived as offensive and as an attack, but sure, if you don’t like critical, and prefer to look at things through rose-coloured glasses, that’s your prerogative. You’re obviously not my target market. No loss. There are people out there who like bold and brash hyperbole, and those people appreciate my scathing satire.

  62. It’s a wonderful time to be an author and I’m excited about it. Thanks for this timely post and for the encouragement it brings!

    1. Karla, I so agree! It is an exciting time to be an author. More than ever before. I feel for the first time, we’re sitting in the driver’s seat.

  63. Libraries do purchase Indie published books. I know because I’m an Indie published author and my book is available on Overdrive. I know it’s in libraries. There is no magic. Get your book into Overdrive = Get into libraires. Smashwords also has an agreement with Baker & Taylor Axis 360 and they are now working on an agreement with Overdrive. Because of big publishing’s restrictions on selling or leasing ebooks for libraries, it’s a PERFECT time for Indie authors to pursue this market. Great article, Kirsten. You said all the things I was thinking when I read the article by Scott T.

  64. Reblogged this on expandandexpound and commented:
    expandandexpound comments…Another example of changing paradigms (see Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk in previous post) that gives hope and guidance to expanding our awareness of possibilities beyond the “norm”. If you are a writer, please check out Kristen’s WANA blog = incredible info, advice and guidance…thanks, Kristen.

  65. Yeah, another comment… I know.

    First, what a fine and thoughtful essay, Kristen. I have long believed that it is the best work that provokes, and one look at the comments proves that point. What you do better than most–in all of your posts–is tell us what your point is, and then you tell us why you think that way. Yours is a compassionate truth for you know the value of compassionate discourse: we all learn from one another, which is far from only agreeing.

    Yet another home run, Kristen.


    1. Oh I adore ALL the comments. I just don’t respond to all of them because I know some people do subscribe to be notified when there are additional comments so they can follow the discourse. Would hate to crap up their e-mail with a lot of, “Thanks for the comment!” over and over and over. I read all the comments and love every one of them, even the ones that don’t agree with me. I am always learning.

      1. Excellent point about those who subscribe to comments. I never thought of it that way. As you say, always learning.

  66. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. When it comes to revolution we’re still in the early stages, but the tide is turning. The big houses won’t go down (or evolve) without a fight. Eventually they’ll realize it was pointless to circle the wagons. That time will come when they realize no one is trying to penetrate the circle.

    1. I do not understand the WAR. Market Economy allows free enterprise for those capable and the Internet gives most the opportunity to be competitive with the corporate giants and the wealthy self-publishers. The Internet gives those with Internet savvy a marketplace. The new social media gives the entrepreneur more opportunities. The best of the best self-publishers will be the giant publishers of tomorrow, even if the paper book publishers fail in the future of not being able survive on their own.

  67. Thank you Kristen for encouraging those of us who do not naturally know how to engage electronically. My memoir is about isolation (!) so getting myself out there is a trick. I am doing what the experts say to do in that I am active on social media, but I know I do more. Now that my book is done I will dedicate my writing time to reading and interacting on the internet! Thank you!

  68. Excellent post as usual! I hear ya and believe but am still trying to figure out how to divide my time between blogging and twitter and all things social media and still have time to finish my novel. I know, I need to MAKE time and get more organized. Keep hammering your message home.

    Have you ever thought about doing a collection of your great posts? Now that’s a book that I’m sure many of your loyal followers would purchase.

  69. Kristen,

    I loved it. And I agreed with almost all of it. Which makes your ability to communicate rationally much higher than most of what we call ‘bloggers’ today.

    I would like to interview you some time for my writing blog.


    • Jonathan Gunson on April 13, 2013 at 6:13 pm
    • Reply

    We are definitely at a crossroads in history. Scott Turow is the poster boy for those clinging to the crumbling ramparts of a once-great castle. To commemorate the moment, I’ve crafted a handy terminology for misguided souls such as Turow who fight the new publishing paradigm: Henceforth I shall be dubbing them ‘Turites’ to echo ‘Luddites’. (After Nick Ludd who in the 19th century tried to wreck the new automated loom machines because they were destroying worker’s jobs.)

    • Martina on April 13, 2013 at 8:39 pm
    • Reply

    You get it! I read Turow’s piece and felt much as you do – that he is clinging to a world that no longer exists. The writing life has never been easy and, as you pointed out, has always experienced paradigm shifts with each technological innovation. So, I felt like Turow was really protecting an old guard rather than addressing the needs of today’s writers. Writers who want to break through today should take heed of Amanda Palmer’s advice in her TED Talk: Don’t ask “How will we make readers pay for this?” Instead, ask readers how much they would like to pay for it.

    I’m taking baby steps into this world of online media and I’m starting to get it too. So many of my colleagues don’t. Many of them dream of being the next big literary fiction author, but have no idea how to do it. They seem to think that they will magically discovered.

    1. Before I started reading this blog, I was happy with two complete novels a year and to submit it to a traditional publisher. But after reading the blog and comments I tend to agree with considering diving into the new world, head first in the deep end. I have to learn how to swim (making the money). There are people really making money on things anyone is capable of learning, if they have access to the Internet. It is certainly well-worth considering.

    • Jonathan Gunson on April 14, 2013 at 7:04 am
    • Reply


    ” Most modern humans aren’t going to trade in their flatscreens and XBoxes for a “good old-fashioned story told by the fire.”

    I wrote a blog past a few weeks back that squares with this view exactly.

    Considering the amount of information flowing now, it just amazes me how so many (like Turow) refuse to wake up.

    ~ Jonathan

    1. I still do not understand how you get the cash from Barnes and Noble or Amazon or with self-publishing an E-book on the Internet. I can self-publish to be read for free now, but how does one get the cash effectively?

    • Samson Krugg on April 14, 2013 at 7:24 pm
    • Reply

    “The Digital Age has created a robust bourgeoise of writers who are a hybrid of artist and innovative, hard-working entrepreneur. This new bourgeoise embrace FREE! and harness it to power future sales.”

    Just like unpaid internships, this is another way for middle-class legacies who have spare cash to exploit their uncompetitive, economic leg-up over the majority of their competitors. It does not promote the best work in the field, or even the hardest work. It promotes the further unmeritocratic entrenchment of a privileged class of self-satisfied brats who agonize about their unearned success and how they can explain it away (as you’ve done) as resulting from the imagined flaws and failings of those who, in reality, were simply born poorer and don’t have the luxury of giving things away for free until they’ve dug themselves in like ticks.

    You’re not an early adopter of new technology racing past pathetic Luddites. You’re simply the latest exploiters of an ancient technology of cheating, a favorite of the timid and mundane gentry: socioeconomic advantage.

    1. Interesting response. I am unsure if you are aware of the current math. In the traditional paradigm, an author earns $1.08 off a $10.00 book, and this is before the agent’s 15% and taxes. So an author earns around .70 per book. Those are slave wages, when you consider the hours and sacrifice that goes into writing a novel.

      Most new writers get a print run of about 10,000 books and are limited to a book a year. This means an author is paid about $7000 a year and is expected to do all the same social media as an indie author (who is paid far better and who can write to demand).

      In the traditional paradigm, we would be better off working at McDonalds.

      Fascinating assessment, but thank you for your comment :). Blogs thrive off healthy debate.

      • Jonathan Gunson on April 15, 2013 at 5:49 pm
      • Reply


      Socioeconomic advantage? Unearned success?

      I admire your remarkably measured response to such a blinkered, uneducated comment.

      I am living proof that you’re correct. I’m an author living in a tiny country in the South Pacific, far away from the advantages of the giant US economy. In fact we barely maintain ‘la petite bourgeoisie’ by comparison. So no chance of an NY contract.

      But then along came the INTERNET which gave me my first break, not some ‘socioeconomic advantage’. It allowed me (like your confused commentator is doing right here) to interact at extremely low cost with the huge US market. The walls camed tumbling down. The tyranny of distance was swept away. The barrier of cost removed forever.

      And now thanks to Amazon… it has improved all over again, allowing a true meritocracy to rule. Here’s how:

      For my next children’s project I’m writing a large number of titles, and plan to give away the first one for free, which will hook in readers, who’ll then buy all the other titles. Even better, the price is so low thanks to Amazon and Apple that 10 times as many will be able to afford them, so the market is made 10 times larger at a stroke, meaning I can make a living, and far more children can afford to read them.

      Will my work sell? Yes I know it will, not because of some socioeconomic advantage but because people love it, and want more of it, and certainly not because I can ‘afford’ to write.

      This was never possible under the old traditional publishing paradigm. Amazon has created the very meritocracy from which authors were previously excluded

      But there’s even more: The cost of reading devices will soon drop through the floor, meaning that even greater numbers will be able to read. The big six and New York’s ‘socioeconomic advantage’ won’t even get a look in.

      Keep the great posts coming.

      ~ Jonathan
      Alive and well and living in Middle Earth

  70. Reblogged this on A Cup of T! and commented:
    I have gotten behind in both my reading and writing. My family, while wonderful, has been rather high maintenance lately. This morning I decided to get caught up (at least a little bit). This post was so inspirational to me. Thank you Kristen Lamb for you point of view. Writing is not dead, just re-branding. I hope you enjoy this read as much as I did. And, no matter what your calling – find your creativity and bend your field to fit modern day needs!

  71. I think the tone with which some people communicate that they can’t be bothered to speak to the people who “pay their salary” says they’re snobs. Is EVERY author who doesn’t want to spend time talking to readers? No. And certainly not when he simply has a philosophical objection to social media! (Although it’s another topic for another day, I think that whether social media is good or bad is not such a black-and-white either/or.)

    I don’t believe printed books are going away any time soon. Every single person I know “in real life” prefers a printed book over an ebook. The physical act of interacting with the book is also healthier than staring at and tapping on a screen. (In fact, I suspect that a couple of decades from now, we’ll be looking at certain health issues and wishing we hadn’t made such an overarching cultural change.) BUT ebooks DO have their own benefits (the immediacy of a download, smaller storage space, etc.), and it’s clear that THEY are not going away, either.

    In my opinion, the wisest authors will recognize that one cannot simply be abandoned for the other, and that we may even have different audiences in each medium.

    1. Rachel

      Sadly, it’s not really going to be up to us readers to keep traditionally printed books alive just because we ‘prefer them’ or ‘wont give them up.’

      The real issue is whether there will be enough book stores to sell them. Probably not, because eBooks are cutting a huge chunk out of the market, causing a fall in sales at book stores, and below a certain volume, traditional books do not generate enough income for them to pay rent, staff etc. and stay afloat. This is already causing the increasing closure of small bookstores everywhere. But it goes further: The collapse of small book stores flows on to traditional print publishers, because without book stores to keep them afloat they will disappear too.

      I expect ‘collectible’ style, traditionally printed books will survive, there’s always a market for those with direct selling.

      But I can’t see genre fiction doing this – other than for sample copies for publicity that the author pays to have printed.

      1. I tend to agree. But I think there is great potential in a Red Box Version of the bookstore using Espresso Machine Technology (situated in a Target next to the mini-Starbucks). Use a touch-screen to print a standardized size book, pay there, get a coffee and pick up your freshly-printed book in 5-10 minutes. With the current advances in technology, I see this as the future. Retail space is costly to maintain, there are employees to manage and pay (and now provide health care) and with a machine like this? Theft and loss can me almost wiped out. I think the dark future of the bookstore is a harbinger of the death of big publishers and print (as we currently know it).

        1. Yep; I definitely see print-on-demand as taking over traditional print runs.

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  5. […] Three days ago, The New York Times published a rather doomsday on-line article written by Scott Turow (current head of the Authors Guild), titled The Slow Death of the American Author . I must admit this is a great title, guaranteed to scare the pants off the best of us. In fact, I received so many frightened e-mails from writers who wanted me to address this article, that I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer my analysis of Turow’s assertions. Turow is Absolutely CorrectThere is a slow death of the American Author…of the Old Paradigm.  […]

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  7. […] and regret not having met someone I thought of with some disdain for years.  Finally, there was this piece that has helped me reconsider some of the writing projects I have dreamed […]

  8. […] are dying a slow death. Mike Masnick counters Turow’s arguments, and Kristen Lamb replies that the Old Paradigm authors are dying—but authors as a whole are […]

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