A couple of nights ago I watched a program on the changing face of the publishing industry. The pressing questions of the discussion was the future of books. The emergence of Kindle and other ebook formats, along with the growing on-line self-publishing industry have caused traditional publishers to reevaluate how they do business. From the discussion one thing became certain: although technology is altering how we read, no one can accurately predict the future of publishing.
A corollary issue is how writers will be compensated for their intellectual property. Publishers are so timid that they’re often unwilling to take financial risks on up and coming authors. It seems like it’s only going to become more difficult for writers to make a living producing their craft.
In light of this uncertainty, I thought it wise to rethink the paradigms of writing. Traditional pillars of the professional writing industry must fall in favor of paradigms that reflect the new era. The first paradigm to fall is the one that views writing as a career. Since I’m an unknown amateur, writing hasn’t tempted me with financial opportunity. I write what I enjoy writing whether on not it finds an audience. That isn’t to assume that I don’t hope to develop one. It means I focus on personal interest over what is commercially viable. In that sense I could be described as a hobbyist instead of a writer by trade. As such I write without the expectation of remuneration. Considering that many very good writers already struggle to earn a living, the future seems daunting for hopeful wage earners.
As an alternative, writers like myself ought to focus on alternatives to traditional publishing. That means the second paradigm to fall is the measure of success based on the production of a paper book. As technology becomes more accepted, fewer titles will be produced in hard copy format. But that doesn’t reflect on the number of talented authors producing very good work. Th publishing shift is the result of economic forces. There is an unfortunate correlation between profit and good writing. Only the mega-authors look to survive the publishing shuffle in the paper format. Profitability weighs more heavily in the minds of publishing executives than innovative and insightful writing.
The third paradigm that must fall is the belief in paper books as the fruit of a writer’s efforts. New formats need to be considered. As ebook formats become more prominent, writers must look to new media outlets for their work. That is why I produce podcasts. Audible literature is more accessible with iPods and MP3 players. Youtube also offers new marketing possibilities. Video images that play along side audible literature on personal video servers creates another venue to display a writer’s work to a wide audience. The greater number of media used by a writer, the more opportunities to build an audience for their work.
Technology has shifted the foundation of writing. The traditional paradigms of fallen and new ones have taken their place. Embracing the new paradigms will help innovative authors emerge as pioneers in the new publishing reality.