This week Canada’s largest independent publishing company filed for bankruptcy protection. It’s another in the long list of traditional publishing companies to fail in the new era of publishing. There’s no doubt the publishing landscape has changed.
I’ve been reading angst-riddled articles on the subject for several years. The vast majority of articles come from one of two perspectives.
The first perspective comes from industry insiders. They are wringing their hands, mourning their loss of influence. They never mention how the industry served as elitist gatekeepers, not interested in excellent writing as much as they are in making money.
The second perspective comes from industry outsiders. These are writers eager for opportunities to advance novels that would never have been published before The Great Transition. What they don’t realize is that the industry kept bad writing from tainting the publishing landscape.
Despite all the spilt ink, very little has been written about what this new landscape looks like. Time will ultimately tell. In the meantime, three things characterize the shifting publishing landscape:
1. It’s never been easier to publish your novel. That doesn’t mean every novel should be published. It’s means there is a growing list of companies and websites willing to take a writer’s money for the privilege of publishing their novel. Unfortunately, success is not longer defined by a creation of a book.
2. Editors are still an essential part of the production of a great novel. One of the benefits of traditional publishing companies was editorial support they provided. Unlike self-publishers, publishing companies were invested in producing the best product possible. In the new publishing landscape good editors are essential.
3. Marketing is the new barrier to success. Actually, it’s always been the barrier to success. Until the industry collapsed, the problem of marketing fell on the publishing companies. Now it’s the responsibility of the writer. And in the new publishing landscape inundated with aspiring writers, effective marketing is about blogs, social media and good old fashioned networking.
These three points have profound implications for writers. First, the vast majority of writers will not make money. In fact, for most, writing will be more of a hobby than a career. Second, writing is still hard work. Even writers who are overnight successes worked hard to become overnight successes. But every writer needs an editor. Lastly, great writers will only be successful if they’re also great marketers. Marketing is as important to successful publishing as writing. Marketing is time consuming and tedious. It also means better marketers will be tend to be more successful writers.
The old publishing industry is dead. That doesn’t necessarily mean the new publishing landscape is friendlier to undiscovered writers. If anything, it makes publishing more of a challenge.