Friday, May 24, 2013

The Changing Rules of Publishing

'Was talking to the wife about Zach Sobiech, the guy who sang "Clouds" on YouTube and garnered millions of views, tens of thousands of likes, and sold hundreds of thousands of copies of the song on iTunes. The song was not being promoted by any recording studio, he just went up and posted the video and it just took off from there. There's a lesson in that story.
The rules of the game are changing these days. Years back, if you wanted to become a singer, you had to audition and impress somebody enough to take a chance on you. If even one of them liked you, you got a recording contract. If not, you took other options...but not the one you wanted in the first place. Today, you can record a video and post it on YouTube and, if you're really good, you can become a successful singer on your own right. People like Justin Bieber and Alyssa Bernal come to mind.

The rules for authors is changing as well.

In the past, an author would have to type up a manuscript, send it to a publisher or agent, and wait for a message saying his/her manuscript was accepted and could they please come to the office to talk. For most authors, the answer is usually, no. For every author's book you see in a bookstore, there are probably tens, or maybe hundreds, of other authors who have received a rejection letter. Some are brokenhearted and, maybe, never write another book. Others persevere until someone decides to give them a shot. An example would be Kathryn Stockett, who was rejected 60 times before agent Susan Ramer agreed to represent her and her book, The Help. That book became a best seller on The New Times Best Seller List and stayed there for 100 weeks. One wonders how the other agents could have made such a mistake as rejecting her.

But that's only true in print publishing. The internet has been the game changer for the publishing world just as it did for the world of singers. You only need to go to the websites of iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and others, to find books from thousands of authors who decided to self-publish their books. Ebooks, as they are known, are the electronic versions of print books and you can buy them at a cheaper price than the paper version. If you don't want to spend anything, free ebooks are available too!

So, if today's authors are self-publishing, where does that leave the traditional print publishers? They're still here but I don't know for how long. The feeling of having a paper-type book with your name on it is still one of the reasons why authors go for them. After my own book was rejected, I decided to print it on smaller, book-sized paper, just to get that feeling. It was a waste of paper, however. When I saw my book on Smashword's website, I had the same feeling I got when I held that little book in my hands. It wasn't the feeling of touching the book, but the fact that I had a book out there for people to read.

Ebooks may be cheaper and that's good for the readers. For the authors, self-publishing is providing a way to get better deals out of writing a book. A print publisher will give you between 5 to 15% royalty for each book that is sold. On Smashwords, at least, you get about 45 to 80% royalty.

As with anything, you have to be good at what you do. Good singers make it on YouTube. Good writers make it on the internet's bookstores.

Note: I wish to send my condolences to the family and friends of Zach Sobiech, who died last 20 May 2013. You will be missed.

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