Cigarette hanging from her mouth, the ash long and dangling. Smoke circle her head as fingers peck out a rapid tattoo on the the old Royal. Papers balled and crumpled near the waste basket as her characters chatter incessently in her ear, but not loud enough to get it juuuuust right. And as the final pages add up on the corner of her desk, she renews her efforts to finish that manuscript and get it out to a publisher.
That’s how I picture my favorite author’s careers in the past. It was all about the writing. All about receiving that boxed manuscript from an editor with redlines and arrows indicating editing suggestions. Editors and publishers had time to put time and energy into a book, to groom the author and create an image and a marketing plan for her and her books.
Sadly, those days are gone.
An author no longer has the the luxury of just sitting down at her computer and pounding out a new best seller. There are so many hats she must wear. Writer, editor, marketing guru and in many cases, publisher.
Publishers now want to see manuscripts that have had the bulk of the editing done. Beta readers and critique groups are now working with an author to find unforgivable flaws with a hero no reader can love. They’re helping fill in those small plot line holes that an editor used to discover. If a manuscript hits an acquisition editors desk with any of those problems it will no doubt receive a form email rejection. If the author is fortunate, there will be some explanation as to why it was rejected, but often there isn’t time for an editor to explain in detail why a book “doesn’t fit”.
With the advent of digital books authors are no longer receiving advances. Advances meant an author was compensated up front for months of being bent over the keyboard. Without the advance, the author now depends only on royalties from sales to make her money. (I don’t even want to speculate my hourly rate of pay for the books I’ve written.) Without the backing of a marketing department from the good ‘ole days, it also means she has to go out and pound the pavement to let readers know she has a new book out there. Spending time on Facebook and Twitter shouting about her book, which equals time away from writing the next book.
Now, Amazon and Barnes & Noble among other venues, have made it possible for an author to actually publish her own book without going through an agent or publishing house. And as exciting as this has become for authors to have full control of their books, it’s also a heck of a lot of work. It becomes the responsibility of the author to find her editor and cover artist. To make sure the book is formatted correctly for all digital platforms. And as you can imagine, this means more time away from writing.
To keep up with this changing world many authors are hiring assistants who can help with the extraneous work load. Of course you need to have the sales to justify this expenditure. Ah hem, I so am not there … yet. And there are publicity companies who are hired by authors to go out and do some of the pavement pounding. But as a reader I find them very annoying and they become white noise in the thrum of all the book marketing. Since I delete these announcements from my email and ignore them on Facebook, I haven’t bothered with any of the companies.
I keep saying this year I’m going to figure this whole thing out. To set a schedule of some sort that not only allows time for all of these things AND writing. Of course before all that happens I do have to get my personal life to slow down juuuust a little.
As a reader do you see these changes effecting your buying habits or has it all happened in the background unnoticed by you? If your an author, are you happy with all the changes in publishing or would you like to go back to the days before digital books? Because you know me, I’m curious like that.