Friday, February 25, 2011

Chaos or Opportunity?

I am a new writer in the fiction world.  What a time to jump into the deep end.  I’m still struggling with the questions of craft and now I must also figure out Facebook, Twitter, blogosphere and all the options for publishing.  So here in The Grove, there are more questions right now than answers.  Please feel free to share your experiences and help fellow travelers find our way through the forest.

So as I understand it, in the traditional publishing world there are several entities that assist the writer in becoming an author.  The difference between writer and author was once explained in a workshop I attended as (and I paraphrase): you are a writer until you get a contract, then you are an author.

So in the way things used to be, oh say, two months ago before Borders began its downward spiral and the e-books rocketed out of the holiday gate, I, as a writer, would finish a manuscript and then begin the query and pitch cycle.  It being a bad idea to pitch before I have a reasonably finished product.

So let’s say things go according to plan, after all, I write fiction/urban fantasy.  So follow along on my fantasy journey.

Said agent would most likely recommend revisions to increase the likelihood of signing with a publishing house.

Having survived the vetting and debating of a publishing house, I would then be paired with an editor who in all likelihood would ‘suggest’ further revisions to make it even more marketable.

And finally 18 months to two years later, the novel is ready for primetime.  At some point prior to that, I would begin working with a publicist on how to launch your novel to make the bestseller list. But which one?  NYT, Amazon, B&N, in the perfect world (this is my fantasy) ---all of them.

But here I am at the edge of some new world.  E-books are flooding the market.  It is, in some cases, the classic drive to eliminate the middle man by both the writer and the distributor.  Not a new phenomena in general economics.  The writer wants to shorten the distance to launch and the keep more of the revenue and the distributor wants, well, essentially the same thing.

But the agent, editor, and publicist do serve a valuable function in this process.  Let’s face it, few of us are equipped to negotiate a contract, we are often word-blind when it comes to our own work and most have only a rudimentary knowledge of superior marketing strategies.  But, how to rise above the pile, hit a bestseller list and work a day job?  In self-pubing the writer must become agent, editor, and publicist.

Or does the writer find someone with more expertise?  Afterall, I don’t repair my own transmission or do my own dental implants.  Does this mean that the process will become more fragmented with independent editors and publicists, similar to the agent model filling a need? 

Does this create an opportunity or opportunists?  Are you using a specialist to help you navigate the new reality of publishing and bookselling?  Are you happy with them? How did you find them?