It’s enough to make a writer’s head spin. That’s what I think about the state of publishing today.
Maybe it’s always been that way, I don’t know. But the conclusion I’ve come to of late is that no matter how much advice you hear from other writers, editors, publishers, industry commentators and anyone else…no one really knows what’s going on. The entire publishing industry has been thrown into a giant colander and we’re all just waiting to see what falls out of the holes. (I know that’s a weird metaphor, but it works for me.)
I read a lot about the industry, I read a lot of advice and observation from other writers, and I’m in an interesting position, being a writer and an independent editor/publisher. A lot of writers–and genre writers are especially generous about this–a lot of writers share a lot of opinions and advice about what the new face of publishing is going to be like, what has worked for them/is working for them, and what routes newer writers should take in their quest for publication. There’s a ton of advice, being freely shared, on everything from putting your short stories up on the Kindle store, to attending conventions to increase your chances of landing a traditional publishing deal, to the relative merits of writing short fiction vs. novels, to–well, just fill in the blank yourself. It’s all out there.
As it turns out, a lot of this advice is, if not contradictory, at least…very different. And while it’s extremely helpful and enlightening to take all this advice in, I think it’s up to each individual writer to plot his or her own course. What worked for Writer A, although she may be your personal writing heroine, is not necessarily going to work for you. What Writer B considers a big mistake in his career may work out to your benefit.
There are a few givens, of course. Always submit your best work. Never submit or publish anything that has not been read or edited by a competent person whom you trust (this may be yourself, if you’ve really honed your self-editing chops, but make sure you’ve done the work on those editing skills). Money flows TO the writer and anytime it’s going to flow the other way, turn your back and walk away or at least think long and hard about the decisions you’re making. If you’re desperate to have something in print, wouldn’t you rather it was something that made you look good rather than just something published for the sake of being published?
As to all the rest of it, I think it’s up to every writer to educate him-or-herself and then make those decisions based on personal situations, experience, and priorities. By all means, read everything you can get your hands on about the state of publishing these days. Then put it into your own personal colander and see what shakes out.
I love the colander metaphor, Sherry. It implies that you need to keep putting things into the colander to have something shake out.