Nearly ten years ago, iTunes forever changed the music industry. The familiar business model of buying CDs made up of ten tracks or more was replaced by the ability to download individual songs. The record industry was thrown into turmoil and it took years for executives to figure out how to do business in this brave new world.
Today, the publishing industry is going through the same digital revolution, thanks to the advent of ebooks. Just weeks ago, a big name literary agent decided to bypass traditional book publishers to work directly with Amazon.com and its Kindle ebook reader, giving him and his authors a significantly bigger piece of the pie. (A corporate war has all but broken out over these sudden changes in the book business.) Add in the terrible economy we’re currently in, and it’s easy to see why longtime book publishers feel the solid ground beneath their feet turning to quicksand. So here’s the bad news: traditional publishers just aren’t taking chances like they used to.
And that’s only half the problem. There’s also the giant elephant in the room that the publishing industry has to contend with that ten years ago the music world didn’t: social media. Opinions and “likes” are shared instantaneously among one’s circle of friends and acquaintances, and if someone doesn’t like what you write, they’re going to tweet those feelings to all of their friends.
How does a modern writer navigate a landscape in flux, where nothing is certain and things can change overnight?
Here’s the good news. With an industry in flux comes an enormous amount of new opportunities. The same way that independent musicians suddenly found themselves on equal footing alongside bands signed to major record labels when iTunes was born, the playing field has suddenly been leveled with the advent of ebooks and social media. Every day, there are cool new startups popping up, and clever ideas being put into practice by brilliant, enterprising writers who are willing to break free from tradition and get themselves and their work out there in ways that no one has ever attempted before.
The publishing world is like the wild west right now. It’s undisciplined, undefined, and untamed. It’s a brand new frontier, and there are new trails waiting to be blazed. And to extend the metaphor, this new frontier is looking for its conquerors. Those famous names that will figure out how to not only survive this new world, but thrive in it. In publishing terms, the world is looking for those writers who will define the new publishing paradigm with their savvy understanding of the way this new world works.
This is where I come in. I’ve worked as a journalist my entire adult life (around fifteen years), and though I’ve worked in all forms of print media, the bulk of what I’ve done professionally has been in the online world. I’ve worked with About.com, b5media, and of course SplashPress Media, as well as starting and editing an ezine known as INFUZE Magazine (which sadly, is no longer around). I’m online every single day, keeping up with the latest, greatest ideas in publishing, as well as the hottest trends in social media.
I’m also a published novelist. My first novel, Relentless, started as a serialized story that I wrote and published on the Internet, adding a new chapter every other week. It was picked up by a publisher and the rest is history. My fifth novel, Nightmare, was just released internationally in July 2010 by Bethany House Publishers (a division of Baker Publishing Group). I’m hard at work on number six right now (it’s called Vigilante) and working hard to land some new contracts beyond that. But like many established writers, I’m finding that contracts are a rare commodity these days. Because as I said above, in this climate, publishers just aren’t as willing to take risks as they used to be — even on established writers.
So I’m keen to explore all possibilities, to see what other writers have done to find success, and to step out into this wild frontier and try out some ideas of my own. I can’t promise you’ll find success by reading my weekly column here at Freelance Writing Journal. But I can keep you well informed about where the industry is and where it’s going. If you want to stay in the know and ahead of the trends, or if you’re just looking for a treasure trove of intriguing new ideas for enterprising writers… Regardless of whether you’re a freelance journalist or a book writer…
Welcome. You’ve come to the right place.
I am pretty sure of you adding some precious value addition to the site and to all the freelancers reading FWG.
Looking forward to your posts. 🙂
Susan Gunelius says
I can’t wait to read more of your posts! Your views on the changing publishing landscape are inspirational! Since I come from a marketing background, my views on social media and online publishing are very different from “traditional” publishers and writers. I see it as a huge opportunity, but the importance of branding, positioning, and differentiation are far more important today than they were just 10 years ago. That’s a hurdle that many writers can’t get over. I know your insight will be extremely helpful to a lot of FWJ readers! Welcome aboard!
Audra Krell says
Insightful post Robin, looking forward to reading more. I appreciate your credentials and experience, they make me want to come back.
Christine Switzer says
Looking forward to reading your posts, Robin. Thanks!