I just returned from my trip to the American Christian Fiction Writers conference (ACFW). It was a great opportunity to meet with authors and talk with them about the publishing world. I had the privilege of presenting a seminar on retail, and the state of publishing, especially as it concerns authors. For many authors, the business side of publishing is hidden behind the curtain. And yet, the author is critical to a publisher’s success, not only getting the book into the retail channel, but through the retail channel to the end consumer.
The keynote speaker for this year’s conference was Michael Hyatt. Michael is the former CEO and Chairman of the Board at Thomas Nelson. He has spent the last year and a half writing and speaking full time, although he is still very engaged with authors and the publishing community.
Michael shared these encouraging words in the first session, and I thought they would be helpful to share with all of the authors that I work with on a weekly basis.
- It is easier than ever to do the writing. The tools have never been easier to access, from conferences and books about writing to specific software for writers and other technology.
- It is easier than ever to do market research. Google made it possible. Facebook and twitter have made it personal. Authors can research their characters and scenes with a few key strokes. Understanding the target audience for a book has never been easier with tools on the internet. ‘Group-think’ is facilitated by creative groups engaging each other through social media and writing circles. Authors can engage readers directly like never before. Authors have the tools to figure out what their platform is, and to build a tribe around it.
- It is easier than ever to get into print. Traditional publishing is no longer the only option. Self publishing is viable. It is not necessarily the best option for everyone, but it can be a great option for some. Traditional publishing is far from dead, and if traditional publishers learn to ‘lean into the changes’ being brought by the self publishing phenomenon, it can be an exciting place to be. Traditional publishers need to ask: What do these tools and this model make possible? What are the new opportunities? How can I find new readers in more places?
- It is easier than ever to build a tribe. Authors can engage their fans directly. There are new tools like the recently launched bookshout.com site, where authors can interact real-time with readers inside of their own book. Another new site called bookjolt.com, allows readers to read whole books for free online, and interact with authors. These are part of a new concept called social reading, and literally, an author’s book becomes a platform.
- It is easier than ever to build a business around your content. After all, it is great to write for writing sake, but most authors would like to earn some income from their writing too. Websites and blogs help you build your platform, engage readers, offer free content, and sell books. A small book business can be a sustainable business.
Michael also echoed something that I share with authors all the time. Authors have never been in a stronger position to make things happen than they are now. Authors can go after traditional publishing, or they can do it themselves. All of the tools are available for them to compete, in almost all cases, with everyone else.
This new model is a far cry from the stigma that used to be attached with what people called vanity publishing. In fact, a recent article in the Huffington Post, makes an interesting point that what we call ‘traditional publishing’, might be in fact, the new ‘vanity publishing.’
All of this change and opportunity is encouraging news for the content industry.
If you are an author, do you agree, or disagree with these thoughts? Let us hear it!