Staying Balanced in the Confusing Modern Publishing Industry

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

As the modern writing industry has changed at lightning speed over the past couple of years, I've noticed that there are a lot of voices out there shouting instructions to writers, telling us what we need to do to succeed.

Some of those voices are brazen, even divisive in their claims. And I've been saddened to see some of my writing friends push away, growing cold and distant, especially as they've chosen publishing options that have been different from mine.

I've worked hard here on my blog to maintain an open atmosphere, to stay balanced in my views, and to be a voice of reason in this ever-changing industry.

Becky Doughty recently summed up my philosophy very nicely in a comment. She said: I so appreciate your voice in this industry - we're told to push and pull and move and promote and socialize and chat and make all other kinds of animal noises... then there's Jody saying "Chill, man. It's all going to be okay."

Besides summarizing my approach, Becky hit on a growing problem. And that's the extreme push and pull of advice we're being given, things like:

Every writer needs a blog versus blogging isn't all that useful, especially for novelists.

Traditional publishing is dead versus traditional publishing is still the best way for debut writers to build a readership.

Social media, if done right, helps writers sell more books versus social media doesn't really make much of a difference in sales.

We're faced with a constant barrage of pendulum-swinging advice on the internet. Some of us decide which camp we agree with and pitch our tents there. Others of us waver back and forth, growing increasingly dizzy with the contradictory advice.

I've decided to take the moderate view, to look at both sides of every equation, to weigh the pros and cons, and to remain flexible and open with my attitude. Because honestly, I don't think there's a wrong or right publishing choice.

I believe that the modern writer who wants to not only survive, but also thrive, would be wise to cultivate several attitudes regarding the publishing industry:

1. We should continually educate ourselves: I know I'm probably preaching to the choir since those of you reading this blog are trying to educate yourselves. But I'm still constantly amazed when I hear from writers who have already published or are standing on the threshold of publishing, but know almost nothing about the industry.

We can't hope to survive if we don't immerse ourselves in the industry, including the ins and outs of both traditional and self-publishing. We need to keep ourselves aware of both sides of the pendulum swing of all publishing issues, even if we're firmly planted in the middle.

2. We should be careful NOT to rush into anything: If I had to pick a word to sum up our modern culture it would be: Impatient. We're always hurrying whether we're driving, eating, or shopping. We want don't want to wait, and that's especially evident in our spending habits. We buy what we want, right away, even if we have to go into debt to do so.

And that impatient mentality carries over into the publishing world. Too many writers are rushing to publish or query first or second manuscripts, ignoring the advice of seasoned authors to learn the craft and hone their skills first.

3. We shouldn't let emotions dictate our decisions: With the abundance of advice, it's often hard to keep a balanced view. If we're traditionally published, it's only natural that we want to defend our choice. And likewise self-published authors often feel attacked and belittled for their choice and so naturally try to defend themselves.

But we can work harder to keep our emotions out of the equation and instead look at all our options with a level-headed, business-like attitude. We can openly accept and encourage all views of publishing. And we can leave the traditional versus self-publishing cliques where all cliques belong–in junior high (if they even belong there!).

I love James Scott Bell's recent Declaration of Indie-Pendence and think his approach is really balanced. He says this: We writers, therefore, appealing to the supreme value of independence and creativity, do solemnly declare that we are free; that we are absolved from all allegiance to one way of doing things, and that as full, free and responsible beings we have the right to enter into any deal we think is best. That may be indie publishing. That may be traditional publishing. It may be a mix of both. But it will be a free choice.

What about you? Have you noticed the extreme views in the publishing industry these days? How have you handled contradictory or confusing advice?

*Photo Credit: Flickr sylvar

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