What Will Writers Need in 2012 to Survive & Succeed?

What are your predictions for the publishing industry in 2012?

Any time I talk to agents, editors, or other authors about the future of publishing, where it’s headed, and what’s going to happen, I usually get something like, “No one really knows at this point.”

We’ve seen incredible changes over the past twelve months: the explosion of e-readers and e-books, the rise of successful mid-list self-epublished authors, the closing of Borders, the ever-shrinking shelf-space of brick-and-mortar stores, Amazon becoming a publisher, dropping sales figures for authors who once considered themselves secure, self-published millionaires taking center stage, etc.

The changes often leave us feeling a bit excited and unsettled as we try to understand how we fit into the publishing picture. Whether we’re headed toward traditional or self-publication (or both), we know things won’t ever be the same again.

We may not be able to predict what’s going to happen in the upcoming year. But as I sat down to think about what would help me survive the upheaval and even succeed through it, here are five traits I want to cultivate:

1. Keep an open mind.

There's no one “right” way toward publication anymore (if there ever was). Those who turn up their noses at self-publication or who scoff traditional methods are likely to miss out on opportunities.

Wise authors are looking carefully at both options and considering how they can best build their readerships.

And publishers need to keep an open mind too. James Scott Bell said recently in his post, 10 Reasons Why I am Self-Publishing: “Traditional publishers should not fret over authors self-publishing . . . An author who makes more readers helps the traditional publisher sell more of that author's books.”

2. Maintain a long-term vision.

Whether starting out in traditional or self-publication, the climb upward for most writers is slow and gradual. Very few writers have instant fame and fortune. We can’t put one or two books out there and hinge our hopes on them. Instead, most authors have to publish multiple books before they develop a loyal fan base of readers and the sales figures to show that.

3. Grow in internet marketing savvy.

Most people I talk to insist that while venues are changing, readers are still buying books. Fewer readers are browsing brick and mortar stores which has led to a decline in impulse buying. Instead, readers are heading to online bookstores and are usually more directed—knowing what they want even before they click onto the shopping page.

Such changes within the industry have increased the need for publishers and authors to find ways to help draw attention to their books online. Those who want to succeed will need to study what’s working, find new inroads, and continually grow a web presence.

4. Write powerfully but pragmatically.

I wish all it took to find publishing success was a powerful, well-written story. However, we could all probably name at least a dozen incredible books published in 2011 that only had mediocre sales and tepid success. The writing and story alone are not enough to rocket a book to fame.

So while I firmly believe we need to write passionately and powerfully, we also can’t ignore the market and what readers like. We have to begin to understand what sells and what doesn’t and then why.

I’ve learned from personal experience that traditional publishers must keep reader needs paramount. But the reader relationship is key in self-publishing as well. As Bell said in his 10 Reasons post: “The readers themselves -- get to decide how much reward an author gets. That's as it should be. The more an author writes and publishes and pleases readers, the more the market will reward said author.”

5. Work incredibly hard.

There are no shortcuts to success. Anyone who’s reached a level of success either through traditional or self-publication has put in the time and the effort.

As the numbers of writers and published authors continues to grow, the factor that will separate the wannabes from the want-nots is WORK—and lots of it. Talent, friendliness, and savvy won’t take a writer the distance. Sure those qualities can help. But without plain old elbow grease, a writer won’t make it very far.

So those are the traits I hope to have in 2012. What trait(s) do you think YOU need in the upcoming year to stay the course? And do you have any predictions for 2012? I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

*Photo Credit: Flickr


  1. Happy New Year, Jody! You nailed this one. There are so many good points made in this post. There are many forks in the road to publishing these days, and there's no "one" right answer. But one thing remains constant year after year: Writers aren't going to make it anywhere without buckling down and producing, then having the know-how to take what they produce to the next level.

  2. Terrific thoughts. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. I can't even begin to predict b/c we don't really know.

  3. Happy New Year, ladies! Wishing you each lots of success this year in your writing pursuits! :-)

  4. One of my favorite quotes is one by Beverly Sills who once said,"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going." The work is incredibly important :-)

  5. An excellent post to start off the new year! I think you said it best with "put in the time and the effort". That is what it takes. My OneWord for the year is 'forward'. Daily, I will take steps to reach my goal. Even if they are small steps, it is forward motion toward the goal.

    May your year be a blessed one!

  6. No shortcuts. Amen.

    Flexibility & adaptability and the like…
    ~ Wendy

  7. Great post, as always Jody! I am looking forward to the process and what it brings in the new year. Best to you, Jody. Have a fantastic 2012!

  8. Thanks for this, Jody. All wonderful reminders. I'm hopeful for this new year! My best always...

  9. Happy new year, Jody.

    I think you're spot on with this. Hard work, paying attention to what's selling, and keeping an open mind really are the most important pieces of advice any writer can get.

  10. Good writing and perseverance are my operative words for this year. Happy New Year Jody!

  11. Wow, great post, and it gave me some relief. I think the changes in the publishing industry have been incredible and positive. Thanks again for the relief!

  12. Happy New Year, friend! As you know I have stepped aside temporarily to attend seminary. I also hope to add writing courses, perhaps a masters in creative writing. It's possible that I may publish while I am in school. Professors encourage it. It's another way to approach writing -- combining some on-the-ground training and networking with an online presence. I think I will be a better writer for it, too, in the long run.

    There are two things I see as being essential in the future market. The first is self-awareness: knowing one's own gifts and weaknesses. Only in this way, can one focus on offering the best quality possible and compensate for areas that need addressing. The first step is to ask yourself: how can I improve my self-awareness? What are some techniques and resources which will help me do this? Then start building your own self-awareness network of resources and people who help you do this and renew your understanding of yourself as a writer at each new juncture.

    The second is to understand that writers are now working outside all of the lines which have been formerly drawn. Our future is no longer structured and tagged, and publishing is no longer operating under set rules. There is a liquidity about the movement of an author from audience to audience and platform to platform which we have never before seen. For this reason, flexibility and the willingness to grow are absolutely irreplaceable.

  13. Thanks so much for these practical tips.

    Have a wonderful year!

  14. Very astute observations about the publishing landscape in 2012, Jody.

    Thanks for sharing!

  15. I'm realizing more and more just how much competition is out there. So the key for me is hard work, but also realizing that rejection doesn't mean I'll never make it. It just means it isn't my "time." And I'm realizing that the writing process is a process...and publication is A goal, but not THE goal or the only goal at least. The real goal is to become a better writer in the process and to write something that touches someone.

  16. Getting lost in the whirl of Facebook and Twitter and blog posts is easy. Finding the time to sit down and write can be a lot more challenging, but that's what it takes to improve your work. Thanks for a post that takes a clear-eyed look at what's important.

  17. Happy New Year, Jody!

    All great thoughts here. Keeping ourselves open to fast changes, as the pub industry always seems to be changing, is one of the keys.

    For me, I must keep focused on remembering why I write...and my goals.

    Great post.

  18. Ah Jody, I've missed stopping by here and reading your posts. This is an excellent one to kick off the new year.

    I know this might sound a little cliche, but the trait I most want to carry with me in 2012 is faith. Hard work is a trait I continually strive for, but it seems like there's always an element that's out of my hands. The only way to survive is to release it all to the One who's got it under control.

  19. Excellent post, thank you! I think an ironclad stomach may be helpful -- or at least the ability to ride the rollercoaster without getting too queasy. And persistence, which is close to hard work, but not quite the same. Sheer dogged unwillingness to give up goes a long way. I also love your point about keeping an open mind. That's truer than ever these days

  20. Happy New Year! Wondeful post, as always:) I agree we need to work hard and be open to the changes in publishing. I think it is good to do your research and stay up do date on the industry- lots of work, but worth it:)

  21. Great list, Jody. I think I would add patience to it for my own list. This career certainly demands slow steps! Hope your 2012 is productive and profitable and extra blessed!

  22. Happy New Year Jody. This is a great post, but I think we are definitely facing a digital future for books. You're right. Work incredible hard. There's no other way.


  23. Happy New Year! No predictions here, Jody. I think number five is what I'll shoot for and continue to work hard. It's a challenging business but I love it.
    I've picked one word for me though this year and that's ORGANIZE. No matter what I'm doing, that's my word to keep in mind. Blessings to you and yours for a healthy and prosperous year.

  24. Happy New Year, Jody!

    I appreciate your insight into how powerful writing isn't always enough, and that writers need to understand how to draw in readers.

    It's an important piece of the puzzle which I often forget.

  25. It is amazing to me how much there is to learn about marketing on the internet, but I'm glad we have the internet to learn about marketing. Oxymoronic, I know. Thanks for the encouragement.

  26. As always, you seem to have spelled out the challenges very succinctly. It is definitely a changing world for writers, but its also a very exciting time

  27. I wouldn't underestimate talent; it is the most important component. I've spent a long time trying to knit a sweater only to end up with something only a gorilla would wear -- no talent there.

    There are definitely some WORK aspects to writing, especially for self-publishing but getting caught up in your novel and the characters has a lot of pleasure in it. If I'm not enjoying the story, I can't expect anyone else to.

  28. Outstanding post! (And I'm going to have to check out Bell's post as well ... I just finished reading his Art of War for Writers!)

    Keeping an Open Mind seems to be slowly becoming the watch-word. I see many people starting to change their views (self vs. trad pub, what it takes to sell books), but we're not there yet. Thanks for leading the way with such a well put analysis of the way forward!

  29. Hi Jody! This is great advice for 2012. I am excited to see what happens. My prediction is that traditionally published e-books will take off... with new eReaders (iPad 2/Kindle Fire/Nookcolor) becoming more and more prevalent, I think ebooks will become more and more popular. And, if I judge my own habits, I rarely buy e-books that I can't trust as I don't want to read a bad book-- but I ALWAYS buy books from authors that I love. And, the truth is that I buy more books on Kindle than I ever did in paperback because of instant gratification. Happy new year!

  30. I need that Work Hard one. lol I've been a little bit of a slacker. I think writers worry too much about the medium and method of buying books.
    Paper or e-book, the story gets read. :-)

  31. Excellent post Jody. I think one of the biggest traits that every author/writer needs to cultivate is being adaptable. You need to take risks and be even more creative in efforts to shine.

  32. What a wonderfully clear-sighted and encouraging post.

    The burgeoning self-publishing options help writers feel they have a little wiggle room, that they're not entirely at the mercy of agents and publishers who might reject their work because they're feeling timid or just having a crummy day. (See agent Mike Nappa's excellent "77 Reasons Why Your Book Was Rejected!")

    Also, if a writer feels confident about the writing, has put in the time and effort to learn the craft, edit, and revise, revise, revise, and prefers not to wait 3 years to see their book in print, self-publishing allows them to speed up the process a bit.

  33. Great post!! Gonna definitely share this with my writers group!!

  34. I don't have any predictions, but I think your 'take' on the situation is bang on, especially your #2. I wonder how many new writers are focused on writing one book and haven’t given any thought to “building a readership”. With that as an important incentive for endurance in the market, it makes a difference to the future stories we might choose to write … recognizing that bouncing from one genre to another might be a personal challenge, but may cause readers to drift away if a second or third book isn’t of a genre they like to read.

    I think the savvy writer has to education herself and keep up with what's happening in the publishing industry. It's not enough to write a good story anymore.

  35. Fantastic advice, especially the work hard one. I'll have to remember that this year.

  36. I believe there will be a huge hike in ereaders, both in books and devices. I think interactive books for children will [or should] rise dramatically. There are so many untapped opportunities for the savvy writer to engage and grow that media [although I'm not one of them, more traditional]

  37. Great advice! I know I will also need patience, and a whole lot if it, to survive this year.


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