I made mention of Dean Wesley Smith, a long-term pro who helped me revolutionize my thinking about writing and publishing. A big part of that happened because Dean dispelled some of the odious myths that had been mainstays in the publishing industry for decades and which many writers were happy to cling to like the gospel truth. These pervasive myths have strong advocates among established writers and new ones alike.
If you'd like to read about these myths Dean has a collection called Killing The Sacred Cows Of Publishing. I would recommend them to anybody that is seriously considering a career as a writer.
From that point, I want to talk about Dean's latest blog post. You can read the whole article by clicking HERE.
The New World Of Publishing
The biggest takeaway from this article, the main point Dean is trying to make is that writers have choices now. The number of options has increased in only the last three or four years. Any long-term reader of his blogs has already been privy to this information and many of its finer nuances. The range of ideas and applications is manifold.
As always, Dean likes to remind people that every writer is different and that anything advice he suggests in not a "one-size-fits-all" strategy. That means it is up to us writers to decide what works and what doesn't work and react accordingly.
Dean summarizes the old path this way:
"In the old days, meaning more than three years ago, the path to becoming a professional fiction writer was pretty simple to understand. You wrote stories and novels and mailed them to traditional publishers directly. When the story was rejected, you kept the story (or novel) in the mail until someone bought it. "
That was a path I had never tried in a serious way. I was mired in the myths and didn't have the confidence to push myself and work harder at being a writer. In retrospect, it might have been a good thing. It spared me some of the anguish that other writers are experiencing how that the industry has been shaken by the changes in publishing.
Dean goes on to outline SIX paths that writers can take to sell their work in 2013 (and beyond).
To bring it down to the personal level, I have six ways I can go about my business. Now, considering how I've worked this year, I think the first option is probably out of the question. That one is more about maintaining the status quo and approach the writing and submission of your books the "old way."
"1… Follow the myths, write one novel, rewrite it to death, then spend all your time tracking down an agent. (This path seldom leads to a decent sale or decent writing, but most beginning writers still follow this path like blind sheep.)"
I find it interesting that Dean also took time to mention the fact that new myths that have cropped up in the this new era of publishing. It's a strange thing to not, but even those writers who recognize they now have the freedom to publish their own work electronically and using print-on-demand, get mired in bad ideas about promotion. Still, this does represent an option that writers will choose, even if Dean makes it clear that it is a lousy option.
"3… Follow the myths that have developed over the last few years. Write a novel, rewrite it to death, pay a gad-zillion bucks to have someone put it up electronically for you and then take a percentage of your work, then you promote it to your 200 friends on Facebook until they start fleeing out of disgust. This path seldom works, but it is part of the promotion myths."
On the other hand, I think Dean offered three winning strategies, one of which is to combine two of the paths he outlined. It's been called the hybrid model. Basically, we writers need to be flexible enough and brave enough to wade into the deep waters of traditional publishing while also keeping ourselves firmly moored to the solid ground of indie publishing--the realm where we have the most control.
Either way, it is about developing a multifaceted approach that allows us to sell our work in a variety of venues. The goal is to build a robust career that has a chance of lasting more than a few years. I'm pretty sure that I want to be in the game for the long haul so that means giving myself the best odds of having a viable career. I need to exercise my options carefully.
"2… Write a novel and mail a submission package for your book directly to editors. Then while that book is in the mail, write more novels and mail them as well while working on becoming a better storyteller. This is the way it’s been done forever in publishing and is still valid. (Only difference now from ten years ago is that now you need an IP attorney to work on your contract instead of an agent. Contracts are much more difficult these days.)"
"4… Write a novel, learn how to do your own covers and formatting, put the novel up yourself electronically and in POD and then write the next novel and work on learning and becoming a better storyteller. Repeat. Do not promote other than telling your friends once each book is out. This is more of a standard, traditional path that will work, but takes time as you learn how to tell better stories that people want to read."
"5… Follow #4 and #2 at the same exact time, telling the editors in the submission package that the book is self-published electronically and sending them a cover in the package. Very few beginning writers are trying this method yet because they are afraid traditional editors will come to their houses and break their fingers (or some other fear just as stupid.)"
A Short Option
I'll also include Dean's intriguing option of focusing on short stories. I remember reading Dean's article on this, The New World Of Publishing: Making A Living with Your Short Fiction, back in June. It's not surprising that he would mention it here. I'm not sure if it would be the path for me, at least not exclusively. I do think I would include some short stories in the writing I do each month.
"6… Forget novels completely and only write short stories, selling to traditional magazines as well as publishing indie. This method has a lot quicker feedback loops and is a good way to learn how to tell great stories, but it takes a mind set most beginning writers do not have. And you must learn how to do all the indie publishing work yourself. This method was never a path to making a living writing fiction, but now it is possible if you really, really, really love short fiction. Otherwise, just write a few stories here and there to help your novels."
Dean says this as well:
"In my opinion, all writers these days should be writing, selling, and publishing some short fiction along with writing novels. The short fiction market is booming and short fiction should just be a part of any business plan for a fiction writer. (Yeah, yeah, I know, you can’t write short fiction. So learn and stop whining.)"
Go ahead and read the rest of the article. Dean talks about problems that new writers will likely face in the new year and beyond. He also gives his own advice on what sort of path young writers might take. As usual, Dean offers his invaluable insights about the monstrous industry that is publishing as someone who has survived that jungle for over thirty years.
My thought is to implement the balanced strategy advocated here and do my best to avoid the myths and simply stay focused and patient. Building a career as a writer does take a lot of time. I'm not counting on hitting a home run with a particular book. I have to stay the course and see where I end up. That's as about as good as it gets.