Laura Fredericks, founder and CEO of the writing community Describli, has put up a very interesting guest post on the future of publishing at the Independent Publishing Magazine – the same platform that had the good taste to commend me and Chris Meadows as shakers in the evolution of the industry. And she is not exactly recommending the status quo ante disruption. In fact, her call – and warning – for both publishers and writers is: connect (or be damned).
Fredericks’s take is that although “the future of publishing remains uncertain,” the “even more direct connection between writers, readers, publishers, and publicity” made possible via social media and the internet means that some kind of active input by both authors and publishers is going to be essential to differentiate and drive success. This won’t come as good news to the Jonathan Franzens of this world who bewail the claims on an author’s time, but there doesn’t seem to be much alternative unless you believe, as Franzen apparently does, that social media can be wished away and we can all return to the days of pigeon post. However, for those writers ready to live in the real world, Fredericks advocates a checklist of attributes and approaches that can work for the ambitious writer (and presumably for the publishers and publicists attached to them): be real; engage; have a plan; consider your messaging; and focus on the big picture.
All of which sounds quite simple, and is potentially pretty useful. But it won’t be a surprise to see that many writers (Franzens and others) and publishers disregard or miss those essential steps. Being real, and “forging genuine relationships with readers” is going to be a big hurdle for many writers, for one thing: It’s hard to imagine James Patterson, for instance, who actually relies on a stable of collaborators (read: ghostwriters) to make much of his bucks, doing it. And there are others, like Chelsea Cain, for whom not having a plan, and the strain of all this engagement, contribute to a social media meltdown of epic proportions. But the skill set to manage this kind of exposure is likely now a part of the tool kit of the working writer, just as a list of agents and publishers and a plentiful supply of stamps used to be. And it’s a lot cheaper than mailouts.