Bringing Great Authors To the Literary Realm
Guest Author: Amy Lignor
In 2007, as we all know, Amazon came out and launched an ‘e-reader.’ Many thought this was a joke, but I can honestly say that there is no one laughing now.
Digital publishing and branding have become the ultimate ways to get ahead, or even recognized, in the cutthroat recession-wary publishing world as it stands today. Publishers are looking at the bottom line. Are they poor? Are publishing houses becoming dinosaurs? No. Make no mistake, people, not matter what the agencies and publishers tell you total book sales in the United States last year came in at 13.9 billion dollars. Random House, the top rung of the so-called “Big Six Publishers” reported profits of 2.5 billion. However, a large percentage of revenue is now being recorded as digital downloads. And this area is growing bigger every year.
There will always be those out in the world who want that paper copy – that copy that they can hold in their hands. In fact, this writer feels about books as deeply as a hockey player feels about the ‘smell of the ice.’ I love the smell of a new book, and e-readers take that particular enjoyment away. BUT, there are a great deal of authors out there right now who are truly magnificent, yet they are not getting the opportunities to be published. There are barely any agents or publishers out there right now that would’ve told you twenty years ago that YA would ever be a big market. What they didn’t see coming was J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, and the like who took the world by storm. One of the most ironic issues about new authors who do hit the market full force, is that most of them were taken on by interns or new hires in literary agency; people who just stepped in and felt as if they had to prove themselves to their bosses. Why is that? Because those new interns still knew what it felt like to read a good book. They were, and are, not yet caught up in the muck and mire of the bottom line. They take a chance and they score – simple as that.
In mid-2010, Amazon announced that they were selling MORE e-books than hardcover’s, which caused a division in the literary society. The division and arguments still abound about the digital world becoming ‘King’ one day, but whether or not anyone likes it, the internet IS the ‘King’ of the 21st Century. Many young adults (and some adults, I have to say) are learning their grammar and penmanship through text messaging – “How are you?” has now become “How r u?” Everyone is on the go, and their e-readers, Kindles, etc. make life a whole lot easier than having to trudge to the library, or spend a greater amount of money in the bookstore. Readers can simply call up Amazon, call up the book they want, and ‘boom,’ there it is on the device that they have grown to love as much as their cell phones.
One of the biggest moments for digital publishing, in my mind, was when the New York Times suddenly realized this growing phenomenon and – whether they liked it or not, and most did not – they began a digital bestseller list; an e-book ‘Top Ten.’ Not only that, although the New York Times Book Review is still a monolith in the publishing world, they are quickly being set aside for the ultimate reviewers – the actual fans and readers who are constantly on Facebook and Twitter.
With the world of social networking, an author can reach millions of people with their synopsis, book trailers on YouTube, announcements, events, downloadable book sites, reviews, interviews, and more. Whereas authors once had to depend on marketing giants, agents, and the publishing company to do the work for them, they now can take matters into their own hands and get the exposure they need for their title. And, let’s face it, the one person who has the most passion for a book – the optimal salesperson for their title – is themselves. With publishers and agents, the author is one of many being served. Exposure is the key element to selling a book right now. Yes, the old names such as King, Koontz, Rowling, etc. will sell no matter what – simply because their name is on the cover and they have spent years gathering millions of fans. But the new authors who are truly writing fantastic fiction but being completely overlooked by agencies and publishers who don’t wish to take a chance on a new name, are building their fan list through social networking; branding themselves through radio programs, websites, the constant Twittering, reaching all their readers out there who simply don’t have time, inclination, or the energy to go to the library or spend hard-earned money at the bookstore. Even well-known authors are now reporting that 20%-to sometimes 40% of their sales are coming from Kindle and e-reader downloads. With the odd part being that if things keep progressing this way, the ‘Big Six’ is going to drop down to the ‘Big Three’ one of these days.
Another issue? Literary agencies. People are stunned at times that agencies are replying with rejection letters that don’t match up with the book the author even sent in the first place. Giving you a personal example, I was sent a rejection letter once saying that my character, Susan, was outstanding but the locations were a little too eerie for them. My main character’s name was Leah – not even a close resemblance to Susan. When I replied to said agent, there was a nice answer of ‘whoops,’ and I was actually told that sometimes they are so busy, they don’t read what is sent.
I put this in so that I can stop one thing from happening. Writers can NOT give up on their books or their dreams because of rejection letters. Sometimes, trust me, they’re not even being read. The rejection letter is mostly now just a ‘form response;’ it is automatic and is simply sent because A) they’re too busy, or B), they want to make sure they don’t make a mistake in their reply causing the author to realize that their query wasn’t even looked at. I shudder to think that if Rowling hadn’t had the courage to continue after receiving rejection letter after rejection letter – and she had placed our beloved ‘Harry’ in a drawer – the entire generation would’ve been the poorer for it.
Is writing skill and talent? Yes. However, it is also 99.9% pure and utter luck. As we all know, there are titles that come out every year (many) where the author received an advance (big) and the plots of these stories are the most depressing things on the face of the planet. AND, they don’t sell. All of this has to do with taste, yet most publishing companies have been proving, as of the last decade, that they need to move their eyes toward more ‘commercial’ fiction – action adventure, GOOD romances, historicals – genres that DO, and have proven, to bring in the big bucks.
The upside for the authors out there is this digital world. The comments and sales the author receives come directly from the readers. THEY are the ones who make the ultimate decision on a book, bypassing a great many people who may have lost that spark of pure enthusiasm when it comes to fiction. Branding is the key, and the billions of people who reside on the internet every single day are finding their favorite new authors who don’t have an agent – don’t have a mainstream publisher – but still have the courage, determination, and passion to achieve greatness by using what the world of technology has provided.
Yes, the dream will always be there. The call from a huge agent that says, “I’ll take it.” The call coming in the next day saying, “Here’s the $250,000 contract from Random House,” etc. But that dream, in the 21st Century, can be realized elsewhere. There’s just a whole heck of a lot more work involved. Keep in mind that Kindle sales are projected to reach 1.6 billion by 2012. This number is startling. Facebook has 750 million active users and grows by the minute. Twitter now has 105,779,710 registered users (2010), with new users signing up at the rate of 300,000 per day. Nielsen published stats that the world now spends over 110 billion minutes on social networks and blog sites. This equates to 22% of ‘all time’ being spent online. For the first time ever, social network and/or blog sites are visited by three quarters of global consumers. MySpace: 57 million U.S. unique users and growing. LinkedIn: 60 million users, “As of last December, the network had 55 million members, so its grown by 5 million in less than two months. And the list goes on…
Agencies and publishers are necessary but, in the end, the author putting it out and the reader buying it and bringing in the revenues are the two most important people in the publishing world. That is one fact that has stayed the same since the beginning of time. And all authors are now becoming quite aware that those readers are out there in full-force on the internet – not in the library or the bookstore.
A new door has been opened for the author who KNOWS they have a great book, but can’t seem to find an ‘in’ with the names that count (or, used to). Branding is key!
Amy is the author of historical fiction. Presently, her adventure series – Tallent & Lowery – is the newest ‘hot’ book climbing the charts. She’s also working on a YA series, The Angel Chronicles. An avid traveler, Amy considers herself fortunate to have journeyed across the USA, where she’s met the most amazing people who truly bring life and soul to her stories. She is the Owner/Operator of The Write Companion, and Precious Gems Publishing, as well as a contributor to many literary magazines and websites.