Saturday, August 28, 2010

Riding the Wave of a Changing Industry

This is a participation post. Please read it and comment because a number of us need some input.

We writers know that our solitary work often requires months, or even years, to complete. But that’s not the end. Instead, it’s another beginning, for we must then deal with editors, designers, agents, publishers or printers, marketing…and the Internet. Sometimes we may wonder whether the end result is worth all the hassle.

In decades past, the publishing model pretty much followed procedures and trends of the big houses. Editing and marketing were handled by publishers, and writers were nurtured along the road to success. Of course, some vanity houses did exist, but their wares were viewed as inferior and unworthy of note.

Today, we have a very different scene. Technology has opened doors to previously unavailable options, and Kindle (et al.) has turned the reading world upside down. This is good, right? Yes! It’s great for those who surf the Web and grasp with ease the intricacies of perusing sites and uploading and downloading and posting and linking, etc. However, the answer is also "no." Or perhaps that should be “I’m not so sure” for the rest of us who find all things technological far distant from the parameters of our comfort zones. How do I know this? I live there. (Yes, I was born before computer chips became standard equipment in children’s brains.)

As I write this post, I’m wondering how to insert links to information you might find useful. Why? My affinity is great for writers who long to create wonderful books, and I see the parallels in all our work lives. Yet I come from a time of manual typewriters and simple, straightforward directions on how to make that tool create a presentable manuscript. (Don’t forget the White-Out!) But alas, those days are gone.

New innovations have risen on the horizon and traveled across the sky to high noon. Nostalgia aside, they aren’t bad, just different, and confusing to some of us. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and other visionaries changed our world, and that world remains in flux—so much so that new technologies stream over that horizon in constant, mind-boggling array. And I shake my head and wonder if I will ever be “fluent” in the language of the Internet.

So how do you ride the wave of our changing industry? What technology has made the biggest difference in your writing career? Are you able to grow and branch out as new options become available? Or are you intimidated—as I often am—by new terms, new techniques, and new publishing paths to follow?

Linda Lane writes novels and heads up a high-powered editing team. She herself has edited 2 award-winning books and been on the team that edited a book that was accepted this spring for nomination for a Pulitzer Prize. You can visit her Web sites at and She loves to help new writers find their voice and hone their skills, but she also treasures the opportunity to work with more experienced writers who want to take their work to the next level.

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  1. Linda it's true things are changing but I think change is perhaps easier for writers than for others. We are always reseaching and learning new things for our writing so we should be able to adapt to the new times.

    For me my blog and Facebook have been invaluable. I'm very isolated in my village in Botswana and get my writer interaction and news from the internet. I have had many opportunities brought to my attention because of FB and through my blog that have furthered my writing career. Neither of these technologies have I found difficult to use, and I am far from tech saavy.

  2. I am not published yet so I don't have to worry about marketing my material. However, I do have a blog, which I try to contribute to at least 3 times a week. I also guest blog on chapter blog. I'm on Facebook and I love the way it connects me to my friends who live all over the world. I have a Twitter account, but I rarely use it. I'm a phone person--always have been. I can talk and unload a dishwasher, fold clothes etc. Can't do that with a computer.

    The laptop and the cellphone are probably the best tools invented for me. I can carry my work with me and I can talk while I am walking or exercising. This frees me up to work on my stories.

    But these tools: the Internet, the phone, the social media need to be managed and controlled or writing won't happen. I think one needs to unplug the technology and recharge with a non-tech activity or the brain will get overloaded with information and burn out.

  3. My first writing efforts were on a big, clunky manual typewriter, and my other tools were carbon paper, an ink eraser, and later, White Out.

    But I'm one of the lucky ones. I worked at jobs that gave me lots of exposure to computers and software over the years, and my dear hubby spent many IBM years in the PC division. I learn as I go, and I'm not afraid to jump in and learn something new. My next project is putting my out of print novel on Kindle...and I plan to do it myself.

    My advice? Be brave. Ask someone to help when you get stumped. Learn new stuff. It's fun.


  4. I've played with computers since the 286 (287?) days, but I've been dragged kicking and screaming into the current self-marketing age. I'm still a computer klutz.

    Frankly, I feel nostalgic for the world back when small publishers/editors took care of their authors.

  5. Computers can be frustrating, said she who's had two crashes in two months, but they are essential in today's world. I love my laptop and my iPhone. I know I'd love the iPad, if I had one. I blog every day and tweet most days. I'm on LinkedIn, although I've not gotten into their new areas like groups and stuff. I'm on Facebook but admit that I don't know how to use it to its fullest extent. I use Photoshop and Dreamweaver, but really need to find classes in those.

    I think perhaps you just have to step off the ledge and try to land on something solid.


  6. The latest thing I've done with technology is get my short story collection out on Kindle and CreateSpace.

    I grew up with computers (started with a Commodore 64), and I've never really had to fear them. Because of the lack of fear and misunderstanding, I've been able to approach new tech with a different outlook.

    That it's only as hard as you want to make it.

    Anything can be learned. I'm learning to use Facebook, which doesn't quite come with a user manual. The internet and all its peripheries just allow authors to get closer to their fans, and to reach people much easier.

    I also think it allows authors to do a lot more of what they like: writing. Posting a blog once or twice a week then getting back to writing is easier than traveling to book signings, and putting out physical newsletters.

    Viva la digital revolution! :)

  7. I agree that the era of the blogtour vs. the old booktour is a fantastic time for writers.

    When older writers who are terrified of the Internet ask me about this stuff, I tell them they're lucky because there's so much they don't have to unlearn. We used to have to know html to have a website and a lot of things were more complicated than they are now.

    But I'm amazed at the number of people who tell me they can't read my blog because "they don't blog" as if reading a blog requires technical expertise.

    Facebook is another story. That's because it's an adversarial company that's trying to get your most private information and spread it to advertisers. You have to be pretty savvy to protect yourself. I steer people to blogging and twitter, but not FB.

  8. For me, the most important change has been from "white out" on a typewriter to "backspace" or "delete" in my Word program. Another wonderful change has been Googling whatever I need instead of heading to a library to look it up!

    And I loved what I learned last month from Dani Greer and many of the students in her blog class. That class has opened up a whole new world to me, including this blog site!!!


  9. I made this observation before on another thread, but I think it's worthwhile here, too:

    Writers would do well to think of publishing not as the be-all, end-all, but as a necessary mechanism between them and readers. A writer who views things in those terms can be dispassionate about choosing the path that makes the most sense -- for him, for his work, for his readers.

    Most of the people I see clinging to the traditional model are those who have reached the stratosphere or those who haven't yet been published. In between is a whole universe of authors -- midlisters, people who've been published by small presses, indies -- who are thrilled at all the possibilities that never existed before, and they're actively exploring them.

    It's a wonderful time to be splashing around in the pool.

  10. I, too, started out on an old Royal Manual typewriter. Still have the relic sitting here in my office. In the late 70's I bought one of the first PC's for home use, a Kaypro, which is now also a relic in my son's house. LOL I bought that primarily so I could utilize a printer and not have to type 400 pages of a manuscript. I was a terrible typist and paid someone to type my short stories, but couldn't afford to pay her to type my books. So I have embraced new technology to a point.

  11. I love all the comments—those from the computer-savvy, those from the computer-intimidated, and all those in-between. Thank you so much!

    Just in case I didn't make it clear in the original post, I DO embrace the technological advances that have opened so many doors for us. They just don't always embrace me. In other words, the road to my understanding them is sometimes bumpy and even unpaved. But I would never choose a profession other than writing (and editing). For me, it's the greatest!

  12. Interesting post and very relevant to many, I'm sure. I guess I feel lucky in the face of all this change because I'm pretty comfortable with with it. As well as being a writer I've been a software developer for many years, helping to build this brave new world!

    Yes, things are changing, and yes there's a danger we lose something as we move away from "traditional" publishing. But I do feel it's an exciting world, to be embraced.

  13. My first two books are in all the formats except for nook and ibook,
    Killer Career is in all at Smashwords.

    I'm trying to keep up with the times and am also enjoying my kindle 3!

    Morgan Mandel

  14. I love new technology, but I'm still behind the curve on hardware. (My new Kindle is coming though.) I embrace social networking, which expands my readership everyday. This is a terrific time to be a writer.

  15. Yes, things are changing fast, and we may soon see the demise of those big publishing houses at some point in time. I'm not sure that's a good thing. But the days of the publishing houses taking care of their writers, editing, promoting and helping them hone their skills are already passe.

    That being said, I do think it's a good thing that writers can have more control over their work. I'm not so sure, however, how many writers are taking the initiative to find editors to help them. And navigating the waters of internet marketing can be confusing as well. Who's to help with that?

    The whole multi-million dollar authors lure I think has helped bring down publishing. It's made it so that a good unpublished writer has such a slim chance of publication anymore because so much money is going into keeping these big names going. My question is what happens when those writers are no longer around? Who will replace them?

    I think we need to embrace the ebook technology and all that goes with it. We just need to be able to adapt to the changes that brings with it.

  16. I remember writing school papers by hand and then having to type them up -- was there anything more nerve-wracking and time-consuming? I took to the computer like a bird to flight; I can't believe we ever lived without it.

    I think the internet has made us more literate rather than less. People read more now than they ever have, it's just not 'traditional' reading -- much of it happens online. I also think that the internet is becoming more and more user-friendly, even for us Luddites. For instance, putting up a blog is childishly simple now, requiring very little technical savvy.

    As far as publishing goes, I'm coming up on having to send out queries for my first novel, and frankly, I have no idea whether to go the traditional publishing route, or to self-publish in hopes of gaining a readership on my own. This is the conundrum that I find most challenging here in the digital age -- the publishing world is changing so fast it's hard for us writers to make good decisions about how to get our work out there.

  17. The best thing ever is the PC. Although I still use paper and pen sometimes, and sometimes literally cut and paste, word processing machines and programs have made the physical side of writing so much less frustrating! I love submitting by email. I love being able to publish myself online, to post short stories on my website for anyone to read. I love it that Echelon Press is publishing me in ebook formats, so that I get messages saying, "Just heard about your book. Just downloaded it!" Heeee!

    I love the social networking sites and I love blog-hopping, meeting new people and learning new things. This old dog is having a blast learning new tricks every day! :)

    Marian Allen


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