For most of our 22 years in business, our advice to aspiring authors has pretty much been the same:
Write a great manuscript, research publishers, assemble a submissions package, send it off….and wait.
If you’re one of the lucky ones, your wait will end with a contract offer. If you’re like most writers, the cycle will be completed by another rejection letter. Not the most fulfilling process, but it was the only process that worked. But things have changed. We've entered a new era of publishing, one that offers a fundamental shift in power. Writers can, if they are so inclined, completely sidestep the traditional publishing structure and take on a more entrepreneurial role. The means to produce, distribute, sell and promote one's writing are now within the reach – and budget – of almost every writer. No era of fundamental change arrives without uncertainty, confusion and fear, and today's publishing environment is no exception. For writers who have gone about their business the same way for years, talk of eBooks, apps and the like may strike a discordant, even unsettling note.
That's all perfectly understandable – the dust kicked up by the rapid pace of change makes it hard to see a clear path to a promising future. But here's the good news: the dust is settling, and the road ahead is finally becoming clearer. And, we believe, it's a road that can take writers to some very exciting places.
We see the future of children's writing as having three key components:
1. In the New Media Environment, Craft Is King
More now than ever, the ability to write well and tell a compelling story reigns supreme. The days when a publisher could turn a subpar work into a hit by sheer force of marketing dollars is over. Today’s big sellers are the result of one thing: word of mouth. Parents talking to other parents. Kids talking to other kids. Bloggers championing their favorite authors and titles. The impact of this is simple to see: Bad books don’t get recommended by word of mouth. Good books do.
The new model for a hit book is a slow build, a rising tide of organic buzz about a great read. It’s all about the quality of the writing and the story.
2. The Author Has The Power to Choose His or Her Path to Publication
Choice = power. And you now have choices.
You can still go the traditional route, submitting your manuscripts to publishers. It’s as valid a way of reaching the market as it ever was. But now you can choose to opt out of that model. Self-publish, create eBooks for the Nook and Kindle, build an App for the iPhone or Android. It’s all possible, it’s all eminently doable and it’s all now a completely legitimate means of publishing your work and reaching millions.
No more waiting around for someone else’s arbitrary decision. You have control.
3. Authors Need to Think Like Marketers
Whether you self-publish or get a contract from a big publisher, the reality is the same: you must learn how to market and promote yourself and your work. With the barriers to publication gone, you’ll have lots of competition for the attention and dollars of your audience. That’s the bad news. The good news? Almost no one really understands how to effectively promote their books. Once you learn a few key concepts, you’ll have a huge edge.
I know what you’re thinking: “Arrggghhh! I’m a writer, not a salesman! I don’t want to spend my time promoting myself!”
So listen up:
Marketing is just a fancy name for communication. And, as a writer, communicating is your strong suit!
We aren’t talking about going door-to-door to hawk your wares. Promoting in the modern media environment is actually a whole lot of fun. Imagine blogging in the guise of one of your characters (perhaps your antagonist stops in from time to time to torment the hero in the comments section!), creating a story to send out on Twitter — 140 characters at a time, creating a fun online game for your Facebook page, visiting with a classroom full of giggling young fans…..
Meeting your readers, connecting with parents, sharing yourself with the world: these aren’t acts of drudgery. They’re endless opportunities for joy and fulfillment.
We believe that we have entered into a new golden age of publishing, one in which the pathway to success is clear and open to one and all. Things are hardly perfect — revolutions take take to settle into normalcy — but the outlook is bright. So work your craft, exert your power and get out there and tell the world about what you're doing. The future is yours.