Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Moving Goalposts


Some of you may know that every Tuesday, I post on The Writer's Guide to ePublishing. A while back, I wrote about the changing nature of dreams. Time and again - through discussions with friends and other wriiters - I'm reminded how the goalpost can shift along the way. I thought I'd share the post here.

So... here it is!

When I first decided to try to get published, I had a dream. I’d have a swanky agent, get a three-book deal with a major publisher, have a fabulous launch party drowning in cocktails, and see my novel on every bookshelf up and down the country. I wanted to be invited to author talks; to see people on the Tube reading my novel; and to get reviews in national magazines. In short, I wanted everything that people imagine when they think ‘author’.

All through having two non-fiction books and two novels published traditionally, I held onto the dream. It would materialise sometime, surely. All I needed was an agent. A bigger publisher. A better distributor. I’d stay the traditional course and I’d get there in the end.

But somewhere along the way, I realised something was more important than the dream: readers. With the ebook and self-publishing revolution, I could take control of my timeline and release more books a year than traditional publishing would allow, hopefully building up my base and reaching more of a target audience. Was I willing to step off the road that led to wine-soaked launches, peer recognition, and books on shelves?

Yes.

Now, as I prepare to release my fourth novel in a year-and-a-half, I realise my dream has changed. I still get a pang of desire when I think of all the fringe benefits beckoning from traditional side of publishing, but growing my readership and taking control more than compensate for cocktails (I can’t believe I just wrote that!). And, as self-publishing becomes more mainstream, I’ve seen that it doesn’t have to be one or the other — an author can successfully do both. Not only that, for some authors, self-publishing can lead to an agent or a traditional publishing deal. There’s more than one way to achieve a dream.

The rapid changes in the publishing industry over the past few years have forced me to examine my long-held desires. Do I still want to see my book in the shops? Yes. Do I still want wine? (I think you know the answer.) Do I want to be eligible for industry awards? I’d love to be. But most of all, I want to write, and I want to have readers.

Everything else is just gravy.

What’s your publishing dream? Do you still long for ‘traditional’ success? Can success even be defined by books in shops, etc, any longer?

51 comments:

  1. The only thing I ever really wanted was to see my book in book shops, but right now, I just want people to read my book. It doesn't matter to me how it gets out there, as long as people can read it. :D

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  2. Great post, Talli. I think we all go through these changes in goals, and in the end it does come down to simply wanting to tell a story and hoping that others will share your joy in it. You're doing a great job in reaching your goals.

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  3. I love the way you put that! Agreed that the road to publishing is different for everyone. Lots of twists and turns, and completely unique timelines. I'm glad that self-publishing is becoming more respected and considered to be another tool to gain an audience. In the end, writing and being read is the goal. And you deserve cocktails no matter what path you choose!

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  4. i'm still aiming for the agent and all that zazz. But who knows where i'll be in another year or two

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  5. I'm like you...readers are paramount! How I get to them, or they find me, is really immaterial. The pinnacle is being able to write full-time and still be able to support my family, but a more realistic goal is having my book(s) in as many hands as possible. If thats achieved traditionally, great, but I'm game for anything! :)

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  6. Speaking from a reader's point of view.Before indie publishing I wonder how many scores of great books have been lying on desks or in computers waiting for some publisher to come along and find them. Now there is no need for that, the power has been put into the hands of the reader. We are getting the chance to read books by authors which might never have been published and we can make up our own minds whether we enjoy an author's books or not and if we don't we just don't have to buy them but at least we have the choice. So thanks Talli for publishing yours for us the readers.

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  7. Storytellers need an audience. I don't think it matters if the audience holds a book or an e-reader.

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  8. You've touched on something here. I feel like I started out with the same dreams. They've shifted but I still dream of being a bestselling author. I just think the path I'm going to take to get there (power of postive thinking) isn't going to be the one I envisioned!

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  9. Great post, Talli. Like you, I'm looking to get my books out there, and it doesn't matter at all which format- ebook or regular- that happens to be in.

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  10. Heck, I just wanted one book out there for people to enjoy - now I'm trapped!
    But my focus has shifted. I'm writing for my readers. And it's a good thing.

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  11. Way to go, you. You're right, you can mix your own cocktails.
    And there's one thing you didn't mention: with the likes of you going indie, you're inspiring the likes of me who're just starting out in the writing world. What you're doing is spreading art. And that's awesome.

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  12. Very excited for book four and glad that you did choose to take this path :)

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  13. I published to show people I could do something not once but twice, I enjoyed what you had to say today as always it is full of interest.

    Yvonne.

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  14. I do love the idea of a big launch party with cocktails :), but taking control of your career is more important. Yay for the fourth book coming soon!

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  15. All the glitz and glamour would be nice, but you're right - readers are the most important thing you can have. Besides, you can make your own cocktails :)

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  16. Yay! You know it takes a lot of maturity to redesign your dreams. For me I've wanted to publish since forever, but recently I had a poem published on a smaller magazine. It wasn't a "big deal" lit mag. It was an online publisher who just needed content. And at first I didn't think much of it. But then I got a comment from someone who just thoroughly enjoyed it. And it made my whole day, month, year. And that tells me the self publishing thing isn't such a bad idea. It may not be my ideal, but it's a possibility that isn't looking so bad.

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  17. Talli: What you've just described can be easily translated to broadcasting and other businesses as well. I have mixed emotions about my field. The traditional publishing I see here in the USA is limited to big name celebrities who are deemed "hot" and therefore, bankable. Representation in broadcasting is just as tough as you outlined,if not worse. But you seem to have found a groove!

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  18. I totally agree. Readers are the most important part. This is a great time to be a writer.

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  19. Well said. You're living the dream many of us still aspire to. You're an inspiration for us all.

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  20. Good for you lovely Talli! You have a dream and by jingo, it'll also be your reality! Yay!! take care
    x

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  21. Well sweetie, I have the swanky agent and a publisher (indie) but you know what? My dream is to be a successfully self published author like you. You are a huge inspiration for me and I appreciate every post you write because they help me understand more bout the reality of what I need to do to achieve my dream. Thank you, for all the posts, but most especially for your honesty.

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  22. I think the way you put it last is my dream: I want to write and I want to have readers. And oodles of money. (I'm paraphrasing with that last bit.) :-)
    Some Dark Romantic

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  23. I am paralyzed right now - unable to write a word because I am so hung up on knowing I don't have the energy to either find an agent or publish myself. I am trying very hard to get back to my center, the part of me that knows I am meant to write this current piece. Thanks for sharing, Talli.
    Karen

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  24. Good post, Talli. I think we all have to do what works for us as individuals. You made an excellent point about readers and giving them a kinda-sorta steady supply of reading material. After having gone the traditional route with three books, the desire to have control over how soon my books hit the marketplace made the decision for me. I just need to keep working hard to get through the backlog of work I have to edit.

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  25. A very good post to remind what is important. Readers. Yes. But with readers will come your next dream - books on every bookstore shelves!

    All the best.

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  26. Good point! I think what's nice is how many options there are for writers these days. As for me, I'm still journeying down my path to publication and am not sure what it'll look like yet!

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  27. Great post and so timely. I've released my first novel today and I am having the greatest time. I like the ownership and control over every single aspect. I don't think the agency model is for me any more.

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  28. That's interesting. And you make it sound easy.:) (of course I know it was NOT)

    Yes, publishing is really changing fast. My last book was published traditionally and made a decent amount of money. I self published the previous book and it made a profit, but that was only because it had a clearly defined audience and lots of pretty definite sales. Oh and it was non fiction. The book before that was traditionally published and made very little money. On the whole, I incline more towards self publishing.

    Anyhow. I hope that one day you will post more about how it all happened. Or perhaps you have already? I'll have another browse around your site, there's so much on it.

    Thanks for an interesting post.

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  29. I've still got the traditional dream - exactly as you described! Self-pub is a bit harder for those outside the UK/US, and I do really want to see my words in print. However, if my current MS doesn't generate any nibbles when I query, I may yet consider trying self-pub though. I really believe in this baby.

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  30. "There’s more than one way to achieve a dream." - Well said Talli. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. :-)

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  31. Thankfully, I've moved past my early "delusions of grandeur". ;) Like you, I just want to tell stories!

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  32. There are so many doors open right now, and that's exciting. And as someone who went the other way, there's always something that's going to look and sound better through a different door.

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  33. Tali, this is such a timely post. I've been working with a young lady who shares your dream. I'll forward the link to this post to her as you've described the exciting changes to traditional publishing beautifully.

    BTW, there's no harm in having a virtual book launch at assorted times to suit yourself ;) but I hope you're way ahead of me on that one!
    Sue

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  34. An excellent post, Talli, and you identify the dreams of many of us. I think we have far greater opportunities these days: self-publishing, small independent presses (here and overseas), and traditional agent/publisher. All three are valid, but I'm still holding on to the dream of seeing at least one of my future novels in book shops too!

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  35. Great post Talli. As an author who did get the agent and the deal and all that comes with it, I should point out to all aspiring authors that it is still a BUSINESS. It can still take even a large publishing house years to build an author up, and everything that author can do to help, be it self-publishing or whatever, helps to spread knowledge to the public of your BRAND. The one advantage an author published by a major house has over the self-published writer is a bigger marketing budget and bigger reach, but that doesn't mean that the self-published author is out of the running. Careful marketing, nifty advertising ideas and didligent blogging ( like Talli ) can really make a difference. Stick at it, everyone, because it can lead to that swanky agenty, deal and wine-soaked launch party :o)

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  37. While in Waterstones, I told my daughter I'd have one of my books on the shelves in there one day. I don't think she was listening but that's my goal. Even if I have to print it on A4 paper and sneak it onto a shelf myself.

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  38. So, so true, Talli! Your readers adore you, so what more could any author possibly want?

    My dream's always been the same: to walk into a bookstore and see my book on the shelves. I cannot wait for that to happen :-)

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  39. I'm reassessing my goals in a lot of areas right now. Do I want to write another fiction book? Do I want to keep speaking? What do I want to do?

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  40. You do have readers!

    I still long to be published traditionally. I had considered it for a while, but I don't think it's for me--at least not yet.

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  41. Thank you for sharing this - I appreciate your inspiration and encouragement. :) Have a wonderful weekend!

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  42. I loved this post Talli. If the mountain will not come to Muhammad comes to mind. Waiting for a big break is so crazy, making your own break is so sane and so rewarding in so many ways.

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  43. I think people are happier when they are willing to reevaluate their dreams every once in a while. And I think everybody's path is different, so we all need a 'what works for me'. That said, I read recently people who traditionally publish FIRST and then self publish do a lot better than people that go straight to self-publishing (especially compared to those who TRY traditional but give up)--I think the traditional CV gives you street cred on the quality thing... gives it the stamp of 'choice' rather than 'resorted to'. I think you're doing great!

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  44. I enjoyed this post and I find you a real inspiration when it comes to self-publishing. Personally, every time someone gets in contact to say they've enjoyed something I've written, especially if that someone is a complete stranger... well, that is what makes me happy.

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  45. I understand. After writing and querying for years, I made the change to self publishing and don't regret it all. But every once in a while I feel twinges - but that's all they are right now. Twinges of a former way of thinking. Congrats on all the books!

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  46. Great post!

    I still want to be traditionally published. That isn't to say I think self-publishing isn't as much of an accomplishment or I wouldn't try it, if I thought it would work for me--but I suppose it's the chance of personal validation that attracts me to submissions.

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  47. Awesome post! My biggest dream is to see someone on the subway reading my book... I know the chances of that happening are pretty slim (unless I stage the scene with a family member or friend) but I'm okay with that. And maybe it's for the best because, if I did see a stranger reading my book on the subway, I'd pounce on that person and probably get arrested by the transit police! ;)

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  48. I'm glad you modified your dream and decided and publish your romantic comedies yourself, Talli - I love reading them (as you know) and hate to think that they might not be available yet / might be different if you hadn't.

    I'll just be honest and say it: my dream is and always has been to make a living doing what I love -- writing fiction! Being able to earn a living by sharing the stories I'm passionate about with readers and knowing that they make people happy fulfills my dream. Of course, I do want to reach as many readers as possible, but what form they read my books in doesn't matter to me. I value my self-published titles as much as my traditionally published ones.

    I guess the ultimate silver lining to my dream would be if a specific book of mine (not one of my adult romances, LOL!) was made into a major motion picture. (Doesn't every writer say that?)

    And in my experience, all publishing paths can include cocktails, if you want them to. ;) LOL

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  49. Great post, Talli. I think it's significant that those who choose to go the indie route place such an emphasis on the readers. Even though I'm still holding out for traditional publishing, I'm not entirely sure that they do that - too many intermediaries between the writer and reader.

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  50. So wonderfully put, Talli. I'm still at the beginning of my publishing journey, and right now, I dream to have success like yours! :-)

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  51. You know, I always thought traditional was the only way to create lots of sales for my book, but the more I query, the more I wonder 'If I did go down the trad route, how long would I have to wait until my book is published?' I already know the answer: too long. I don't think I want to wait any longer. Its time to dip my toe in the world of self publishing and see where it takes me.

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Coffee and wine for all!