Are Newcomers Welcome?
by Greg Johnson
President, WordServe Literary
People ask me all the time if today’s tough publishing climate is a good time for newcomers to get noticed and get published.
Let’s start with some obvious negatives:
→ Publishers are cutting their lists and delaying books until the economy turns (and they may stay lean thereafter… this may be the “new normal”).
→ Publishers have to concentrate on their core authors who have established platforms and broad readerships.
→ Publishers are dealing with an ever-changing retail climate where whole chains are going—or can go—out of business at any moment. Consequently, they’re hedging their manuscript buys until they see the economy stabilize.
Is there any good news for new authors?
→ Great writing will always get looked at. It may not get bought, but it will always get a fair shake. And what an author should want more than anything else is to get their work in front of the right editors and then let the chips fall where they may.
→ It will force a new author to do what they should have been doing all along—working harder on the front end: finding the right hook, using high concepts, mastering your craft, building a website or starting a blog, growing a speaking platform, writing newspaper columns, even developing a TV presence to 200 markets! The era where someone with a home computer can stay safely in their PJ’s behind their computer screen and write (and let someone else market) is over. Some novelists can still create and not worry about building a readership, but most will have to write AND market.
→ Some publishers can’t afford the big names so they’re always looking for newcomers they can get relatively cheaply.
→ Agents are hungry. The queries have increased to nearly every agent we know, but creative queries (and good writing) will still attract attention.
→ Content is king, now more than ever. The internet is filled with content. Who’s writing all of this content? Writers. Experts. Good researchers. People in their bathrobes. This can be you. Investigate many different options for “being a writer” besides commercial book publication.
→ People still want good books to escape into. If you can tell a good story in 80,000 to 110,000 words, you’ve got a good chance. Look at The Shack. Every publisher rejected it, now it’s a phenomenon. Which leads to the last bit of good news…
→ Persistence can pay. Not obnoxious pushiness, but belief in your story, your message, your craft, your gift. If you’re willing to face rejection and listen to people telling you how to make your book better, there is always a chance. If you don’t have it in you to be persistent, don’t be a writer. Don’t be one today when it’s as tough as it’s ever been, don’t be one three years from now when (hopefully) the economy has turned around.
This last point can prevent you from spending weeks and months behind a computer screen in the early mornings or late evenings when you should be tending to more important things. Before you put words on paper and devote yourself to selling your work—count the cost.