Between my first conference of the year and the last one this past weekend, I’ve come to one conclusion: no one in the industry has a crystal ball. No editor, no agent, and most certainly, no author. No one knows for sure what is going to happen over the next few months, let alone the next few years.
For writers and professionals alike, it’s crazy and getting crazier!
I’ve had the same question asked by authors repeatedly at every conference. Why are debut authors with exceptional works having such a tough time breaking in? Is it all about platform…platform…platform?
Here’s my answer—just a theory, but I think it holds a bit of merit.
Let’s say publisher A has five slots for historic fiction to be filled by other than their own authors. While five eager beaver authors and their agents get proposals ready, two other publishers—B and C shut down their fiction lines. Publisher D cuts its fiction back to bare bones. Two bestselling historic authors are now released from B and C respectively. D has lost five well-known authors, but none are historic. Still, we have four bestselling authors with nowhere to go with their established platforms and loyal followers, established brands, established reputations.
Now, the new eager beaver submissions shoot out to Publisher A. Publisher A responds that all of the submissions are really primo, and the platforms are excellent as well. But publisher A has only five slots for new historic authors and you know what? Four have just been filled with authors who moved from B and C. Why should the publisher turn down well established authors for unknowns, even though the unknowns have great novels and superb platforms? Instead, publisher A now has one slot left for one new author. And dozens of great authors are competing for that one slot.
All the more reason why the writing must stand heads above the rest. It has to resonate in a way it never had to before.
So is it too depressing to continue? Not at all. But realism is important. An author has to understand what they are up against. Primo writing still trumps all else. You must be the best, not the second best.
New authors also have the opportunity to go with well-established smaller publishers who are benefitting from this new industry model. Go with them and work your buns off to build a readership and decent numbers which you can then take to a larger house IF you decide that’s best for you. I have a few friends who have gone with smaller publishers and decided to stay with them. After all, aren’t they the ones who had faith in you when no one else did?
There’s a new publishing model in place. We all have to adjust, or as Ma Ingalls told her daughters: “We have to adjust the pattern to fit the cloth.”
Are you adjusting or simply moaning and thinking of giving up?