It’s both exciting and exhausting to work in an industry that is constantly changing, constantly evolving. The publishing industry never disappoints to entertain. At one moment we can’t get enough vampires, at another we are begging for more Christian Greys. Sometimes we soak up the parodies and movie/television spin-offs, other times our thirst is quenching for completely new content. With the vast amount of technology out there and the easy access to information, audiences needs and wants can literally change in an instance. In order to be successful in the publishing industry either as an author, literary agent, editor, or publisher you too need to be able to change and adapt quickly. The plus side- it never gets boring, right?
As the year is coming to a close, we all start to take a look back to see where we came from, when we currently are, how we got there, and where we are going . An article published today in The Boston Globe summarized, at least for me, everything that has changed in the publishing industry this year and what is going to be the “big thing” going into 2016. What’s ‘hot’ today, isn’t always going to be ‘hot’ tomorrow. Our ability to adapt is always going to be our saving grace.
Print is making a comeback.
For the past few years, authors have become used to focusing their efforts on their digital sales. It just made sense, that was where the money was coming from. Now, authors should start to consider focusing more efforts on their print sales as well. Print sales are actually growing this year, proving that the market most certainly isn’t dead and that opportunity still exists there. In early December, Nielsen reported 571 million units were sold in the print sector compared to 559 million last year. After the holiday season, that number is only going to continue to grow. People still crave the satisfaction of products and it’s still important that we make those products available to them.
2. New ideas are making impressions.
The eruption of the adult coloring book is one of the main reasons print sales have been rapidly climbing. This concept has absolutely exploded this year and I don’t see it slowing down any time soon. People and readers are craving new ideas. For quite some time we have been bombarded with similar stories and similar characters in every book we pick up. Authors were taking advantage of the trend because well, it worked. Now, consumers are asking for something new. Something innovative, interactive, creative, and imaginative. For the first time in a few years, we are being asked to think outside the box.
3. Nonfiction readers and children prefer print.
Publishers are finding that certain genres perform better in print than others. Each year we are getting a clearer picture of what works and what doesn’t. As more content becomes available, we have more data to compare it to. Nonfiction, children’s, and young adult titles are absolutely killing it in the print scene. Serious readers and young children find gratification in holding, touching, and interacting with what they are reading. A true American History buff is going to want a physical copy of this year’s hottest Civil War book. Just as a child is going to want a physical copy of the book that the movie that all his/her friends are talking about is based off of. DIARY OF A WHIMPY KID: OLD SCHOOL saw 95% print sales this year. Even romance authors are seeing an increase in their print sales this year.
4. Old flames make the biggest mark.
Harper Lee’s new book was probably the biggest news of the publishing industry this year. The comeback was historic and everyone wanted to be a part of it. People love to be a part of something, they love the feeling of being in that ‘inner circle.’
5. Digital sales are still where it’s at for fiction.
Digital is still the most accessible and most convenient way to consume books. It is still the way many authors survive. Adult fiction is seeing amazing things with their digital sales, in which they account for at least half or more of this year’s sales for them.
One of my favorite parts of being a literary agent is getting to work closely with so many talented writers. The best part is being able to collaborate on their latest project together. It’s a privilege, really. I love seeing each individual’s writing process and watching each layer of their work unfold until the final product somehow miraculously declares itself finished. During this process a lot of interesting questions come up. Some questions have straight forward answers. But, it’s not all that easy. One of my authors recently asked me about point of view (POV) for her new series she is working on. This was one of those not so easy questions. Do particular genres have rules about POV? Is dual POV a ‘no-no’? Do POV rules change depending on gender? How about age, does that affect POV too? Are publisher’s looking for a certain POV? See? Not so easy.
At one point, the answer to these questions would probably have been ‘yes.’ Writing used to be more formulated and possessed rules that writer’s dare not break unless they wanted to send their career to an early grave. But now, authors are breaking every possible boundary and are doing so successfully. We aren’t so focused on the rules, but rather our story.
My initial response was ‘no,’ it doesn’t matter. But, out of curiosity I wanted to see what others had to say about it. I came across some general rules. Romance is often written in the third person because love involves more than one person and we want to be able to understand all characters equally. Young adult is written in the first person. You can only switch POV or ‘head hop’ after a scene is complete or a new chapter has arrived. Despite all these said to be ‘rules’ most people came to the same conclusion- it doesn’t matter. Every genre doesn’t have a correct POV, but every story does.
My favorite article I came across was by Alan Rinzler, an experienced book editor. He only has one rule when it comes to POV- does your manuscript work? At the end of the day our goal is to create something that is readable, that keeps readers wanting to come back for more. As long as you can make that happen- anything goes. Crazy and adventurous sells.
I wish I could give you a list of rules here that would solve all your problems and save you hours of brain-numbing torture flip flopping back and forth on your decision, hoping you are making the right one. But after all that’s what writing is all about, right? To help ease the pain, Rinzler provided three basic tips on POV. Maybe it will shed some light on one of your toughest decisions:
Get to know your characters first. Know who your protagonist is and their particular strengths and weaknesses. Does it make sense to tell their story from the inside or the outside?
Don’t give your story away. Whatever POV you choose, craft your story carefully. Don’t tell your readers anything, let them do the discovering for themselves.
Go ahead, break the rules. Of course we all like a reliable narrator, but don’t feel like you need to give your readers one. The best stories end in the most unexpected ways.
Rinzler also gave some examples of how he has helped authors find the correct POV for their story so if you’re on the POV struggle bus, check it out.
Let’s face it, we all have those days when we feel down and something is just off. Sometimes it’s for no apparent reason, while other days it’s because nothing seems to be going your way- whether you got a bad review on your book, a fan posted a nasty comment, or your editor told you that you need to basically re-write your next novel. These days make us start to doubt our ability to succeed. We start to question our talent and wonder if we truly have what it takes to keep going. When you put your work out there to be criticized a lot of good things can happen, but a lot of bad things will probably happen too. We need to find ways to pick ourselves out of that self-doubt and move forward. Every hit of negative criticism makes you a stronger and better writer.
Today, author Holly Robinson shared four ways that she conquers her self-doubt in a post on The Huffington Post book blog. I thought they were pretty awesome ideas and that many of us could benefit from them- not just in our own writing worlds, but in our every day lives as well.
1. “Work With Your Hands”
Build/do something with you hands- bake something, do an arts project, conquer a landscaping project. Seeing the physical result of your efforts will help you gain some of your confidence back.
2. “Forget About Success”
Stop worrying about what other people think and remember that the main person you create your work for is you. Don’t be afraid to fail. As long as you are happy with the work that you produce, you are already winning.
3. “Stay Flexible”
Try new things- even if it’s just for a few hours. Try writing a different type of genre than usual. Craft up a totally different character than ever before. Create a world that seems completely bizarre to you. It will give you a break from your typical writing and you never know, it might lead you somewhere other than the trash bin.
4. “Keep Your Projects Warm”
Never stop working completely. If you aren’t up for a whole day of writing then just reread a few chapters, edit a few lines, or make outlines for future chapters. The second you stop working, you are letting your self-doubt win.
The only person that can make you succeed or fail is yourself. We all have days of self-doubt, but it’s how we break free that matters. Write On.