Article: The Changing World of a Writer

Attractive Woman with Her BooksWhat can you do when your dream of writing a book is finally realized, only to discover that the publishing world has changed and is not interested in your book?  This situation has been happening a lot to authors re­cently and is most disconcerting. There are, how­ever, alternatives to books in getting out your mes­sage, if that is your purpose for writing your book.

Why do I bring up this topic? Christian book publishing had already changed a lot before the recession began, but change has accelerated be­cause of the financial pressures of dropping book sales. What are some of the factors influencing change?

  • Changing ownerships, with large general-market houses buying up Christian publishing houses to try to capitalize on the flurry of bestsellers in the Christian market. They are merely going where they think there is money to be made.
  • While the advent of television did not have the expected negative effect on book reading, the availability of information and entertainment on the Internet is impacting available reading time and sources people use to get their information.
  • The extraordinary growth of storage/listening devices like the i-Pod, i-pad, and MP3 players is also im­pinging on reading time. Add Amazon.com’s Kindle, Sony’s electronic reader, and now the i-pad, and you have a technological change that both reduces time availability for traditional ways of reading books and satisfies the need for entertainment.

How do you determine which new marketing concepts to embrace and which to ignore?

Regaining Market Share

When a market begins to slip, those participating in it have to make changes to regain market share. From the publishers’ perspective that means taking several steps:

  • Reduce risk as much as possible by refusing to take on books by.authors who do not have guar­anteed sales through their platforms. That means if you are known only locally or regionally, you have an extremely small chance of your book be­ing published by a royalty publisher. Editors at two large publishing houses told me that introducing a new author to the reading public is just too costly to take the risk.
  • Publishers are moving to print on demand, Kindle, i-pad and other opportunities to gain a foothold in the digital information market. Books that were once declared out of print are being digitally scanned by Google and are having their “shelf life” extended through these avenues.
  • Authors also have access to these new technolo­gies if all efforts to enlist a royalty publisher have failed. They are, however, a totally different world from traditional book sales and require quite a dif­ferent marketing approach. Some Christian writ­ers’ conferences now have workshops on how to enter these digital markets.

Adapting to Publishing Realities

If getting out your message of what it means to be a Christian and live as a Christian is impor­tant, you will quickly adapt to the new realities. As I see it, there are two alternatives to books to do so.

One, you can refocus from book writing to ar­ticle writing. There is still a wealth of print media available for writers who know what it takes to write and market articles. Print media editors also show up consistently at Christian writers’ confer­ences in all parts of the country and may be ap­proached on what they are looking for. The real­ity is that while as a book author you might reach 2,500 to 10,000 homes, with an article you can reach up to 100,000 or more homes.

Two, you can explore the digital world of ar­ticles on the Internet. More and more e-zines are popping up. Many of them still do not pay in cash, but they provide writing experience and exposure. Blogs are also great opportunities to get exposure as a writer. One of my clients found that her blog was being read by non-Christian associates at the place where she worked and they were giving her feedback, creating totally unexpected witnessing opportunities.

Getting the Word Out

We live in a fast-moving, technological age in terms of information dissemination. Traditional means are shrinking. Even the newspaper is now an endangered species. But as writers who are Christians, our job is to get the Word out by what­ever means we can. In reading through 1 Thessalonians in The Message, I was. struck by the apostle Paul’s admonition in 4:1, “We ask you­—urge is more like it—that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance.”

That is our challenge in a publishing world that’s constantly changing.

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