Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Literary Sky is Falling, How Wonderful for Us

With alternatives to big publishing on the rise, writing has become anyone’s game.  ♦ 
Welcome to the new era of publishing. The literary marketplace is currently reeling in response to the collapse of the traditional publishing model, a collapse initiated by self-publishing, Amazon, and even the invention of e-books. Combined, these factors are allowing for a new, emerging world of opportunities for authors. Writers and content creators of all kinds may find themselves asking, “Just why is there such a dramatic paradigm shift in publishing?” In large part, this change has been the result of digital innovation; the internet’s existence played a crucial role in connecting creators and consumers on a global scale, and independent publication has emerged as a more viable option because of it. What may be a more important question for writers is, “What aspects of the craft are available now that were absent during the old guard?” The answer lies in the rapidly expanding avenues for expression, a brave new world just waiting for writers to embrace and create forms, structures, and genres that were previously ignored or dismissed. The here and now has the potential to be a literary period marked by creativity, variety, and technological influence. No longer do we authors have to pander to publishers and mass-market appeal to be successful in the literary marketplace. All hail the rise of the experimenting author, and the true development of individual style and voice.
   With the rise of the internet, publication is becoming a best-fit practice, a choice between traditional, indie, Amazon, or self-publishing. This means that, whether your project is out-of-the-box or working within it, there is a way for you to distribute your project to your audience for digestion. So take that chance, make an interactive e-book like HAAB’s SHERLOCK: Interactive Adventures, or take Chuck Palahniuk’s concept for Bait even further by pioneering the choose-your-own-adventure coloring book. Who knows what will work until we as authors have given people a chance to try out a new style or genre? After all, some of the most celebrated authors throughout history challenged the status quo of what was proper and what was ahead of their time.
   Publishing as we know it is currently bleeding out due to the closing of most brick-and-mortar bookstore chains, the loss of sales to Amazon, and the rise of indie- and self-publishing. Even though the “Big 5” publishing houses (Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster) are still profitable, their stranglehold on the industry has loosened to a firm grasp. Once we accept this fact, we can begin to enjoy being the generation to recreate what it means to be an author. To those already working within the industry, or those with concrete expectations based on the ways of old, this suggestion may be alarming, if not terrifying. If you are one of these people, let me be first to tell you that everything is fine; you are now free from the bondage of the old paradigm. The freedom I speak of is freedom from structure, style, modality, genre, any aspect that currently exists as part of your writing, really. The fabled gatekeepers of old are dying off; no longer are writers required to pander to the “Big 5,” who base their choices on minimizing risk and sticking to projected quarterly profit margins. Now is the age where the whims of your heart and the curiosities of your mind can truly shine. We have an array of new technology, and with the path no longer blocked by traditional publishing restraints, you are free to try any (and every) thing you’ve always wanted.
   “So,” you might ask yourself, “I can write anything and everything, but does that mean all the weird things I’ve always wanted to write will be successful?” The answer, sadly, is a resounding no. Just as in the past, the success of your work is still at the mercy of its reception by literary scholars, critics, and the public at large. If money is your goal, pandering to the masses is still the quickest path to success. However, back in ye olden days of publishing, it was the publisher who dictated what the public would and would not like. The publisher’s decision was based on what they felt would get them the best profit margins without taking large risks. This unbending profit-based decision-making has lost certain publishing houses huge franchisees in the past, including J.K. Rowling, who sent her first Harry Potter manuscript to 12 separate publishing houses before Bloomsbury finally accepted it. Though rejection will still be a daily part of the brooding writer’s life, it will no longer keep the writer’s work from reaching those who do find it appealing.
   We live in an age of technology that makes mass printing easy, formatting simple, and modality nearly endless. As a profession, authors are only beginning to peel back the layers, discovering the possibilities that lie within new and traditional styles. For writers who work within popular genres, and those who are experimenting with something new, writing now has a multitude of options, options that the authors who inspired us could not even dream of. With the gates thus opened, it would be criminal for today’s authors to maintain limitations and boundaries instead of breaking them down. Write in the obscure genre that publishing houses usually never even spare a glance. Take the traditional crime mystery and flip it, spin it on its head, make it an interactive e-book requiring readers to look for clues and solve puzzles as it unfolds. Whatever your passion may be, and however you’ve dreamed of doing it, now is the time to take action; get out there and write something that pushes those boundaries, inspire others to do the same, and let’s see what happens.
  • About the Author
    John Meade is currently in his senior year as a Professional Writing and Creative Writing major at Miami University. Hailing from Lexington, Kentucky, he enjoys the wilderness of the Appalachian area that he grew up around in his youth. If he is not out enjoying nature or in class, he can be found consuming media content or writing some of his own material.

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