Thank you for having me here today. Noony asked me to talk about how much digital publishing has changed the publishing industry for romance writers. Boy, where to begin?
One great place to start is at the top with RWA (the Romance Writers of America). Every summer RWA has a big conference to discuss the industry, network, eat good food…you know, regular stuff. When I went this time I was struck by how different this conference was from the first one I attended in 2006. All because of a little invention called an ebook.
A mere six years ago, there was a sense that a book not published by the traditional NY Big Six Publishers was somehow inferior. Self-published books were rarely considered by editors. Most writers needed an agent to get to the big houses and finding an agent to represent a new writer was tough. Being a budding romance writer, I dreamed of one day achieving that lofty pinnacle–publication at a big New York house. I thought it was my only road to success.
And it was a rough road full of bumps, sinkholes and heavily manned gates.
In those days (gosh, I feel like I’m talking about the Dark Ages) the journey started when a writer completed a manuscript and sent letters (by snail mail mostly) to agents and editors to try to sell the story. The wait time to hear from one of these professionals was painfully long as the writer trucked pages back and forth and paid a small fortune to the Post Office. If a writer was lucky enough to score a good agent who then sold the work, the wait was a year or two before the book hit the shelves. A year or two.
That was only six years ago–before Kindle, Nook, Facebook, Twitter, and email submissions. We’ve come a long way, baby.
At the 2012 RWA conference, all the buzz was about authors who found success by publishing through small digital-first publishers or on their own. (Fifty Shades of Gray, anyone?) The publishers heard these success stories too and, well, they freaked out a little. Imagine the big New York watching a corner of the publishing market slip through their fingers. Not only that, many already established authors were self-publishing their own works and making , gasp, more money.
New York houses are now in a rush to catch up to the Digital Age by opening Digital lines. Editors are looking for authors to fill new spots for various genres and story lengths. Some agents troll through ebook lists looking for clients to represent. Publishers look for hot-selling indie books to publish.
Wow, what a difference six years can make.
What about those long waiting periods? Well, a writer can self-publish her own book in a matter of days. Days, not years. Publishing houses have had to reduce publishing times in order to compete with Amazon and to woo authors who don’t want to wait years. In Anaheim, Kensington said that they can publish an ebook in about six months. I heard another house say 10-12 weeks! The rush to ebook publication is on.
What does this mean to writers?
Opportunity. Faster publication. Getting books into readers hands that have previously languished on a writer’s harddrive. Possibilities.
I’ll tell you what it means to me personally.
I used to suffer from stress dreams. Sometimes in my nightmares, I’d drive an out-of-control car at top speeds straight downhill. My kids screamed in the back seat while I stomped the useless brakes and tried to steer away from the ocean looming at the bottom of the road. I had that stupid dream five or six times and understood what it meant. My desire to be published was butting heads with gatekeepers who were tough about letting a genre-mixer storyteller like me through the gates. My goal to be published was as out of my control as that darn car was. What could I do?
One day Carrie Underwood sang “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” And I realized that I shouldn’t spend so much time trying to steer that car. Instead, I needed to let go of the things I couldn’t control and focus on what was important.
Writing is one of those important things. I stopped worrying about how I was going to get published and focused on writing the best books I can. Learning, growing, digging deeper, I let my passion and love fill the pages. I found pure bliss. My stories were infinitely better.
And now there are more roads to publication. My car is zipping along and whether I’ll park at a small press, Amazon, or a big house, who knows? I have more control. One way or another, my beloved stories will be read thanks to all those indie-authors who were brave enough to pave the way and to the awesome readers who buy books.
No more nightmares, only sweet dreams and well-paved roads from now on.
Kimberley Troutte has been a substitute teacher, caterer, financial analyst for a major defense contractor, aerobics instructor, real-estate broker, freelance writer, homework corrector and caregiver to all the creatures the kids/hubby/dog drag in. She lives with her husband, two sons, one dog and four snakes in Southern California.