Changes I've Seen in the Publishing World
by Marilyn Meredith
Though others might view the changes in publishing in a different way, what I’m going to do is write what I’ve seen since I began submitting my work to publishers.
My beginnings with the publishing world began with a typewriter and carbon paper to make copies. Personal computers and the Internet had not yet become available. The only publishers to send your precious manuscript off to were the big name New York publishers or the vanity publishers that would publish anything for the price of a down payment on a house. (Remember, I’m talking about the long ago world.)
You could send your entire manuscript off to a publisher inside a self-addressed and stamped box if you wanted the manuscript back in case of rejection. And of course you wanted the manuscript back because the only copy you had was one made with carbon. It was possible to send this same manuscript out about five times before it got so dog-eared, coffee stained and smelling of cigarettes that you had to retype the whole thing. (And yes, I did get a book published after going through this process and nearly 30 rejections, but I knew nothing about promotion and all I did was send letters to my friends and set up a couple of bookstore signings.)
I graduated from a regular typewriter to an electric powered that you could correct. It wasn’t long before I bought my first computer. I won’t go into how different it was than the ones we use nowadays. Most everyone knows the quick changes in computers.
Email was the next big change, and along with that came the Internet. More publishers popped up all over—electronic publishers. I submitted to one of those new folks right away, thanks to the Writers Digest Market book. (Now you can find all the publishers online.) One big problem, it wasn’t easy to buy and download a book and when you did, it had to be read on the computer.
The Rocket e-Reader changed that, a book could be bought and downloaded to a handy device that was backlit and turned off if you fell asleep while reading. Of course other e-readers tagged along behind.
The savvy e-publishers asked for manuscript submission to come as attachments to email. It took a long, long time before traditional publishers realized how much time and money this saved. (Of course the money saved was the authors’, so the big publishers probably didn’t care.)
How books were published became the next new thing when Print-on-Demand came along. Of course the big publishers still used the old fashioned methods—and still do for their hard back books. It took awhile for everyone to understand that POD had nothing to do with the quality of writing, only that it was a means of printing a book that was quicker and cost a lot less money.
E-publishers began using this new POD process to print their authors paperbooks for those who preferred to read the old-fashioned way. (I’ve heard everything from loving the smell of a book, to wanting to be surrounded by books.)
Other small, independent publishers began using POD and making their books available as e-books.
Amazon began selling books over the Internet, both e-books and paper. They came up with the Kindle to read the e-books on. Barnes and Noble took the hint, came up with the Nook, and they are second behind Kindle, though there are many others too.
Then Amazon began their own publishing outlet for the Kindle. Authors, by following directions, could put their own books up for sale for the Kindle. Some authors have done this, big names and unknowns, and have been making more money than they ever did through traditional publishing. This hasn’t worked for everyone, because the author must do a lot of promoting to let people know about their book(s) on Kindle.
The traditional publishers finally woke up to the e-publishing phenomena and jumped on the bandwagon and started putting some of their books on Kindle and Nook. Their big mistake is that they price the books to high. Many of the e-reader owners like getting a bargain and buy books under the $3.99 range and less.
Independent authors are learning that they need AISN or ISBN numbers for their e-books, and that their books need to be edited if they don’t want to receive terrible reviews.
Where do I fall in all this progress? I’ve chosen to stay with my small independent publishers because I don’t want to learn how to format for all the different ways you can be e-pubbed. I like the covers my publishers’ cover artists come up with, and I don’t want to design my own or pay someone else to do it.
Authors do need to know that there are many small independent publishers out there who might be looking for the exact kind of book you’ve written. Finding them and reading and following their submission requirements (they all seem to want something different) takes a bit of work, but believe me it’s nothing compared to what it used to be.
If an author has the time and patience, going through someone like Amazon to see your manuscript in print and as an e-book is definitely possible.
And of course, the next important part is promoting your book whether you do it online or in person. (Hopefully both) But that’s the subject for a whole other post.
This is a condensed history of the changes in publishing. Some phases took awhile, others not long at all. If you are aware of what’s been going on, it will help you make the decisions as to how you want to be published.
Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Bears With Us from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novels are No Bells and Angel Lost, the third and forth from Oak Tree Press. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Central Coast chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com/