Every conference has its buzz word, and this year it was hybrid author. It’s the latest “big shiny” for authors to seek. I call them untenable goals, because for most of us who do not fall into that top 10% of published authors, or who are new to the business, it’s just another distraction to keep us turning the ever-constant wheel in the hamster cage of the industry of publishing.
What hybrid author means is you publish across many platforms: Traditional, small press, indie, self-publishing, publishing of backlist, you name it you can do it. Or so the story goes. However, nobody can tell you how to get your foot in the door with the traditional publisher. Retail space is shrinking, it’s an ever-changing market, and NY publishers are going to acquire new authors with a proven market. So how do you become a hybrid author? Indie publish first and develop a readership? How do you do that when you’re an unknown? Amazon has already changed the algorithms for the KDP Select program that gave some new e-published authors a boost with free days. Those huge results are not happening for many new authors anymore. With everyone getting onto the same escalator and jostling for position, and a gazillion and two free e-books offering every week, how can you and your book stand out?
Learning how to effectively self-publish is time consuming, and often times costly if you want a really good product. And you should want that. So what has changed? Not much really. Authors are still looking for how to best reach and grow a readership. Authors are still attempting to get noticed by New York. Authors are still trying to make a little money. Authors are learning how best to promote and market. Authors are frustrated at the loss of quality writing time as they juggle all of these issues and still crave the days when all they had to do was shut the office door, sit their bum in a chair, and write their little hearts out.
I hadn’t been well at this conference, so I only managed one day of workshops, and several conversations outside Starbucks with people in the know. But my ears were open. So what are agents and editors looking for? A good story with a good hook. Something that feels different and fresh. Something that compels them to keep on reading. I think I heard that at my first ever conference in 2002. What has changed…not much? My advice?
There is no magic wand, no process that is perfect, and no secret password. I say go back to where the juice is. Have fun in writing your stories. Put that love and excitement of crafting a story back into your life. Forget about titles and new shiny things. Be flexible. If you are unpublished, take time and care to build a presence for yourself in advance of being published. If you are newly published, don’t compare your success to that of anyone else. This is your journey. Don’t scatter your forces too broadly. Choose a couple of marketing devices that you enjoy and build upon those. Limit your spending and always look first at what you will get in return for your expenditure. If you are multi-published, keep doing what you’re doing, and know that I am watching you. ; )
Writing is hard. It will always be hard. But if you don’t love what you’re doing you need to stop and take a look at where you’ve veered off the path, because if your stories don’t reflect your passion they will fall flat. It all comes back to the book. So, yeah, frustrating as it is, those agents and editors do know what they’re talking about.
So speak to me my friends, what do you know? What works or doesn’t work for you? Tell me your concerns if you are a reader, or a writer.