Like everything else related to creative work, the steady money is in the jobs that support the creative people. What the new order in publishing offers is the opportunity (for those willing to do the work) and the tools to do the whole job. As a writer/producer of commercial films for many years, I know that the profit came from the difference between what films cost to produce, and what they sold for. The real money, if there ever was any, went to the client who bankrolled the production.Today, publishing is getting much like any other enterprise.
There was a time when publishers and their editors really worked for their writers, tried to help them make the best book possible, introduced them to the book buyers and reviewers, and so on. Not today, according to even the bigger names among authors. Now, if you are getting published, you have to do the work of selling, promoting yourself and your work. You do readings, you write a blog, you go to book fairs and offer your work. You might as well be the "producer," as well as the writer. Using the new tools, and working with the new companies that populate the internet, you can do as much or as little as you feel comfortable doing. Here is what the publishing world of today looks like: the writer writes, then finds a company that will, for a price, take the manuscript the rest of the way. There are programs that allow the writer to plug the text into a predetermined format. Type face, type size, and other elements of printing have been reduced to programs that can be applied to any written word that has been created in a computer. The real change is that a writer today can buy the services as needed. Some writers have a full set of computer skills, but if you don’t, you can hire someone who can do the job. Then there are people who will design and produce the cover, and companies that will see the completed product through to e-book formats and on-demand printing, turning out soft- and hard-cover books at a competitive price, allowing the writer to own the product and control the margin between cost and sale price.
Once the book is in print or on disc, the real work begins. Promoting the work of others is a profession, but some writers are good at generating interest in their own work, and enjoy the contact with their readers. It cuts into the time you need to write, of course, but if you do it right and well, you just may sell enough books to allow you to subsequently hire that service too. Still, it is going to take time and effort to put your work before the public, and a lot of it you are going to have to do yourself. Might as well own that, too, it seems to me.
I have published both ways. Accidents of Time and Place left me as a computer file and came back between covers. The completed manuscript was sent electronically to the publisher who then saw the book through to delivery, and distribution. Promotion was, even then, more or less up to me. The next book, Mixed Freight: Checking Life’s Baggage followed the same route, except that I retained the electronic rights and published it as an e-book myself. The manuscript for my next book, Suspect: Five Stories of Suspicion, Suspense and Murder, will be entirely my own production, using an on-line printer. I will see the manuscript translated into hard copy and electronic format, create the cover, determine the price and own the whole project. That means I will also be in charge of promotion and sales, but that isn’t too different from what I have been doing.
Watch this space for the publication date and a special offer for you.