State of the Industry

Submitted by Jessica Trippe

For today’s writers, crafting the story is only the beginning. To see their work succeed, authors must also take on the role of marketer and business manager. During the Pensters April meeting, authors John O’Melveny Woods and Frank Kelso addressed the challenges and opportunities writers can expect to face in the current publishing industry.
Over the last decade, the landscape has shifted dramatically. Hopeful writers are no longer forced to trek back and forth to their local post office awaiting an answer from the slew of agents and editors to whom they sent query letters. There are options. It’s a development John Woods views as exciting. “You have choices now, and you have the power and ability to control your own product. We have never had this opportunity in the history of publishing.”
Companies such as Create Space and Ingram Sparks offer affordable options for writers to self-publish, a term that once carried a heavy stigma. Woods cautioned: “We as authors have the responsibility to publish a book that is the same quality as people expect.”
Frank Kelso reiterated the call for quality. “If you’re going to spend any money, spend it on editors and proofreaders.” Typos and misspellings can quickly spoil the experience for a reader. In today’s online world, it can also lead to negative reviews which discourage others from taking the plunge.
Once the book is published, it’s vital to get the word out, but marketing can be intimidating for the uninitiated. “When we first published the book, I was spending money like a drunken sailor,” recalled Kelso. The ads he placed on a variety of sites did lead to sales, but it was hard to know where his money was producing results and where it was being wasted.
Kelso detailed the decision to pull back and take a more thoughtful approach, testing one site at a time to distinguish the high and low performers. When the results were in, the top three were Amazon Marketing Service, Facebook, and Book Bub.
Now, more than ever, there is no one size fits all approach. Processes and technology change rapidly, but for those like Frank and John who are willing to become students of the industry, opportunities abound.