I had a really interesting experience this weekend. I got together with a group of writers and discussed adaptability and change, particularly in regards to the world of publishing and writing.
One of my favorite quotes is: "There's nothing so constant as change." With my background in science, Charles Darwin featured heavily in my education with his book On the Origin of Species. Natural Selection was his main point, but what it really meant was only species that could adapt to changes in environment, whether climate, habitat availability, or food sources, were the ones whose genetic traits would be passed on to the future generations.
What does this have to do with writing and publishing?
In the past, every writer who wanted to become a successful, published author, needed an agent to sell to the big New York publishers and a working phone number.
With the prevalence of computers, the writer had to have a valid email address as well as the phone number. The next change was the importance of a website, showcasing the writer's ability to write and all the contact information: address, phone, email address. Business cards now had weird characters printed on them: @, www, http://, along with the dashes and parentheses for the phone numbers.
Add to that the World Wide Web, and now the writers needed a "blog" - shortened from WebLog, a way to get their voices out to the masses and to publishers/agents (if they didn't have one already). Through all this, though, the writer needed an agent and a publisher, and still had to print out a paper hard copy of her/his manuscript to send to NY.
Then in 2007, things shifted again. Ereaders, specifically the Kindle by Amazon and the Nook by Barnes&Noble, became available to the public and a new form of publishing was born. Epublishing, with epublishers pushing out ebooks cheaply, without the expenses of paper, print runs, and film developing. The traditional publishers said it was a fad; it would never last.
In this modern world (well, as modern as we can be - did I sound like George Orwell in 1984?), writers now have more avenues to try when publishing. You can still go the traditional route: agent, publisher, paper print runs, etc. Nothing wrong with that and still lucrative if you can hit them right. But there is also the epublishing way to go, and it can be very lucrative if you get your "brand" going. Several epublishers are out there in all genres:
Sapphire Blue Publishing
These are just a few of them and I've chosen epublishers who often cater to romance writers, but Cobblestone Press, Carina Press, and Sapphire Blue Publishing take all genres. You don't need an agent and a few of these publishers produce POD (Print on Demand) books; hard copies, not just electronic books.
What does this have to do with adaptability? To become a successful author in this ebook age, don't shut yourself off from the possibility of epublishing, whether you get a publisher to take your novel or do it yourself. Ebooks are here to stay and so are epublishers. Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony Ereader; these aren't going anywhere and people can carry thousands of books around with them without paying fees to the airlines for extra bags!
As a writer, you need to adapt to the new times. You need a viable email address, a dynamic website showcasing your "brand" and what you want the public to remember about you (even if it's just a blog), Facebook and Twitter accounts to connect with as many fans as possible, and you're on your way. You don't necessarily need an agent, although they are very skilled at seeing pitfalls in publishing contracts, but you do need a "platform" (brand, website, blog, Facebook, Twitter). Find the balance for you between epublishing and traditional publishing. Neither are wrong, but ereaders aren't going away. Even Avon and Harlequin, two big New York publishers, created their epublishing sites (Avon Impulse and Carina Press, respectively) to take advantage of the shift in the publishing industry.
One thing to be aware of: Whether you publish with an epublisher or self-publish, be sure TO HAVE AN EDITOR EDIT YOUR WORK before you throw it out there. You might think your work is awesome; and it is awesome, but only after an editor has gone through it. You want your offering to be the best it can be and no one can edit their own stuff.
You also are in charge of promotion of your work and your brand, whether you have a traditional publisher or you're epublishing. But that's another blog post. :) Good luck and happy reading!