What do the days ahead hold for those of us who publish books? What is the future of book publishing?
Given the rapid changes the industry is undergoing, we anticipate a different tomorrow, but just how much different will it be? Will today’s roles even exist in a decade or two?
Predicting the future or even anticipating what might lie ahead in the years to come is a difficult task. Although the details are unclear, three general outcomes remain assured:
Consumers of Content
Barring a cataclysmic apocalypse with survivors reduced to a subsistence life, there will always be people who will desire and consume content. Generically called art, entertainment, or education, this content could take many forms, including print, audio, video, multimedia, or interactive, but regardless of the formats, consumers will want content.
Producers of Content
As long as an audience exists, content producers will be in demand. Writers will supply content: writing, creating, inventing, and envisioning. In a way, writers will become artists, producing art for their patrons. Their art may take many forms, beyond merely the writing out of their words.
Facilitators of Content
Idealism suggests that future content producers will directly connect with content consumers. While this may happen in limited situations, middlemen will facilitate the transaction in many cases and facilitate the creation in most instances. The transaction facilitators will mass-produce and distribute the content.
Therefore content facilitators will provide today’s agents, editors, graphic designers, and publicists with tomorrow’s work, aiding tomorrow’s writers with their content.
The future of book publishing will be much different. However, as long as we can adapt, there will always be opportunities for today’s writers, editors, designers, agents, and publishers. The future is indeed bright—for those willing to see it.
Discover What Type of Writer You Are and Then Embrace
There are different types of writers. They have different motivations, are at different places in their writing journey, and have different goals. Here’s how the different types of writers break down:
1. The Aspiring Writer
I’ve heard many people refer to themselves
as aspiring writers. But they’re misusing that label. They say aspiring
because at this point in their journey they lack the confidence to say they’re a
writer, so they qualify it by tacking on aspiring. If this is you, I
encourage you to take a deep breath, drop aspiring, and boldly say, “I
am a writer.” It will take practice to say with confidence, but you can do it.
You are a writer.
In truth, an aspiring writer is someone who doesn’t actually write; they merely aspire to write—someday. But they’ll never get around to it. Yes, they act as a writer. They read books on writing, go to writing conferences, and hang out with other writers. They talk a good game, but that’s all it is: talk.
They want to have written, but they
don’t want to put in the hard work, to actually sit down and write. They aspire
to write, and that’s where it ends.
Don’t be someone who aspires to
write. Just write.
2. The Hobbyist Writer
Next, we have people who write for
fun, write for therapy, or write for family and friends. They’re hobbyists. There’s
nothing wrong with that.
So, if a hobbyist writer describes you, accept it. As a hobbyist, you may not publish much and certainly won’t make much money from your work, but you are writing. And that’s what’s important. Own that label, and celebrate it.
However, if you want to realize more
from your writing, consider moving beyond the hobbyist phase.
3. The Passion Project Writer
Some writers have a book they must
write. It’s a compulsion, a calling. They work hard to produce the best book they
can. They self-publish it. Then they spend years promoting and marketing their
It’s their passion.
But it may be the only book they
ever write. Or if they do write other books, these may fall short because the
passion isn’t there. And it shows.
There’s nothing wrong with having a
passion project. I know many people who write one book, and that’s it. That’s
okay. But if you want more, consider the next two categories of writers.
4. The Artist Writer
I know many writers who view themselves as artists. They produce wonderful work and produce it with some degree of regularity. But they write when the muse hits, and they write when they have a deadline. However, if they don’t feel like writing, they don’t. They’re often discovery writers (pancers: they write by the seat of their pants). Writing speed and output frequency doesn’t matter. They’re artists, and that’s what they care about.
If you’re thinking of the phrase starving artist, that fits this category of writer. They may not make much from their art, and they certainly won’t earn enough to support themselves. That’s why the artist-writer needs another source of income. This could be a day job or a side hustle. It may be a spouse, an inheritance, or a generous patron.
5. The Career Author
The final category is a career
author. Although their words may flow from many different motivations, they
have one thing in common: writing is their job, and they strive to make money
from it, either full-time or part-time.
They haven’t sold out. They’re just being intentional. They value the craft and may even view it as art. They also write with passion. But, in addition to that, they write with purpose. They want to share their words with others and earn money as they do. They have an entrepreneurial mindset. They are an authorpreneur.
A Final Thought about the Types of Writers
At various times in my writing journey, I have been each of these types of writers. Some of my stops have been brief, and others longer, but where I am now—and where I want to remain—is as a career author.
Right now, I make some of my income as an author, and my goal is to one day earn all my income through writing. But money is not my motivator; it’s the outcome. My desire is to share my words with others. As I often say, my goal is to “change the world one word at a time.” And making money from doing so is a sweet result.
Consider all the really great books that don’t sell. Consider some of the poorly written books that do. Although this is unfair, it is also a reality. Fortuitous timing aside, these two situations point out the fact that producing and selling books is part art and part business.
I’ve been in business much of my adult life: managing businesses, owning businesses, starting businesses, running businesses, and buying businesses. Being a businessman is in my blood; it’s part of who I am.
I’ve been writing even longer, but in the past years, I’ve taken writing seriously, moving it from hobby status to professional. I’ve worked at improving my work, communicating clearer, and at understanding the craft. Along the way, I realized writing is art. For a person who didn’t think of himself as creative, seeing writing as a form of art is huge. I embrace the role of an artist who writes. Writing is my passion. It’s in my blood; it’s part of who I am.
Publishing is Business
In accepting the reality that writing is art, while publishing is business, it would seem that as a businessman writer, I have the best of both worlds. My creative side produces content and my business side turns it into a product that sells. Unfortunately, I have trouble connecting the two, at least as far as my work is concerned.
Many writers also struggle with the business side of their art. And while I am closer to connecting the two, my struggle is no less real.
Though the reason why I have this issue still evades me, the solution is clear. As Nike says, I need to “just do it.” And with all the evolving technology in the world of publishing, it has never been easier to do.
Last week I shared that the three parts of publishing a book we’re writing it, producing it, and marketing it. Each of these aspects has a creative element and a business element. Balance the pure artist and the pure entrepreneur in a respectable tension.
The pure artist says, “Let me create without interference. I don’t care about commercial viability. Just let me be me.” The pure artist will likely starve or need to get a day job.
The pure entrepreneur says, “I will only do things that will make money, the more the better. I’ll follow trends and jump on any bandwagon moving in the right direction.” The pure entrepreneur may put food on the table, but he will sacrifice his soul in the process, and her writing will have no heart.
The pure entrepreneur doesn’t like the pure artist. But…
The pure artist and the pure entrepreneur cannot survive apart from each other
They must embrace the skills of each if there’s any hope for success —however, they choose to measure it.
Writing the book is where the artist flourishes, yet the entrepreneur cannot be excluded from this phase. The art of organizing words must be guided by a knowledge of what is able to be reproduced and of potential interest to the buying public.
Producing the book has a creative element, but the entrepreneur should direct it. Yet the entrepreneur must not remove the artist at the risk of producing a bland, boring book.
Marketing the book requires mostly the entrepreneur, though the artist needs to add his or her flare, embracing activities that produce energy and avoiding those that are draining. Yes, the author must market, but the entrepreneur needs to guide activities to what the artist can reasonably handle. If marketing kills the artist, there will be no more art.
Publishing a book requires we be an artist and an entrepreneur, embracing both and ignoring neither. May your artist side hear your entrepreneur’s voice, and may your entrepreneur side listen to your artist’s heart. That’s how to publish a book.
In Guy Kawasaki’s new book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book, he advances the term “artisanal publishing” as a new way of looking at self-publishing. The vanity publishing of yesteryear can be smartly rejuvenated with a fresh perspective of artistry, hence the concept of artisanal book publishing.
As the distinction between traditional publishing versus self-publishing fade, the evolving consideration morphs into mass-produced book publishing versus artisanal publishing. After all, who are writers, if not artists? So why not extend artistry to the production and dissemination of their work?
The concept of artisanal publishing opens new doors and opportunities for innovative writers who seek to share their writing with others. Authors should begin to think like an artist and publish books like an artist.
Michael Hyatt dedicates his book Platform to all the creative people who were dismissed because they lacked a platform to promote their work. As his subtitle proclaims, he wants to help them Get Noticed in a Noisy World.
Divided into five sections, Platform takesreaders on a progressive journey, starting with creating a compelling product all the way to engaging their tribe. The book’s sixty concise chapters make for easy reading, moving writers and artists forward in successfully launching their product.
Packed with practical advice and easy to follow steps, Michael shares insider knowledge and firsthand experience to aid readers in their quest for a bigger platform in order to better promote and sell their work. Regardless of their platform size, Michael Hyatt’s tips can help readers develop a larger and more effective one.
Platform is an essential, must-read book for all creative people who long to share their work with a larger audience.
There are many good (and a few not so good) resources that cover self-publishing. Some are in the form of books, others as podcasts, and more as blog posts.
By far the best I’ve seen is the book APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch. APE is an acronym for Author, Publisher, and Entrepreneur, representing the three phases in self-publishing a book.
As the distinction between traditional publishing and self-publishing fades, the evolving consideration morphs into mass-produced versus artisanal publishing, a term Guy and Shawn advance as a new way of comprehending self-publishing. The vanity publishing of yesteryear can be smartly rejuvenated with a fresh perspective of artistry, hence the concept of artisanal publishing.
After all, who are writers, if not artists? So why not extend artistry to the production and dissemination of their work? The idea of artisanal publishing provides new opportunities for innovative writers seeking to share their writing with others.
APE is an essential guide for the beginner and intermediate level of self-publishers. Even the experienced practitioner is sure to pick up some new ideas. Though I wouldn’t advise anyone to skip the author section, for those with a publication-ready book, the publisher section may be the place to start.