- by Shannon Donnelly
The sand is as dazzling white as promised, the ocean as blue, and while there is much discussion of futures and publishing and brave new digital worlds, the refrain I hear echoed time and again is, “Write a good book.” That is the one unchanging mantra from both traditional publishers and ‘digital first’ (a new buzz word and way more sexy than e-published, which is a mouthful, but does that imply ‘print last’?).
Write a good book. Easy words. Hard task.
Which, of course, is why all of us are sitting here, trying to figure out how good is good? And what do you do next these days? The paths are many to get a good book out there and into a reader’s hands.
Print’s still around, of course, and going to be here for a bit, and it still has more allure, despite the cool new moniker of ‘digital first’ (and I do like the name ‘the Big Six’ for the NY publishing house, but the concensus is that that number’s going to be all over the map very soon). Anyway, print is still a way to go if you don’t want to fuss with your own covers and you do have an idea that could kick into high gear with the right marketing machine. And it’s got that lottery ticket allure that maybe you’ll hit the best seller list.
Then we have the ‘digital first’ publishers, our modern small publishers, who still have good things to offer, and Kindle is kicking these folks into high gear and Nook looks to do more, and this will be the Christmas for e-readers.
Beyond that is the world of self-publishing, which has good points (as in pocketing the money direct), but it also has its hard work — editing and covers and cover copy are all now in the author’s hands, a double-edged sword if ever, since it’s all your fault, too, if done badly. But there are possibilities, and the stigma, while still there, is probably going to go away as more really good books actually come out of this area.
Which brings us back to the mantra–”Write a good book.”
Self-pub, digital first, print–they all demand the same thing. A strong story, compelling characters, writing with a certain flow and flair. You need a story worth telling, a tale that captures the imagination, something, as Kurt Vonnegut once put it, that doesn’t waste the reader’s time. Oh, and a fair price point doesn’t hurt, either.
It’s comforting that some things never change–like the desire to have a good story. And it reminds me what’s really important–which is to get the words on the page, and to keep working on improving my skills at doing so. Conferences are always fun, but not as much fun as getting the words right on the page.