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I just finished reading the keynote address Stephanie Laurens gave to the Romance Writers of America during their enormous, and enormously wonderful, yearly convention.
Stephanie Laurens admonishes writers not to lose hope but, rather, to embrace the changing world of publishing. It is a speech filled with hope and enthusiasm about the seismic upheavals rocking the industry. Here are a few excerpts, but I would encourage you to read Stephanie's address in its entirety (WEATHERING THE TRANSITION...KEEPING THE FAITH). It is beautiful.
[W]hile the shift from print to digital consumption is a major driver contributing to the critical transition that's causing the upheaval in our business, it's not the critical transition itself - which is the migration of readers from buying offline to buying online. Whether they buy print or digital doesn't matter - it's the fact that readers access our works online that's key, because once a reader is buying online, the author can reach that reader directly, and that alters one critical segment of our business irrreversibly.I SO want to go to the RWA conference next year, everyone comes back from there raving about the experience, energized. Thrillerfest looks great too, though. Choices, choices!
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[W]hat is the definition of success in our business? Recently I've heard some contend that success for an author is getting published. Really? Getting published is you handing your manuscript over for transmittal - how can that be success? No - we're entertainers, and as an entertainer's success is measured by their box office draw, our success is measured by the number of readers lining up to buy our next book. Not the book that just went out, but our next book. Our success is measured by the size of our already captured audience.
. . . .
That - multiple routes instead of one - is one critical difference between the Online Industry and the Offline Industry.
Here's another - in the Online industry, only Author and Reader are essential - meaning cannot be done without. Publishers and Retailers, no matter who they are, can never be or make themselves essential - not unless they can take control of the internet. Not just a part of it, all of it. Which is why I waste no time worrying about anyone controlling my business again - that's not going to happen while I can reach my readers direct. And thanks to JK Rowling and Pottermore for establishing that beyond question. One way or another, if authors are forced to it, it can and will be done.
. . . .
My principal message for you today is this: We are the storytellers. Whether its offline or online, we are still the storytellers, the spinners of tales, the weavers of emotional magic, the essential creators. We tell stories - we create them, shape them, write them down - and none of that changes.
To successfully weather this transition, all we as authors need to do is keep faith with our calling, and remember all the things about it that do not change.
A good story well told will always find its audience - that will never change.
A great story excitingly, thrillingly, and intriguingly well told will establish a career - that doesn't change either.
And if you consistently tell stories that fall between the good and the great, you will have a long and prosperous career in this business - and that won't change.
. . . .
Now it's entirely natural to stare out of the window at the earthquake that's rocking the property next door and worry that it's going to crack the foundations of your house. This earthquake won't. It will alter the landscape on the boundary between you and that publishing house next door, and it will certainly reshape that publishing house itself, but your house won't be materially affected as long as you protect the bedrock on which your house's foundations rest - as long as you keep telling your stories, and tell them well.
So yes, lots of things are changing in the industry segment of our business, but for us as authors, what we must do to succeed remains the same.
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