Just Don’t Panic

If you are someone trying to make a living by writing, especially writing books, you must have certainly felt some anxiety in recent years. The decline of book buying in America has been somewhat replaced with e-books, but as we know, e-books don’t pay the bills like selling a paper copy of a book does (at least for authors, that is). Then you have the news about Borders and their recent bankruptcy filing (great article in The Atlantic about that, by the way).

All the while you’ve realized that the practice of writing books involves more and more self-promotion (much more than a normal person would be comfortable with), and you’ve seen the return on your investment of blood, sweat, and tears get smaller and smaller.

I got into writing because I longed for a career that would allow me to set an easier pace, to spend time thinking about a subject deeply before writing on it. Instead I find myself anxiously generating Tweets and Facebook updates, designing graphics for fan page splash images, and generally fretting over the look of my website. And in the background, forever humming, is the sound of a million want-to-be writers flooding the Internet with content, usually for free with the hopes it will lead to a “paying gig” someday—not realizing that their free content is killing off all the paying gigs one by one.

Thankfully, a colleague recently shared with me a video on this very subject: what’s happening in publishing, and how does it affect authors. The recent Tools of Change for Publishing conference (TOC 2011) featured a talk by Margaret Atwood. Complete with hand-drawn slides, Atwood lays it all out. Anyone trying to make a buck writing books should set aside 30 minutes for this one.



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