New York: Bright lights, Big Stories

The Romance Writers of America Conference started today with a great keynote by New York Times bestsellers Steve Berry, Diana Gabaldon, and Tess Gerritson. They shared their experiences with publishing, offered insight into their daily lives, and offered tips for authors. The three of them were entertaining and hopeful about the changing face of the publishing industry.

As the day progressed, the message was heard many times over. The scope of publishing is changing—faster in the last two years than ever before. Editors, agents, publishers, and authors are all trying to figure out where they fit into those changes and what the future holds. E-books are still only 25 percent of the book market, but that number is growing daily as more people purchase e-readers and shift their reading habits. The overall feeling here at the conference is one of excitement and hope. Change is good, sometimes painful, but inevitable in all things. Authors have more options for publishing than ever before with the growth of the e-book market.

Along with those options come some pitfalls, however. It was wonderful to hear from the best in the industry what those pitfalls will be and how to avoid them. The e-book market is lucky in one sense: we are not the first market to make the transition to a digital form, and there are lessons we can learn from the other industries, such as the music industry, which have gone befor­e us.

Another oft-repeated comment within the workshops was that no matter how easy it is for authors to publish their own work (and there are lots of authors doing just that) it is will still be hard to stand out in the crowd. Content will still be king in the new age of publishing. That means well-written and edited books with great covers.

Another message was that publishers are aware of the importance of an online presence these days. Not just with Twitter and Facebook, but a real promotional presence. Authors have to be their own publicity department. And if they don’t have the necessary skills, they must start building a team of professionals to help them out if they want to survive in the changing landscape of publishing.

How do you feel about the changing book market? How did you purchase your last book, from a store or digitally?


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