Have you seen the statistics? How many adults in the US report not reading a single book last year? :::Go ahead, guess. I’ll wait right here.::: It’s 27%. Over a quarter of Americans say they didn’t read even one book, no matter the format–paper, ebook, or audio book. The headline made its way across social media, leaving readers, writers, and librarians wringing their hands. And it left many aspiring writers wondering, “Is book publishing dead?”
Bad news spreads so fast, doesn’t it?
It flies on fear, and fear is swifter than reason. So grab a cuppa, take a deep breath, and let’s think about this a minute.
If 27% of our country didn’t read a book in 2018, how many readers are left? Granted, I’m more of a word nerd than a numbers geek, but I feel fairly confident that leaves 73%. So nearly three-fourths of the population DID read at least one book! I don’t know about you, but I was shocked. In fact, I’m still delighted. Doesn’t that make you want to sneak a peek at every backpack, satchel, and tote you see today, just in case there’s a corner of a book poking out?
There won’t be, though, because so many people are reading–or listening!–on tablets, e-readers, and mobile phones. In fact, sales revenues from audiobooks more than doubled between 2010 and 2016, with published titles growing from 6,200 to over 50,000 during those same years. Reading might be on the decline, but book publishing isn’t dead; it’s just changing. And the way to keep up with those changes is to be a part of the changing market. If you want to jump in the market, you have to start.
The gloom and doom headlines are only part of the story. If you’ve always wanted to publish a book, the truth is that there’s never been a better time in history to do it. Period.
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If you’ve been brave enough to share your dream with someone, only to have them shoot you down with disparaging remarks about how hard it is to make it as a writer these days, take heart. First, those people probably don’t mean to hurt you; they’re just scared for you. They’ve heard headlines like the one above, or have known a cousin-of-a-cousin who spent thousands of dollars on a vanity press, or have heard some other whispered cautionary tale of literary ruin. But that’s your takeaway–they actually care enough about you to be worried for you! So their comment was, in fact, a verbal hug. (Okay, that might be optimistic, but I still think you should take it as a compliment…)
Second, be careful who you share your dreams with, okay? Not everyone gets it. And there are a few people who gave up on their own dreams and became so bitter they’re on autopilot to shred others’ hopes. In that case, don’t take it personally. It’s an automatic reaction, probably a sort of ingrained self-defense mechanism. It doesn’t have anything to do with your writing.
But you know what has *everything* to do with your dream? You do. You live in an amazing time. Not only do you not need anyone’s permission to write your book, you can also have total creative control over its publication. In fact, if you haven’t published a book yet, there’s really only one reason: you. You haven’t been ready, or wanted it badly enough, or known that you could do it.
Here’s the best news: once you figure out which of those reasons has been holding you back, you’ll be unstoppable. Think about it! You can write whatever you want, as much as you want, and no one can stop you. No publisher, no agent, no editor has the right to reject you.
But as exciting as it sounds, it’s also a little scary isn’t it? Because that means there’s no one to tell you that the book isn’t ready yet. You have to find the right people to help you. No matter what your budget, find readers and proofreaders who will give you honest feedback about your writing. Then polish that manuscript until it shines. You’re the editing department.
You can find an artist or graphic designer to help you with a book cover. If you’re artsy, you can even design your own cover. Find tutorials on YouTube or design blogs and learn how to make an e-book cover or a wrap-around, print book cover. You’re the art director!
And when you’ve completed the book, you get to decide where to sell it. Upload it to online bookstores, order print copies, or offer it exclusively through your own website–it’s your choice. If you’re shaky on tech skills, you can hire an affordable assistant to help you do all the tedious tech work. You could even probably bribe one of your video-gaming relatives to sit next to you for an evening and guide you through the process. You’re the marketing department!
With the right team, you can publish an incredible book. You write it, you produce it, you market it. Is it easy? Nope. Neither is doing your taxes, losing weight, learning to play piano or a host of other activities. If it was easy, everyone you know would be publishing books as often as they update their Facebook profiles. But it isn’t too hard for you. If you’re waiting for permission, consider it granted. Remember, the only one who can stop you is you.
Are you ready?
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