A Sipress cartoon in The New Yorker shows a medieval prison cell in which a terrified prisoner is on a rack with his hands and feet bound. His hooded tormentor is saying: “Don’t talk to me about suffering—in my spare time, I’m a writer.”
If you’re a writer, mental suffering comes with the calling. The anguish of finding the right word, completing and revising a manuscript, hearing what’s wrong with it, finding an agent or publisher, promoting the book. All of these challenges involve effort, uncertainty, and mistakes. Getting them all right the first time only happens in heaven.
One goal of this blog is to help ease your burdens. But thanks to Steve Piersanti, publisher of Berrett-Koehler, the list that follows won’t make you any happier about your profession. But the more you know, the farther you can go. Steve recently updated
The 10 Awful Truths About Publishing.
Awful they are, but if you know them, you can overcome them. Thousands of authors do it every year, and they’re using technology to create new ways to help them. After the list, Steve offers seven ways to help you do it. Previous posts have also discussed what it takes to succeed in the brave new whirl of publishing.
To see Steve’s list, visit www.bkpub.com, click on Resources, then on publishing documents. (You can also subscribe to BK’s outstanding newsletter.) Here are the list’s highlights:
* Publishing produces more new products per year than any other industry.
* More than a million books were published last year, but bookstore sales are declining.
* More than 7 million books are available.
* The average nonfiction book sells 250 copies per year, 3,000 copies over its lifetime.
* A book has less than a 1% chance of being stocked in an average bookstore.
* It’s increasingly difficult to make any book stand out, in part because other media are claiming more of people’s time.
* People are reading only books that their communities make important or mandatory.
* Authors do more marketing than publishers.
* Technology is expanding the number of products and sales channels but not increasing book sales, and e-profits are slimmer than print profits.
* Technology, small profit margins, the complexities of the business, competition from other media and publishers guarantee change and turmoil.
Steve’s 7 Strategies for Responding to These Truths
1. The game is now pass-along sales, people buying books for other people.
2. Events/immersion experiences replace traditional publicity in moving the needle.
3. Leverage the authors’ and publishers’ communities.
4. In a crowded market, brands stand out.
5. Master new sales and marketing channels.
6. Build books around a big new idea.
7. Front-load the main ideas in books and keep books short.
As earlier posts suggested, reading, models, goals, craft, a series of related books, platform, promotion, commitment, and communities to help you are the keys to your career. Armed with them and your share of luck, nothing can stop you.
Next up: 13 Wonderful Truths About Publishing.