The best of times or the worst of times to become a writer?

Welcome to all fledgling writers, new students, ex-students and anyone who has taken the first or second (or third or fourth) step on the Rocky Road to becoming a writer.  The Rocky Road is a place for you to freely share your writing ideas, and/or your writing, and get answers to your questions about the daunting world of ‘getting published’ – and if I can’t answer them, I’ll try and find someone who can!

How will it work? Simple. Every Monday I will post a thought provoking few words, which  may include reviews of creative writing books/updates on what’s happening in the writing/publishing world/details of competitions etc  as well as wee bite size writing exercises for you to do/think about/share or ignore as you see fit ;o)

For the time being The Rocky Road on Mondays will be found here on this blog-site but that could change depending on what you people want. Tell me your ideas and we’ll see what emerges! And you don’t have to be new to writing to join in, old hands are always welcome, as are readers :0)

Okay, here comes your inaugural welcome post! No exercises this time, just something for you to think about. Your first ‘proper’ post will come on Monday 5th September – not to be missed!  I will be reviewing the recently published  Nicola Morgan’s Write To Be Published and Andrew Cowan’s The Art Of Writing Fiction ( see Help! Blame my blog! blog post 23rd June)

“Don’t submit your manuscript without reading this (Write To Be Published) book.” Mary Hoffman

‘The Art of Writing Fiction is as illuminating for the recreational writer as for students of creative writing, the twelve chapters of the book correspond to a typical university course syallbus.” Pearson Education

And now … is it the best of times or the worst of times to become a writer?

At the beginning of this year announced “it is now selling more Kindle books than paperback books ...” Meanwhile Barnes and Noble, Amazon’s main competition in the US, and who sell the ‘Nook’, their e-reader, have said it expects its Nook e-book business to earn it $1.8bn (£1.1bn) by the end of its latest financial year.

And, yep, ebooks sales are equally up here in the UK. And, yep, this means bad news for publishers of hard copy fiction, who as a result of this e-book revolution, are not only cutting back on advances and royalties to authors but even getting rid of some of them from their lists! And bookshops? Only yesterday Waterstones announced they are stopping their 3 for 2 offer on books (instead they say books are going to be charged at a flat rate of £3, £5 or £7), and the day before that an Indie bookseller in Cumbria said he’d had to close his bookshop because he couldn’t afford to keep it open “The High Street Book shop is a goner.”

It does sound dire for some publishers and booksellers, but is it all bad for us writers? While you could say the digital companies appear to have a stranglehold over traditional publishers and bookshops, they do also appear to have created a new market place, where writers (and e-publishers) who are willing to take risks and be flexible can seize the day and, shock horror, flourish! How? Digital advancements mean publishing in all its formats has never been more accessible and affordable and going it alone is now a feasible option for writers. And some writers are doing just that ie: either doing it themselves, or teaming up with others, to design, edit, print and market their creative output (not unlike JK and BJörk). And while such indie writer-publishers do not have the backing of big national publishers, they may actually earn more money without them – one author I talked to recently, who is signed with a big publisher,  said she’d received a mere £120 in royalties for the sale of 12,000 paperback copies of her book (via a supermarket chain) ie: a penny a book. Enough said.

But, you don’t have to go it alone, if you don’t want to. There are also lots of new e-publishing companies springing up like Cargo Crate ( as talked about at the Edinburgh Festival this year), who only focus on publishing e-books. These companies are more likely to take on a fledgling writer than some of the big print publishers for all the reasons I mentioned (the reduced cost involved in producing an e-book etc.) Plus, many established authors are considering using such publishers for the e-book copy of their books (e-books can stay ‘in print’ for perpetuity and this has implications regarding the author’s copyright so some authors are striking separate deals, with separate e-publishers, for the publication of their e-book). What does this mean? E-publishers in all their forms (indie publishers, writer-publishers, mainstream publishers) are fast becoming an integral part of the publishing world. And it goes without saying that if your e-book is successful, you re far more likely to find a print publisher for it, assuming one still exists!

In fact, you could say there’s never been a better time to be a writer, especially given the reading public’s continued insatiable desire for well told, good stories. Of course, it’s a given that whether you go it alone or not, your book has to be immaculately presented and edited, and you must tell a good story well. But as long as this is the case, it is fair to say that you are far more likely to see your novel  published in today’s new digital publishing world than you ever would have been in yesterday’s print one. According to Best-Selling multi-published author Bob Mayer:

“The difference in e-publishing compared to print is that you can build momentum in ebooks whereas in print your book would be pulled from the shelves before it got any momentum.” See more

Speaking as part of BBC Radio 4’s “The World at One” “Future of the Book” series, Canadian author Kate Pullinger said she felt optimistic about the future of publishing:

“Just as long as the internet remains a kind of open territory there will always be other economic markets [and] business models for people to exploit; there are myriad of ways for readers to find writers and writers to find readers.”

So, to answer the question is it the best of times or worst of times to become a writer? The answer is most definitely it’s the best of times!



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2 Responses to The best of times or the worst of times to become a writer?

  1. Louisa says:

    Excellent post! Finally, some good news about publishing — or self publishing, that is. It gives me hope…

  2. Marianne Wheelaghan says:

    Hi Louisa,
    Thanks for comment! I now realise I should have also mentioned that for those writers who don’t want to go it alone (and maybe just want to write!), there are lots of new e-publishing companies springing up, who are more ready and willing to e-publish a book from a newbie. So I have cheated and now added this to the blog ;0).

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